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Third-grader wins WordMasters Challenge with perfect score
Mount Vernon Elementary third-grader Daniel Lewis recently earned a perfect score on the WordMasters Challenge, which tests vocabulary skills. His score placed him in the top 1 percent of third-graders in the nation.

Daniel Lewis’ mastery of words has earned him an honor that fewer than 1 percent of students nationwide can claim.

On a recent WordMasters Challenge, the third-grader earned a perfect score — a task accomplished by only 92 other students out of more than 220,000 participants.

“They were very hard words,” said Daniel, a Mount Vernon Elementary School student.

The challenge is a language arts competition for third- through 12th-graders that tests a student’s knowledge of word definitions.

Students compete by using the assigned vocabulary words to complete a set of analogies. The tests are given three times a year.

For the first test, students must learn 25 words. Each of the next two challenges requires students to not only be retested on the previous words, but also 25 new words, for a total of 75 items on the final test.

“The words that are selected for the challenge usually have multiple meanings, so it can be quite tricky,” said Cathy Dial, the Mount Vernon gifted teacher who coached the students for the challenge.

“This is really an excellent competition. Students today do a lot of passive (learning) activities, so their vocabulary skills aren’t as strong. This helps to build those skills and also promotes critical thinking.”

To prepare for the challenge, Daniel said he first learned the definition of a word and its part of speech. He then learned synonyms and how to use the word in a sentence.

Although he studied hard for the challenge, Daniel said he still was caught off guard by his perfect score.

“I was so surprised. On the first challenge, I got a 16, so on the second one I expected to score somewhere in the teens again,” he said. “I definitely didn’t expect to get a perfect score.”

With a brother in fifth grade who was also competing, Daniel’s accomplishment came with an added bonus.

“I beat my big brother,” Daniel said with a grin. “That feels really good.”