Spelling Bees And Academic Decathlons In The San Joaquin Valley

Spelling bee words

Competition can be healthy for kids. It teaches them to set goals, learn skills to achieve what they want, solve problems, and keep trying until they succeed.

It’s true in sports – and in academics.

In Kings County, where many of our San Joaquin Valley homes are located, two of our favorite annual events are the Spelling Bee and the Academic Decathlon

Spelling Bee
While the popularity of texting shorthand may be endangering our collective ability to spell correctly, knowing how to spell is an important necessity for daily life. If your kids are in grades 1 to 8 and studying in public, private or home schools, they can participate in the Spelling Bee. A lot of work is needed to compete: contestants get only one chance to spell a word correctly, or they’re eliminated. (First graders do not get eliminated in the first round.)

While uncommon examples like lugubrious, glockenspiel, and zephyr can upend the competition, most of the words used come from everyday language that can trip up even adults, including vineyard, environmentalist, and acknowledgement. (And yes, the official word list shows that last word with an “e” in the middle.) But there’s no need to guess on which parts of English vocabulary will appear. Complete word lists, divided by grade, appear on the Spelling Bee’s website.

Competitions start at the school level, with winners moving on to district competitions. Only one contestant and one alternate per grade is allowed per district, although larger districts, such as Lemoore Elementary and Hanford Elementary, can double their entries. The winner of the county Bee can compete in the state championship, and maybe, in the national competition. Last year’s winners who advanced to the state level came from Woodrow Wilson, Pioneer Elementary, P.W. Engvall, and home-schooling/independent study.

Academic Decathlon
High school teams can show off their mental prowess at the Academic Decathlon, which covers 10 theme-based categories such as Art, Economics, Language and Literature, Mathematics, Music, Science, and Social Science. (Last year’s theme was India.) In addition, participants must give both impromptu and prepared speeches, write essays, and join interview competitions. A Super Quiz crowns the winners with gold, bronze, and silver medals.
Study quizzes are available online. Individual winners receive cash scholarships ranging from $125 to $1,000, with winning teams advancing to state and national competitions. With their fourth consecutive win, last year’s county champions came from Lemoore Middle College High School. Second place went to Lemoore High School and third belonged to Corcoran High School.

The finals are typically held in January and prep work usually begins at the start of the school year in September. Even if you have no kids joining in, you can still contribute as a volunteer. They’re particularly needed for the Academic Decathlon, which requires over 100 judges and assistants at the county level. You can also volunteer at the school level, depending on the needs of your institution.

If you own a business, your company name or logo can appear at event promotional materials, such as brochures, table tents, and the Kings County Office of Education website. Sponsors are needed for both the Bee and the Decathlon.

If you want to know more about the schools in our local area or want to tour one of our community developments, please let us know.

Lisa Walker