John Y. Dater Elementary School is to the WordMasters Challenge as fourth- and fifth-grade students are to perfect scores.
The students’ scores on the analogy test placed the fifth grade at Dater first in the nation among 706 competing teams, while the fourth grade placed 10th in the nation among 698 competing teams.
All high-level reading students in the two grades compete in three challenges, which are facilitated by enrichment teacher Jennifer Borghoff. The first challenge was on Dec. 15; the others will be held on Feb. 24 and May 3.
The challenges are conducted at the school. Once the tests are completed, the teachers grade them, select the top 10 scores and send them to the housing site for the nation’s WordMasters Challenge. The scores are then compared and analyzed with the those of students in the same grades across the nation.
"I think the students’ achievements are absolutely incredible," Interim Principal James Campbell said. "I’ve looked at that test and I wonder how well I would do. We will continue to recognize excellence in students and we look forward to the next two challenges. In June, the students will be honored at a board meeting for their hard work."
The challenge is a critical thinking exercise which introduces students to new words and then challenges them to use the words to complete analogies while expressing logical relationships, according to a press release issued by the company.
The WordMasters website provides a sample list of words used in a challenge for Grade 5 students: cascade, forage, mar, gale, plunder and lull. The students learn their definitions and then apply what they’ve learned. An example on the site is: sheep are to forage as outlaws are to (a. plunder/b. mar/c. shoot/d. run/e. graze).
Borghoff said instruction in the classrooms explore synonyms, antonyms, vocabulary, analogies, and critical thinking. Each challenge is more advanced; once students have successfully completed the challenges, they’re awarded certificates, she said.
"It is more than just memorization," Borghoff said. "It is critical thinking for the 21st century."
Amanda Napolitano, a fifth-grade higher level reading teacher, said that seven students in her class scored 19 out of 20 and one student had a perfect score.
"The kids were very excited about the challenge and they take it very seriously," Napolitano said. "The students are very confident and they were not surprised by their outstanding scores because of thorough preparation and their dedication."
Napolitano said class exercises conducted in preparation include playing games, writing poetry, developing their own analogies and working on crossword puzzles. But it also involves a lot of home study.
"This is really a great group of kids and they try their hardest at everything," Napolitano said. "As soon as they get a new list of words they start preparing right away."