FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2019, West St. Paul, MN -
Four students representing St. Croix Lutheran Academy recently won 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.
In this year's first meet, held in October, eighth grader SeEun Sohn, competing as a ninth grader, placed among the 58 highest-scoring ninth graders in the entire country. Freshman Nora Birkholz, sophomore Ryan Burkart, and senior Jordan Selchow all achieved outstanding results as well. More than 70,000 high school students from 48 states entered the meet. The school's participation was overseen by Erin Hulse and Adam Frey.
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 the Challenge, classes are encouraged to talk about 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 Ian Frazier for 9th and 10th graders and a short story by Katherine Anne Porter, paired with a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, 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.