Sunday, December 18, 2016

Word Is, Pottsgrove Students Have the Wright Stuff

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottsgrove School District.

A team of students representing Pottsgrove High School won high honors recently in this year's Word Wright Challenge, a national competition for high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry.

Participating with 640 school teams  from all across the country, the school's eleventh graders tied for fifteenth place in the nation in this year's first meet, held in October.

Pottsgrove students who achieved outstanding individual results in the meet included freshman Grace Kegel and David Rabinowitz; sophomores Arianne Colbert and Paul Sachs; juniors Charlie Walsh, Katelyn Zook and Karli Tellis; and senior Cassidy Robinson.

The Pottsgrove students were supervised by Todd Kelly.

More than 64,000 students  from 48 states participated in the meet.

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 Atwoods; to essays as classic as E. White's or as current as an Atlantic opinion piece by James Parker.

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 verbal questions on the SAT, 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 responses.

The texts for the second WordWright meet this year were an excerpt from Joseph Conrad's "Lord Jim" for 9th and 10th graders, and an essay for Joan Didion for 11th and 12th graders.

The students will participate in three more meets over 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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