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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WordWright Challenge

Two teams of students representing the Yeshivah of Flatbsuh recently won highest honors in this years WordWright Challenge, a national competition for high school students requiring close reading analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry  Participating with 582 school teams from all across the country, the school’s ninth graders tied for fourth place in the nation in the year’s third meet, held in February  At the same time, the school’s twelfth graders tied for third place in the nation.

Students at the school who achieved outstanding results in the meet included freshman Leah Linfield and Dylan Sutton, who were both among the ten ninth graders in the entire country who earned perfect scores, and seniors Jacob Lazaros and Rickie Zeitoune, who were among the 15 twelfth graders nationwide to do the same. Freshman Sylvia Franco, sophmores Eddie Farhi and Louis Franco, junior Michael Srour , and seniors Shelley Raizin, Michelle Sabbagh, and Izzy Shamah all earned near-perfect scores, while freshman Caryn Darmon, Rachel Nussbaum, and Alex Volchek all earned honorable mention. More than 58,000 students from across the country (and from three foreign nations) participated in the meet. The students were supervised by Shifra Hanon.

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 and 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 Placements 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 third WordWright meet this year were a poem by Robert Frost for 9th and 10thgraders and a prize-winning essay by Daniel Orozco for 11th and 12th graders. The students will participate in one more WordWright meet during the coming months, the medals and certificates will be awarded in June to those who have achieved and/or progressed the most in the course of the year. ~Solly Dahan