Students in New Mexico Have Spelling Bees in Spanish and Navajo Languages

Spelling bees are a part of any elementary student’s life. I remember staying up late every night for a week before my fourth grade spelling bee and studying the vocabulary list. By the day the actual event rolled around, I could spell “phenomenon,” but got so nervous that I misspelled “choice.” It was a very sad day for me, but I could still spell “phenomenon,” so I felt pretty cool.

Today, students in Bluffview, New Mexico, are facing the same problem I faced more than a decade ago. However, there is one main difference between their spelling bee and my own: their spelling bee is in Spanish.

The Spanish-language spelling bee is an annual event in the state of New Mexico. They are very similar to tradition spell bees, except that they are conducted entirely in Spanish; this includes everything from the instructions to programs to vocabulary words to information pamphlets.

Bluffview Elementary has a very high percent of students who are bilingual (60 percent) or who are learning English (50 percent). As a result, the elementary school implemented a Spanish and Navajo bilingual to accommodate their students; the program has seen incredible growth in the past three years, nearly doubling in enrollment.

“We do the same thing as language arts does, we do grammar, we do comprehension skills,” said Jennifer Martinez-Padilla, the bilingual coordinator at Bluffview Elementary. “But we use the Hispanic culture to get the point across.”

Bluffview Elementary also has a Navajo-language spelling bee. The top spellers from the entire school district will earn scholarships. However, scholarships and the ability to spell well are not the only benefits of these diverse language spelling bees.

“It brings down the cultural barriers,” Martinez-Padilla said. “It allows the children to be tri-cultural. They learn a respect for all cultures.”

I think this is a really cool program and am slightly jealous of the students at Bluffview Elementary. So, I decided to learn how to spell “phenomenon” in Spanish and Navajo as well. In Spanish, it’s ” fenmeno,” but I can’t find the spelling in Navajo. Does anyone else know it and care to share?

Via The Daily Times








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