LAND O'LAKES — Land O'Lakes High School English students rose to the WordWright Challenge in December, with the ninth-grade team scoring 10th in the nation on the test that challenges students' knowledge and comprehension of prose and poetry.
Three freshmen won additional honors for their individual scores in the competition, which involves more than 69,000 high school students on 596 school teams across the country.
Richard Calvo and Sebastian Garcia answered 10 questions correctly on the 11-question multiple choice test, while Max Keenan scored nine right answers.
All three students say that the challenge — which asks students to read passages from authors that include Shakespeare, Hemingway, Margaret Atwood and Eudora Welty, and then analyze their words, images and themes — sharpened their reading comprehension abilities.
"This test isn't about reading and memorizing," said Max, 15. "It's about deep understanding."
WordWright students receive vocabulary lists to study before the challenge and are encouraged to have lively class discussions after the test.
"These days when you watch TV and see movies, and even in some written material, the message is so obvious, the point so blatant, so obvious and elementary in form," said Richard, 15. "With this test, you have to really read it and figure it out. You have to work for it."
Supervising WordWright students were IB and AP English teacher David Berger, who administers the challenge four times yearly at the school, and IB English teacher Margaret Higgins, in whose class the winning students took the test.
"I'm so proud to work with these students," Higgins said. "This is a difficult test where students have to process a lot of information as they read. They have to do a lot of thinking — and they and everyone on the team did so well."
All three say their parents emphasize the importance of reading and learning and that their backgrounds prepared them for WordWright.
According to the WordWright Challenge website, the challenge is conducted in two divisions, the Blue Division for freshmen and sophomores, and the Gold Division for juniors and seniors, and helps prepare students for SAT and Advanced Placement exams.
The test prepares students for greater obstacles in the future, Richard said.
"This challenge requires a higher level of brainpower," he said. "You have to test yourself in your mind and this is the type of thinking that will lead to better positioning in the workplace."