August was a scorcher on the Vocabulary Bowl leaderboards, with the top school mastering 49,677 words.

Who mounted this impressive tally, straight from summer vacation? With a total that high, you might think it was a veteran Bowl champ with an established track record — maybe Etiwanda, Margate, Nimitz or Lanier. Think again, Bowl Fans.

As is often the case in the Vocabulary Bowl, a newcomer stormed the word-learning scene to surprise everyone and come out on top with their first monthly win. This time, the rookie champ was Millard South High School of Omaha, Nebraska. The Patriots have been dominating the Bowl in Nebraska for the past several months, but it wasn't until July that they broke through to the big leagues — the top ten rankings on the national leaderboards. They built on their momentum and soared to the top for August.

We reached out to our new friends at Millard South High School to hear more about the Patriots' success, which has been lead in large part by AP Language teacher Christine Kaldahl, who also teaches journalism and is the newspaper advisor. Kaldahl told us, "When school started the second week of August and I saw how many words AP Language and AP Lit students scored for their summer learning requirement, I thought we could maybe win this thing. [My colleague] Ms. Wormington and I made a decision to go for it. Since then I have been tweeting our progress through the school newspaper account and persuading my colleagues in all disciplines to make or find a list of terms for their subject and contribute to our word mastery. We've put updates in the daily announcements to encourage participation. I kept telling my kids not to underestimate Etiwanda. They're veterans. They have school-wide buy-in and we're just at the beginning here."


Bringing new meaning to the term student athlete

Ms. Kaldahl is refering to 2016-2017 Vocabulary Bowl North American Champion Etiwanda High School, which has posted winning totals for several months over the last year. As August 31st dwindled in the final hours, Etiwanda was in second place by 9,000 words. If any school could have pulled off a surge to close that gap, it would have been Etiwanda, but Millard South fought to maintain their lead, lighting up the leaderboard with flashes of green until late into the night.


Flabbergasted MSHS students marvel at the leaderboard

When asked about Millard South's approach, Activities Director Steve Throne said that the school “has made Vocabulary.com fun and competitive,“ adding, "It's not just for English classes. Anyone can do it."

AP teacher Amber Wormington added, "Vocabulary.com has had an impact outside the classroom setting because the way it's practiced has a high likelihood of adding to your long-term vocab, as opposed to weekly quizzes where [the words] won't be mentioned again."

Here’s what Millard South High School students are saying about Vocabulary.com and the Vocabulary Bowl:

“It offers you a good challenge and helps you learn vocab well.”

“I learned as much as I could and it didn't matter where I ended up.”

“I do it in my free time;”

"I have strategy and trade secrets. That's how you compete with the big boys."

With this kind of start to the school year, the sky's the limit for the Patriots in the upcoming 2017-2018 Vocabulary Bowl Season. Stay tuned for the last month of preseason Vocabulary Bowl action in September. The next Bowl season gets underway on October 1st and runs through April, with monthly banners at stake and the title of Vocabulary Bowl Champion on the line. Now is the time to sign up and get ready to play your way to an exemplary vocabulary.