By Curt Yeomans
Fourth-through-eighth-graders from Clayton County elementary and middle schools will be challenged today to show they can spell a wide variety of words at the county's spelling bee.
The event, which is a local branch of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, will begin at 9 a.m., at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway, Jonesboro.
Forty-eight students will participate, and will be asked to spells words, ranging from the names of colors to official medical terms.
"It's a motivating tool that encourages children to spell better, and to build their vocabulary," said Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association (CCEA), which sponsors the local bee. "If you're a better speller, you become a better reader, and that is a cornerstone for a quality education."
The teacher's association is involved since it is the local branch of the Georgia Association of Educators, and the National Education Association, which sponsor the state and national spelling bees. While CCEA is the local sponsor for the bee, the school system is responsible for organizing the event.
During the competition, students get to ask the moderator for a sentence which incorporates the word they are asked to spell. The pupils may ask to have the word repeated. They can also ask for a definition of the word.
District officials said the bee helps students in other areas, in addition to building spelling and vocabulary skills.
"The benefit is the kids have to think on their feet, and remain calm at the same time," said Shonda Shaw, the school system's coordinator of secondary language arts. "A lot of people would be nervous, if they had to get up in front of an audience and spell a word correctly. The kids have got to be able to overcome that fear when they are on that stage."
Shaw also said the students have to fine tune their problem-solving skills to be successful in the bee, "which is a positive thing, because the kids have to listen and think through the word before they give their answer."
The top four finalists from the county will move on to the regional spelling bee, held Feb. 28, at Mundy's Mill Middle School. The state bee will be held March 20, in Atlanta. The national event will be held in Washington D.C., in May.