Conquering the Bee

Hello to all the busy bees!

Thanks again for checking out the blog. Today, we'll be sharing some knowledge on spelling bee basics, as well as some resources on how to prepare. Who's ready to March 12th?

How the Bee Works

This is my first spelling bee. How does this thing work?

I'm nervous speaking in front of other people. What do I do?

Sometimes I get stage fright. How can I get over this?

These concerns, among others, plague competitors new and old. The good news is that because these worries are so common, there are tons of resources online to give us advice on how to work through them! Let's begin with the first matter: how does a spelling bee work?


A typical bee will have each student spell one word per round. Once every student has had their turn, the next round of spelling begins. Here is what to expect when it's your turn on the podium:

  1. Approach the podium, and make sure the microphone (if one is provided) is adjusted for your height. We want to hear you!

  2. The speaker will tell you what your word is.

  3. You don't have to answer right away! You have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to try and deliver the correct answer. However, you only have ONE chance to do it right. If you are unsure about the word, there are a few questions you can ask the speaker which may help you understand the word better.

Asking for a sentence or definition are good ways to make sure you and the judge are thinking of the same word. Asking for the language of origin is useful for helping you spell it correctly (we'll get back to that in another blog post!).

4. Once you are ready to give your answer, you should do so by first repeating the word. Then, carefully spell your word. Don't do this too fast - we want to be able to hear you! Finally, once you have finished spelling the word, repeat the word one more time.

This is the basic format for virtually all spelling bees. We will be using this too! If you'd like to watch this happen on video, here is an excellent example from the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Here is another superb example from the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

For those who may find competing to be stressful, or simply want some tips on how to stay composed on the big day, here are some resources to check out:

Advice from National Spelling Bee Contestants - In this 2001 article, several contests of the Scripps National Spelling Bee discuss a few of the ways they keep their cool under immense pressure. Some tips? Take slow, deep breaths. Take your time. Remind yourself that it will all be okay. It's not the end of the world!

Competitive Secrets of Spelling Bee Champs - This 2015 article covers a few of the many interesting tips and tricks national spelling bee contestants have used to be successful. Some of these include spelling with your hands, practicing in front of friends and family, and most importantly: having confidence in your abilities! Confidence is the enemy of nerves, and wins the battle every time.

Some additional advice for our competitors: Be sure to get plenty of rest the night before, and have a nutritious breakfast to keep your brain sharp. Drink plenty of water too!

Finally, for those who have yet to register, we continue to encourage you, your friends and classmates to do so soon! The 3rd/4th grade, as well as 5th/6th grade, competitions are filling up quickly. You can find the link to register here.

Next week, we'll discuss competition etiquette, as well as Akeelah and the Bee, a highly acclaimed movie about one girl's journey to the national spelling bee. How accurate is it? Should you watch it? Find out next week!


Kaitlyn Cyprian