Taking the Sting out of Spelling

6 December 2023

This term, our Remove (Year 7) pupils participated in a literacy project to introduce them to the core vocabulary that they would come across throughout the year.

The aim? To ensure that all our Remove pupils feel confident using and applying these words. In order to put their knowledge to the test, our pupils were challenged to prepare for Downe House’s inaugural Spelling Bee competition.

The process

Each girl was provided with a booklet of words to learn. The vocabulary lists were created by each department including English, Humanities, Science and French, as well as Latin and Greek derived words.

The words were gradually learnt week-by-week over the Michaelmas term. There were three levels of words, starting with ‘one bee’ (easier) words and progressing to ‘two bee’ (more challenging) words. For those keen to push themselves even further, there was the option of learning ‘three bee’ (super stinger) words!

The Spelling Bee

The Spelling Bee took place on Friday 1 December, and was a wonderful evening that saw the girls passionately supporting their Houses. Additional support was provided by the Sixth Form who threw themselves into the event with gusto and showed much admiration for just how accomplished the Remove contestants were at spelling some very tricky words.

Each of our Lower School Houses were represented by a team of three who had each been nominated as subject specialists by the academic departments. Darwin were championed by Tara, Sara and Uwai; Hill were led by Aleksandra, Sadie and Aralola; and Hermitage were represented by Victoria, Cristina and Philippa.

The first round was an interhouse buzzer round. The fastest team to the buzzer had the first chance of spelling the word correctly and gaining points for their House. This was followed by the individual round.

The third round saw three teachers bravely take to the stage. Mrs Hughes (Darwin Housemistress), Mrs Michell (Teacher of Classics) and Mrs Hill (Murray Centre Manager) courageously battled their way through some incredibly difficult words which demonstrated to the girls that it is ok to make mistakes. Deoxyribonucleic acid – better known as DNA – proved impossible to spell!

The final round engaged the whole audience and saw pupils from the Remove and Sixth Form competing against each other – as well as taking on Mr Grant (Deputy Head, Academic) and Mrs McKendrick (Headmistress)!

Whilst all the girls were superb, the House that came away triumphant was Hill. Well done to Sadie, Aralola and Aleksandra!

Congratulations must also go to Tara from Darwin who was awarded the prize for Overall Best Speller of the evening.

Our Worker Bee Awards were given in recognition of exceptional effort and progress through the term and went to Uwekhai, Laashja, Betsy, Jennifer, Libby and Sophia T.

Everyone has different starting points, and everyone’s journey to learning these words took different routes and time frames.

The aim of the Spelling Bee, both on the evening and in the lessons leading up to the final event,
was to take the sting out of spelling and support girls in building skills in literacy both inside and outside the classroom.

Mission accomplished – the girls had a great time and were positively buzzing!

– Mrs Maria Reichardt, Director of Scholars and Academic Enrichment

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