If you missed it, the Scripps National Spelling Bee announced a major change last week. If you want to advance to the semifinals or finals, you must now understand definitions. The change is of course controversial and not everyone is happy. Since we run a vocabulary-focused SAT and PSAT site here at Word-Nerd, we think the change is great!
The spellers, many of whom devote insane amounts of time to practice, have roughly six weeks to adjust to the new rules. Will there be a practical effect? Who knows? In theory, the top spellers should already have an understanding of definitions in order to best know how to spell. Knowing roots, word origins, etc. are part of the process, and these naturally bring definitions into the thought process. However, it's possible certain kids simply memorize words (and roots) without focusign on meaning, and these students will be the ones who have problems.
Now if only there were rules changes to eliminate all the nervous twitching and the repeated "May I have the country of origin?" stalling questions....