Kirsen Robertson, L, and Kelsey Helton, R, practice vocabulary and word logic relationships as part of their preparation for the WordMasters Challenge.


Kelsey Helton, a seventh grade student at Ames Middle School, is taking advantage of the WordMaster’s Challenge to hone skills she’ll need in high school and beyond.

“I know I’ll need to be ready to communicate clearly and explain what I’ve learned—especially for college placement tests,” she said.

Kelsey said her motives echo some of the reasons two teams of Ames Middle School students excelled at the WordMaster’s Challenge, placing third in the seventh grade and eighth grade categories for the national vocabulary competition involving more than 150,000 students.

The eighth grade team placed third among 58 other national schools in the most difficult Gold Division of the WordMaster’s Challenge. Lydia Grawe and Johanna Krier earned awards for their outstanding individual scores, placing them among the top 14 students nationally.

Lydia, an aspiring writer, said WordMasters has expanded her vocabulary and enhanced her understanding of the relationships between words.

“As a result, my reading and writing abilities have improved,” she said.

Competing in the difficult Blue Division of the WordMaster’s Challenge, the seventh grade team placed third among 109 seventh grade teams nationally. Seventh graders Justin Kenny and  Erik Nelson achieved outstanding individual scores, earning a spot among the top 34 students in the nation.

The WordMasters Challenge is an exercise in critical thinking that first encourages students to become familiar with words considerably beyond their grade level and to use those words to complete analogies expressing various kinds of logical relationships, Extended Learning Program teacher and WordMaster coach Jayne Staniforth said.

“Working to solve the analogies helps students learn to think analytically and metaphorically,” she said.

Mitchell Oh, in seventh grade, said WordMasters is “provides extra challenge outside of the regular curriculum.”

“Sometimes when taking a test or understanding a textbook, you need to use logic to figure out the meaning,” he said. “WordMasters is a good way to stretch and challenge that ability.”

Staniforth said Ames Middle School WordMaster students met once a week for four weeks to learn the definitions, along with synonyms, antonyms and nuances of word meaning.

“Students act out the words, write songs about the definitions,  illustrate the words with cartoons and clay sculptures, and play a variety of games to help them learn the words,” she said.

WordMasters is part of the Extended Learning Program Literacy curriculum. Students are currently preparing for the third and final exam in the competition.

Seventh grade team: Emma Grause, Hannah Huang, Justin Kenny, David Kim, Erik Nelson, Mitchell Oh, Jina Park, Indeliso Prieto, Molly Putz and Haley Yoder.

Eighth team: Ainsley Chrystal, Moriah Conner,Adam Eichorn, Lydia Grawe, Helen Hu, Kijune Kim, Johanna Krie, Cary Smith, Nick Sulzberger and Sam Taylor