Fourth-grade spelling whiz from Friendswood crams for state contest
As this year’s Clear Creek ISD spelling champ, Friendswood resident Alexander Amalaman will take the stage April 7 in the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee where he will compete before judges, the audience and a television audience.
But don’t tell this fourth-grader from Greene Elementary how to deal with pressure. He’s got it under control.
“When I’m up there, I don’t really think about the judges,” Alexander said. “I just think about my words.”
After all, he added, “Spelling is my thing. I’m a dictionary.”
It sure seems that way. After winning his school spelling bee last year and ranking in the top five in the school district competition for elementary through eighth grade, Alex, 9, became Clear Creek district champ for that level, acing the words “diminish” and “confinement” to secure a spot at the upcoming state-level competition.
The top two spellers from there will head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C.
Alexander isn’t sure how he’ll fare in April, but he’s not counting himself out.
“I’m kind of nervous, but I’m kind of confident at the same time. I feel like I can spell the words because I’ve won my school’s competition twice and now I’ve won for the district,” he said.
Still, preparation is on his mind, especially because for this upcoming competition he isn’t provided with a list of potential words. Instead, youngsters are directed to the Merriam Webster dictionary, from where the words are pulled.
“I’m watching spelling semantic workshop videos and I write notes down to trace back root words,” he said.
He said his good memory helps, too.
“Sometimes If I can’t figure out the spelling by the root word or from what language it’s from, then I just have to memorize the word.”
Alexander knows his weaknesses.
“I have trouble spelling French and German words cause they’re so weird,” he said. “German words have consonant clusters that I’m not used to, and French words are pronounced kind of weird; so it’s hard for me to spell it the way it’s pronounced.”
“If it’s a word I know, I can trace it back to the root and sometimes that will help me,” he said.
Alexander’s mother, Natalja Luzan, admitted she’s been surprised by his success.
“He always did well in his spelling tests that they give in class, but the words in the spelling bee aren’t on the same level. They’re more complicated,” she said. “He definitely seems to have some talent.”
A talent which his mother, who hails from Russia, said is a bit difficult to relate to.
“I quiz him on his words and I try to help him understand the meaning, but because English isn’t my mother tongue I can’t always hear the words like he does,” she said. “He can hear sounds that I can’t.”
With the next competition fast approaching, Alexander said he’s looking for the win.
“I want to go to the national competition; so I know I need to win state,” he said.
And if he triumphs?
“I’ll freak out because that means I have more studying to do and there will be more people coming to see me compete, but there will also be enjoyment because, well, I won it!”