Young students learn to express themselves correctly and build vocabulary

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CHIKAKO HOKANSON - Participants in the third annual spelling bee at the Oregon Trail Primary Academy show their pride in a job well done. From left, back row: Skyler Corpuz, Zeke Morrison, Dillon Leavelle, Victoria Yates, Daniel Hardin, Chloe Kulla and Devon Waldron. Middle row: Peyton Lekberg, Nicholas Chan, Landon Sheckard, Jenna Grimmer, Justin Zigler, Andrew Hokanson and James Milliken (principal). Front row: Phoenix Gan, Lousara Gatchell, Soren Ofstie, Keenan Bayer, Ella Andersen and Jerry Shen. Not pictured, but among the spelling bee finalists, are Catherine Nishida, Eli Atkinson, Elena Cabrera and Isabelle Cabrera. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CHIKAKO HOKANSON In these days of texting abbreviations and Tweets in 140 characters or less, spelling and grammar become increasingly important.

With today’s technology, you can type just the first three letters of any word and a list of suggested words from which to choose will pop up. No one would think twice about spelling the rest of the word.

To encourage better spelling and a larger vocabulary, the Oregon Trail Primary Academy hosted its third annual spelling bee Feb. 1.

Spelling Bee Coordinator Chikako Hokanson says she feels strongly that students benefit greatly from opportunities such as spelling bees.

“Words are similar to all the different shades of colors on your palette,” she said. “When we have more color choices, images of our thoughts on the canvas move from monotone to much more colorful, vivid and alive.”

Why the bee?

The reason for having a spelling bee is so that students understand the more words they have in their vocabulary, the better they can express themselves and the greater depth to describe their thoughts and feelings.

Preparing for the spelling bee also allowed students to do more than just memorize words. They learned to spell words by incorporating specific rules fundamental to the English language, such as dropping the “e” at the end of “recycle” to spell the word “recyclable.”

Building up to the academy’s final schoolwide spelling bee, each class held its own contest. Each student was given a list of age-appropriate words, up to 400 words at the eighth-grade level, based on the Scripps National Spelling Bee study list.

The top 20 spellers overall went on to participate in the schoolwide competition. The class spelling bee was in written format, while the schoolwide bee required oral presentation, giving every student an opportunity not just to spell well but also to overcome shyness and practice public speaking.

Class competition

This year’s class champions were:

Keenan Bayer, first grade

Catherine Nishida and Madelyn Engler, second grade

Ella Anderson, third grade

Andrew Hokanson, fourth grade

Daniel Hardein, fifth grade

Isabelle Cabrera, sixth grade

Schoolwide competition

This year’s top three spellers in the schoolwide competition were:

First place: Soren Ofstie, fourth grade

Second place: Andrew Hokanson, fourth grade

Third place: Nicholas Chan, fifth grade

The two finalists exchanged a heated battle with words such as intuitive, equivalent, empirical, subsequent and more.

The winning word was fallibility, and Soren Ofstie received a trophy for his exceptional efforts. He will now compete in the regional spelling bee Saturday, March 2, in Portland, where he will compete against students from 64 other area schools.

Oregon Trail Primary Academy is a public elementary school within the Oregon Trail School District, and is open to all students, kindergarten through sixth grade.

To learn more about the academy, visit the website at

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