Friday, May 04, 2007

Spelling Bee

Traverse City’s 3rd Annual Senior Citizen Spelling Bee is now history. It is designed to be fun and to act as a stimulant for aging brains, but it also brings out a serious competitive streak in someone’s grandmother or grandfather.

We use a team approach, since many seniors haven’t made public presentations for years and might be intimidated by facing an audience alone. Teams of three decide among themselves what the proper spelling for a word is (using pencils and pads of paper), and then one of them recites the team’s choice.

Here are some of the words that were presented:

mileage, preferred, supercilious, garrulous,
questionnaire, recalcitrant, voluminous, innocuous,
sassafras, omitted, chauvinism, moccasin,
bisque, persistence, scissors, resuscitate,
delicatessen, privilege, clientele, saccharin,
eligible, vengeance, vacuous, usable,
hygiene, hemorrhoid, fluorescent, connoisseur,
plausible, aerosol, misspelled, demagogue,
wrangle, leisurely, sacrilegious, exhilarate,
believable, oscillation, quandary, bailiff.

As you can see, no softballs here.

One of the features that kicks in when the contest is down to the last two teams is validation. In other words, if Team A misspells a word, it then goes to Team B for correction. If Team B salvages the correct spelling, they still have to spell a new word correctly to validate the win. If Team B misspells their validating word, it goes back to Team A, and so on.

For the first time, this year’s contest turned into a ping-pong match at the end. Both teams had a terrible time with the word fuchsia. As it bounced back and forth between the last two teams, it acquired these misspellings: fuschia, fuscha, fuchia (twice!) and fuscia. Finally, Team 4 spelled it correctly and then had to spell diphtheria to validate the win. They did, and the trophy was theirs.

Senior spelling bees are a terrific asset to a community. If you’re interested in starting one in your community, go to to find a set of rules friendly to seniors and some practice sets. I'll be glad to help if I can.

SIDEBAR: National Spelling Bee Resources

Check out Mike's latest book here:

Visit the Senior Corner at
(substitute @ for AT above)

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