Some are just sentences

Keshav Ramesh (Speller 32) -- who was here last year -- typed the letters of his word, "debacle," as he spelled it.

Before that, he asked if the word was from Latin. On hearing its history -- Latin to Old Provençal to French -- he commented, "long history."

"Can you use the word in a funny sentence, please?" Keshav asked.

Unfortunately for the South Windsor, Connecticut fifth grader, it couldn't be done.

"They're not always funny," Dr. Bailly responded.

Jacob Williamson (Speller 38) wanted a good one, too.

Those sentences can be pretty amusing

"You should give us sentences more often," said Isabel Cholbi (Speller 18). She spelled "fennec" correctly.

Her sentence: "Scientists note the ears of the fennec to be remarkably large, while the fennec notes the ears of the scientists to be stunningly small."

Another one that got a chuckle was Speller 20, Neha Konakalla's sentence for "recalcitrant."

"The speller considered the judges recalcitrant for not accepting her innovative new way of spelling the word," Dr. Bailly read.

And we're off

The first word of the live rounds, protégé, went to Joshua Kelley (Speller 1), a seventh grader from Gadsden, Alabama. He spelled it correctly.

Speller 3, Delta Junction, Alaska seventh grader Vivian Miller, was thrilled to spell her first word -- pneumatic -- correctly. She let out a "Yesssss!" after learning she was right.



How to watch the Bee

Live rounds of spelling begin this morning. Starting at 8 a.m. EST, you can watch the spellers on stage on and the WatchESPN app. Play along or watch the version with the words on the screen.

Spelling will continue until about 5 p.m. EST, with a break for lunch.

After the first two rounds are finished, the semifinalists will be announced live. The pool of up to 50 semifinalists will be selected from the top scorers on the preliminary test, and those who spell their words correctly in rounds two and three.

Spellers get free Microsoft Surface tablets

Isabel Cholbi (Speller 18) has been to the Spelling Bee twice before. Never has she gotten free gifts.

But Cholbi and 280 other spellers competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week are going home with free MS Surface RT tablets and other gifts, courtesy of Microsoft, the Bee's 2014 official technology champion.

Cholbi and her friends Suzanna Murawski (Speller 174) and Madeline Rickert (Speller 181) thought they might get a high five, or a piece of candy.

'Maybe I'll even win one year'

Tushan "T" Dargan (Speller 215) is already pleased with himself.

And with good reason. At 9, the Edwardsville, Pennsylvania fifth grader is one of the youngest competitors at the Bee this year.

"It's surreal," he said. "I can't believe out of 11 million people, I somehow made it to the last 281. It's amazing. It makes you feel proud of yourself."

T reads a lot, he said, so he's confident the competition will go well for him. But if he gets out before the end, that will be OK, too.

"I'm going to try my best to come back," he said. "Maybe I'll even win one year."

Lucky number 12

Spellers couldn't bring anything other than a jacket into the preliminary testing room, but Chase Seals (Speller 12) didn't need to. His was on his name tag.

Chase, an Imperial, California seventh grader, turned 12 on December 12, 2012. He was No. 12 in the first Bee he ever won.

"The number seems to follow me around," he said. "Hopefully, it's a good omen."

His mother, Lisa, said her son has a competitive spirit. Chase said the vocabulary portion has been hard, but he tried to incorporate the words he's learning into conversation.

What you learn the second time

At the Kansas spelling bee Sterling Hollond (Speller 89) won to get to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, his father said, there were on-stage vocabulary questions -- an echo of the computerized vocabulary questions that were added to last year's preliminary exam.

David Hollond said he sees a lot of value in the addition of vocabulary questions in this morning's computerized test.

"Understanding meaning is as important as spelling," David said. "I actually like the addition of vocabulary. How do people succeed in many, many careers? It's writing."

Why it helps to be confident

Elias Kondolios (Speller 198) was nervous before he took the preliminary exam. But his mom might have been more nervous.

"I'm always nervous," Zenovia Kondolios said. "Did I help him prepare enough? I never feel like I did."

Elias, an eighth grader from Warren, Ohio, said he tries to appear more confident than he really is.

"It makes your mind a little bit more clear," he said.

"Uncertainty is a bad thing for the Spelling Bee. If you think you know, but you're not sure, it throws off your answer. You get rid of a lot of uncertainty by practicing."