“Xeroderma pigmentosum,” the announcer read.The audience of middle school students buzzed with anticipation at Purdue University’s Loeb Playhouse. The announcer paused and waited for the enthusiasm to wane before reading the sentence. Fifteen seconds later, the crowd cheered when the spellers on stage raised their hands because they’d correctly spelled xeroderma pigmentosum.
Spell Bowl State Finals is the only place where people are excited about a genetic skin condition.
This past Saturday, I had the honor of taking my middle school spell bowl team to the state finals. They were one of eight teams that qualified in their enrollment class.
Each year students are given a list of over 1600 words that will potentially be used in the competition. They spend several months learning to spell both common and unique words. (My personal favorite from this year’s list is antimacassar because I finally discovered the name for the towel Grandma had hanging on the top of Grandpa’s recliner.)
During the competition, each student spells nine words in one round. There are eight rounds. Each student only spells once, so the team can earn up to 72 points from words spelled correctly. Students sit next to adult proctors who check the words they’ve written and help keep score.
Other tough words from the list included:
- pas de deux
- pate de foie gras
These words are just a sample, and it is impressive what the students learn. I’m proud of my team for their hard work this season.