After winning the spelling bee in 2009, Kavya was invited to various events held by several organizations across the country. Among them was MastiSpell. We had not heard about this organization until they reached out to us requesting Kavya to be a keynote speaker at the 2010 Masti Spelling Bee. MastiSpell annually hosts a Junior Spelling Bee for children in fourth grade or below. This organization is based in Ashburn, VA, and they have been organizing this bee since 2008. The first couple of bees mainly consisted of students from all over Northern Virginia and neighboring counties, but as we understand it, the bee has grown in popularity to an extent where spellers from far away states have been avidly competing in recent years. Last year, MastiSpell was held towards the beginning of spring, but this year, it appears that the organizers have moved the event to May 7, 2011, towards the end of spring.
MastiSpell is a non-profit organization that actively participates and contributes in many charitable activities. Despite being a young organization in just its 3rd year of conducting bees, the event was wonderfully organized and we were amazed at how well prepared the bee officials were. If I understand it right, the same crew of judges has been present from the very first competition. The judges and pronouncers are from local schools and organizations, and I was surprised to see the entire crew show up at the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals. They really seem to take their work very seriously and wanted to be a part of the live audience at the Scripps National Finals event. They even had a long conversation with Dr. Jacques Bailly, the official pronouncer for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, following the conclusion of the event.
This bee has some unique features. The official source for this bee is the Merriam Webster’s Elementary Dictionary, which contains approximately 32,000 entries. Although, all of the entries in this dictionary can be found in the MW Third International Unabridged version, there are some very subtle differences between the two. All in all, going through this dictionary can be seen as a good segue to studying words from the bigger version.
The bee begins with a preliminary written phase containing approximately 50 spelling questions, all of which are based on either picture clues or sentence clues. Scores from the first phase are used to determine the top 50 contestants, who then advance to the oral elimination phase. The written round is extremely well designed, not only ensuring that the students’ spelling abilities are tested, but also that their vocabulary and cognitive abilities are tested. These questions in Phase 1 are categorized by difficulty level and are given a weightage that is based on several factors. Typically, the harder the spelling of the word, the greater it’s weightage. More information regarding the criteria used for scoring Phase 1 can be found at MastiSpell.
The grand prize winner receives a cash prize of one thousand dollars and the runner up receives half that amount. The bee also recognizes and awards cash prizes to the top three performers from each grade level (Kindergarten through 4).
The organizers reached out to the current reigning Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, Anamika Veeramani, to preside and be the keynote speaker at this year’s MastiSpell event. We are told that Anamika was not able to accept the invitation because she had a prior commitment and will be participating in a science competition during the same weekend. So once again, the organizers reached out to us to see if Kavya could be the keynote speaker this year as well.
The registration for this event is still open and if you are from the Virginia/ DC area, I would certainly recommend participating in the bee, so long as you meet the eligibility criteria. Depending on how interested you are in spelling bees, it would really be worth it even if you have to travel a long distance in order to compete!!