At Larkspur Middle, morning bell work is especially "meaningful" with a daily dose of word learning on

In many classes at this Virginia Beach school, teachers have turned homeroom into productive time for students, assigning test-prep word lists in ELA, math, science and social studies as a way to keep content knowledge fresh and to make the most of the school day.

This strategy is paying off for the Lions, who mastered 39,647 words in May to beat seasoned champs like Etiwanda, Margate and Chavez and claim the top slot for the first month of the Vocabulary Bowl pre-season. After ascending to their previous high of seventh place in April, the Lions cranked it up a notch in May to come out on top and earn their first Champions Banner. This is also the tenth straight month that Larkspur has been in the top ten for Virginia, a hotbed of Vocabulary Bowl action that fields other fiercely competitive schools such as Tomahawk Creek, Elizabeth Davis and Bailey Bridge Middle Schools.

What motivated the Lions to dig a little deeper, even as the school year started to wind down? Like many successful Bowl competitors, the teaching staff and school leadership at Larkspur decided to add a little extra incentive. Progress was displayed on graphs posted throughout the school, and when students met certain goals they earned rewards such as a free ice cream from the cafeteria or a special lunch with their friends and the principal, Dr. Melanie Hamblin. Of the challenge, sixth grade English teacher Katara Smith told us that "Students loved it, and many decided to do additional work on at home."

Congratulations to Larkspur Middle School for its May Vocabulary Bowl win, and keep your eye on the Lions in the coming months as they've firmly established themselves in the ranks among the top contenders.

The Vocabulary Bowl preseason, which runs from May through September, is a great time to implement word learning and to take a shot at winning a monthly Champions Banner. Whether it's connected to year-end review, summer reading, or preparing students for back-to-school, a little word learning each week can amount to big gains, both in terms of student knowledge and Vocabulary Bowl rankings. The upcoming Vocabulary Bowl Season will run from October 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018.