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July 12, 2021

Daily News Lesson: Zaila Avant-garde, 14, makes history at National Spelling Bee

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To read the transcript of the video, click here.

Summary: Zaila Avant-garde of New Orleans, Louisiana, made history on July 8 as the first African American student to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The word she spelled correctly to win was “Murraya,” which is a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. Her victory during the final round also means she is the first Black champion since Jody-Anne Maxwell in 1998. Avant-garde holds three Guinness World Records for her skill dribbling multiple basketballs at the same time and hopes to one day play in the WNBA. In addition to the title, Avant-garde takes home $50,000 in prize money.

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is Zaila Avant-garde?
  • What is Avant-garde’s other passion, and what are some of her future aspirations?
  • Why is Avant-garde’s victory historically significant?
  • When did Avant-garde begin her competitive spelling career?
  • Where does the National Spelling Bee take place?
  • How did Avant-garde study for the spelling bee?

Focus question: What positive influence might Avant-garde, 14, inspire for other young students through her spelling bee victory and impressive basketball career? 

Media literacy: What emotions did you feel as you watched the spelling bee clip, from the word being pronounced to Avant-garde spelling it correctly, to the victor receiving her trophy? 

Additional Resources:

Check out this article for a deeper look into the spelling bee and Avant-garde’s impressive victory. 

This Daily News Lesson was written by EXTRA intern Jacqueline Kim and EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio. Kim is a junior at Amherst College.

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