Sophomore Julia Ward Wins High Honors in WordWright Challenge
Julia Ward of Kingston, MA, won high honors in this year's WordWright Challenge, a competition for American high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry.
Julia made only two mistakes, placed among the 145 highest-scoring tenth graders in the entire country. More than 65,000 high school students from 48 states entered the meet. The school's participation was overseen by Winifred Dick.
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 Updike to poetry as old as Shakespeare's or as recent as Margaret Atwood's, and to essays as classic as E. B. White's or as current as James Parker's cultural commentary in The Atlantic. 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 Placement 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 first WordWright meet this year were an essay by John Updike for 9th and lOth graders and a short story by Alice Adams 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 improve the most in the course of the year.