Spelling Bee Whizzes Hone Their Skills with the Visual Thesaurus
The 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee kicks off today, with all eyes focused on the 273 young spellers gathered in Washington D.C. Thanks to national television exposure, the event is sure to spark renewed interest in the fascinating complexities of English spelling. The competitors have been studying hard, and the Visual Thesaurus has been proud to equip them with the ultimate training tool. The Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee, a challenging online game, has shaped up to be one of the best resources available for premier spellers, while also providing addictive fun for the rest of us!
Since the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee was launched two years ago, a grand total of more than four million words have been spelled by tens of thousands of players. And as more people have played, the better the Bee has gotten: all of the data collected from the game feeds back into the sophisticated algorithms used to select words that are appropriate for each player's skill level. Whether you're a beginning speller or a Scripps-caliber champ, the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee will adapt to your abilities and challenge your brainpower.
There are two ways to play the Bee. In the Tournament Spelling Bee, we pick the words appropriate to your skill level. The more words you spell right, the higher your score climbs, on a scale from 200 to 800. You can even see how you stack up against other spellers and try to make it to the Top 10 list. We've also introduced Community Spelling Bees that are generated from subscribers' word lists, testing your knowledge of a limited group of words and scoring you on the percentage of words spelled correctly. (Check out the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.)
This past year we were pleased to learn that the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee has become an important element in the preparations of some of the nation's top young spellers. We talked to two of them: sixth-grader Nicholas Rushlow of Pickerington, Ohio, and seventh-grader Tony Incorvati of Canton, Ohio, both of whom participated in the last two National Spelling Bees. (Along with the interviews, Nicholas and Tony also shared lists of some of their favorite words.) This year, Nicholas is back at the Nationals, looking to improve on his 17th-place finish in 2009.
Nicholas told us all about how the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee has played a vital part in his training for competitions at the local and national levels. Here's an excerpt from our interview with Nicholas and his proud mother Michele Rushlow:
Mrs. R.: And I'll tell you, a year ago, I just Googled "spelling bee" and the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee showed up.
Nicholas: That has become a really valuable resource. It introduces me to tons of new words I've never heard of in my life.
Mrs. R.: You do the Bee, and as you're doing each word, when you get them right...
Nicholas: When I get them right, I'll write them down in my notebook and put a little star next to it. And if I don't get it, I put it on another little list of missed words.
VT: And now you use the Community Spelling Bee feature to make your own spelling bees with just the words that you missed?
Nicholas: That's right.
Mrs. R.: It's been great. And I'll tell you, today I made a bunch of lists for him, and I just make random lists out of all kinds of words.
Best of luck to Nicholas and the other sterling spellers at the Nationals! As in past years, Visual Thesaurus editor Ben Zimmer will be reporting on the action in his Word Routes column, so stay tuned!