Students to engage in war of words

Students get ready for the spelling bee.

By: Matthew Kirdahy
   Onomatopoeia. O-n-o-m-a-t-o-p-o-e-i-a. Onomatopoeia.
   That’s how contestants in this year’s Cranbury School spelling bee will have to recite a word if they intend to last in this "miss-and-out" elimination event.
   The spelling bee will be held at the school today (Friday) at 9:15 a.m. Katherine Bonazzi, event coordinator, said the contest will last until 11 a.m. The winner will move on to The Times spelling bee at Rider University in Lawrence Township. Cranbury School will reward the student with a savings bond.
   Students who earn second and third place will receive a Barns and Noble gift certificate. Each contestant will receive a certificate of participation.
   There are 38 students geared up to spell in front of the school’s teachers and pupils. The words are divided into three difficulty levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Contestants don’t get a peek at the words, but were given a packet to study. The words are selected from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and its Addenda Section, copyright 1986, Merriam-Webster Inc.
   Entry into the bee was voluntary, but the students had to earn a qualifying score on an oral spelling test to enter. Then the students received a list of words to study from for the bee.
   "The packet tells you what words could be on it," Charlotte Babcock, an eighth-grade contestant, said. "The words get progressively harder and that’s all you can do to prepare for it."
   To compete in the spelling bee, students must follow a rule that requires them to continue spelling a word they started. They can only backtrack if they start the word over again. Students also are allowed to ask one of the three judges to recite the word’s definition and use it in a sentence.
   Eighth-grader Joe Amico said he doesn’t expect to ask for the definition or to have the word used in a sentence because it won’t help with the spelling.
   "If I know, I know it," he said. "I’m not really worried about it."
   Not all contestants are as calm as Joe. Eighth-grader Tom Hellstern said he was nervous and even surprised he qualified for the bee.
   "You can’t really do much to study for it," Tom said. "You just have to hope that you’re a good enough speller to win. I never even thought I was a very good speller."
   Tom also said reading helps.
   "I try to read two to three hours a week," he said.
   Charlotte said she also reads regularly and still expects to learn a few words from the spelling bee.
   "I’m an OK speller," she said. "I guess if you start it and get in the rhythm, you shouldn’t be that nervous. I don’t expect to win. It’s the learning experience."