To be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, expect to win…” — Zig Ziglar

The most awaited Spelling contest of the year came again after 12 months of anticipation and preparation, and yet again proved to be an inspiring spectacle boasting of a coterie of confident students, nail-biting competition, cut-throat rivalry and heartening displays of sportsmanship.

The 8th Dawn Spelling Bee also proved to be a one-of-a-kind contest which brought various schools and students springing from an assortment of cities and backgrounds to come together and indulge in a wholesome, educational activity.

Organised under the aegis of Dawn in Education Programme (NIE), the first National Spelling Bee Contest in Jan-Feb 2005. And then there has been no looking back. Ever since, the fever and frenzy of the Spelling Bee has heightened every year and attracted more and more eager pupils to vie for the honour of representing their schools. This exercise leaves its participants with much more than life-time memories — it inculcates confidence, teaches core skills like time management, flair for teamwork and the ability to perform under pressure.

This year too, the Bee left in its wake winners who are basking in the glory of victory and participants, who failed to win the coveted trophy yet, learnt lifelong lessons.

Here are the few things which separate the winners from other participants:

Putting in that extra mile

Robert Collier says, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” Over these years, the winners of the Bee have proved to be students who have practised long and hard the entire year, and not simply at the eleventh hour. They are students who don’t mind missing out on watching a movie or hanging around with friends because they want to spend every moment in preparation. Their daily regime has a timetable and they allot hours each day to learn their spelling lists and practice vigilantly.

Knowing the words inside out

Participants who are committed not only eagerly peruse the recommended word lists complete with each word’s pronunciation, meaning and usage, but also sift through the ample word lists available online. Also, students who are avid readers and have an inherent passion for the English language are more likely to do well as they are already familiar with the nuances of the language and have a broad vocabulary base.

A good speller also delves into the origin of the word as the English language borrows from Latin, French, Greek and even Arabic and Japanese.

The magic of teamwork

In the Dawn Bee, students are expected to participate initially in teams of three members. This helps to build the morale of the students and encourages them to learn to confer and consult with each other.

A winning team is one where the team members know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Someone who is loud, clear and confident is more likely to serve well as the speller. The other team members’ forte may be better memorisation or knowing the origin of words. It is also vital to listen to and respect every team members’ opinion.

Just as basketball superstar Micheal Jordon says, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” How well a team gels together may decide who makes it to the finals.

Choosing your mentors

An aspiring winner knows that he can’t do it alone and he does not hesitate to learn from the skills and endowments of others.

Serious Spelling Bee participants are always eager to take tips from their language teachers. Some schools even have spelling clubs where a teacher or senior supervises promising participants and helps them in their spelling drills.

Also, an infallible support system at home may be the deciding ingredient for a winner. For many spellers, their parents or elder siblings are their motivators who applaud their successes and help them up when they are down or exhausted. True friends can also aid spellers in revising tough words during their free time.

Handling the pressure

Most participants are well-prepared for the Bee. However, on the day of the contest when they sit on stage in the limelight, facing a large audience and awing judges, their hearts thump madly and their knees knock. Faced with stage fright, their minds go blank and they are unable to perform. In such a situation, it is the confident students who take the prize.

Winners are the ones who are acquainted with public speaking in school and can handle the pressure. They ignore the audience and the butterflies in their stomach, and focus on the task at hand.

Not afraid to ask

A smart speller knows more than the spellings; he also knows the rules of the contest. He reads up on the rules on the website.

He knows how much time he and his team will get to confer and spell the word. He knows what kind of questions he can ask the pronouncer and he prepares accordingly.

Sometimes pronouncers have unfamiliar accents which can prove to be distracting and participants don’t understand the word being pronounced. In such a situation a winner doesn’t rush into spelling the word. Instead, he is unafraid to ask the pronouncer to repeat the word until he comprehends it fully.

It is also imperative to ask the meaning of the word, what part of speech it is, as well as its usage in a sentence. All these queries help to identify the word being pronounced and remove confusions which are caused due to homonyms.

One feels wretched when one knows the spelling but is unable to spell it because he didn’t hear it properly. A winner is the one who is alert, listens carefully and asks the right questions.

So if you are a hopeful contender for the next Spelling Bee contest, be sure to brush up on these points which are sure to give you the edge.

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