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Competition tests language-arts skills

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By Paul Paterra

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:30 p.m.

Elementary school students from Southmoreland and two other districts were involved in intense competition in games such as Scrabble and Boggle Sept. 28.

Their skills were being put to the test in the Language Arts Thinking Games Tournament for Westmoreland Counmty gifted students at Southmoreland Elementary School.

“The object is to score as many points as you can for your team at each of the game stations,” explained Lisa Shinsky, Southmoreland's K-8 gifted coordinator. “They accumulate points at each game. Some kids will be better at Scrabble than they are at Boggle, but their points will end up evening out. Some will be great at everything.”

Students from the Greater Latrobe and Penn-Trafford school districts joined their Southmoreland counterparts in the aforementioned games, as well as Quiddler and Scatterories.

Gifted students from Southmoreland Middle School acted as judges of the competition.

Quartets from Penn-Trafford captured first and second place, followed by a team from Greater Latrobe. The overall word wizard for the tournament was fourth-grader Madison Thomas of Southmoreland, who amassed the highest individual score.

This marked the first year such a tournament was held.

Shinsky said the idea sprouted from her involvement in the Westmoreland County Secondary Coalition.

“They do this at a middle-school level,” she said. “I thought that was great. We are always working on language arts at Southmoreland and I thought, ‘Why not do an event like that for elemntary kids?' “

A similar event testing the students' math skills is scheduled for January.

“They (enjoy these),” Shinsky said of the games. “A lot of times adults think that games are just games, they're fun. We use them as a way to enrich the kids because instead of finding words in a word search or finsing words in a story, they can create new words on a Scrabble board. They learn new words from each other. If somebody that's playing against you, says this is a word and you don't think it is, you challenge them. You look up the word in the dictionary and it's a word, you just learned a new word. It's a good way to enrich them and any time you add that competitive edge to anything, these types of kids like them.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or



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