1. The Education Gradebook

Land O'Lakes students excel in word challenge

Published Feb. 5, 2018

LAND O'LAKES — Land O'Lakes High School students proved they have a way with words in the recent WordWright Challenge. The national reading competition for students in grades 9 through 12 requires the analytical reading of prose and poetry.

Of the more than 60,000 students and 647 teams from public and private high schools in 47 states that participated in the WordWright Challenge, one sophomore and one senior team represented LOLHS. The local 10th-graders placed sixth in the nation, and 12th-graders placed second.

The challenge requires students to examine passages from authors including Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway and Eudora Welty, then analyze their words, images and themes to answer test questions. WordWright students receive vocabulary lists to study before the challenge, and are encouraged to have class discussions after the test.

Supervising WordWright students were International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement English teacher David Berger, who administers the challenge program four times yearly at the school, and language arts teacher Heather Rulison.

"These are as challenging as AP exam-style questions, and sometimes more so," Berger said. "This exercise prompts students to think more critically about the text, and this analysis carries over into other class activities, fostering more confidence with literature."

LOLHS students embraced the challenge this year.

"In fact, only 28 seniors earned a perfect score — 10 out of 10," Berger said, "and two of these seniors are ours, Ariana Rao and Stutee Acharya."

"Even if I had grasped the various definitions and uses of the issued terms, the challenge was far from simple," Rao said. "Each question seemed to always narrow down to two viable answers, and I believe WordWright helped me to more carefully scrutinize the literature based on structural components and the figurative significance of telling phrases."

Stutee Acharya is a WordWright veteran who first took the test "as a way to familiarize myself on analyzing complex literary pieces."

For Acharya, the challenge was a learning experience.

"The WordWright challenge has sharpened my knowledge because its nature requires one to critically evaluate literature with extreme detail and understanding."

Loryn Smith achieved the top Wordwright score of 9/10 for the ninth grade.

""Wordwright's texts definitely taught me to read deeper into the author's words," she said. "There's layers and multiple meanings and metaphors ... but the complexity introduced me to a new world of literature. It taught me that, even if I don't know the meanings of certain words, I'm still able to use context clues to reconstruct the sentence in a way that makes sense."

Senior Bryan Reeder took the WordWright Challenge "because my mind set is to never do anything halfway."

"In preparing for the test, I looked up words I had never heard before to help improve my vocabulary and improve my ability to understand literature," he said. "A diverse vocabulary adds another dimension to my character."

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Jeff Morgenstein, Assistant Principal for the IB Diploma Programme, is proud of the WordWright winners.

"Land O'Lakes High School is consistently recognized as one of our nation's best high schools and is a Florida School of Excellence. When our students take top honors in the WordWright Challenge, they demonstrate their dedication to learning and how much they have achieved as members of our school's community of learners," he said.