December 3, 2012
The following is posted on behalf of WordWright.
A team of students representing A. J. Dimond High School recently won highest honors in this year's WordWright Challenge, a national competition for high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry. Participating with 582 school teams from all across the country, the school's tenth graders placed first in the nation in the year's first meet, held in October.
Students at the school who achieved outstanding results in the meet included sophomores Celine Abello, Rachel Brady, Aidan Boeckman, Sarah Bylsma, Hannah Gastaldi, Michaela Hendricks, Francis Pacillo, and Jovan Villananca. More than 58,000 students from across the country (and from four foreign nations) participated in the meet. The students were supervised by Marcus Reese.
The premise behind the WordWright Challenge is that attentive reading and sensitivity to language are among the most important skills students acquire in school. The texts students must analyze for the Challenge can range from short fiction by Eudora Welty or John Steinbeck to poetry as old as Shakespeare's or as recent as Margaret Atwood's, and to essays as classic as E. B. White's or as current as a Time opinion piece by James Poniewozik. Though the texts vary widely in voice, subject, tone, and length, they have one thing in common: style. All use language skillfully to convey layers and shades of meaning not always apparent to students on a first or casual reading. Like the questions on the verbal SAT I, the SAT II in English Literature, and the Advanced Placement exams in both English Language and English Literature, the questions posed by the WordWright Challenge ask students both to recognize the emotional and/or rational logic of a piece of writing and to notice the ways in which a writer's style shapes and shades his meaning. Because the WordWright Challenge is a classroom activity and not a college-entrance exam, however, it can be a learning experience, not just a high hurdle. After completing a Challenge, classes are encouraged to talk about the texts and the answers to the multiple-choice questions, and are also given additional topics for open-ended discussion and/or written response.
The texts for the first WordWright meet this year were a short story by John Updike for 9th and 10th graders and a poem by Philip Larkin for 11th and 12th graders. The students will participate in three more WordWright meets during the coming months, and medals and certificates will be awarded in June to those who achieve and/or progress the most in the course of the year.
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