Ogden student Jamie McKinney was one of 60 fifth-graders nationally to get a perfect score in a vocabulary competition.

OGDEN -- Fifth-grader Jamie McKinney’s favorite subject may be science, but his English skills aren’t too bad either.

McKinney, a student at Ogden Elementary School, earned a perfect score on the WordMasters Challenge, a national vocabulary competition for third- through eighth-graders involving nearly 150,000 students.

Competing in the Blue Division for gifted students in April, McKinney was one of only 60 fifth-graders in the country to achieve a perfect result.

The WordMasters Challenge is a non-graded test that requires students to complete 20 analogies with vocabulary they have already studied. Teachers create the vocabulary lists with difficulty appropriate to each grade level, but there are multiple levels of difficulty within every grade as well. Students must not only have a complete understanding of the vocabulary, but they also must use their reasoning to figure out the relationships between the words.

Jenny Leeds, McKinney’s teacher at Ogden, said the competition challenges students to develop a deeper understanding of vocabulary in a nontraditional way.

“You have to apply those words but in a different situation -- the anticipation of ‘Well how will they present the analogy? Is it going to be a part to a whole, or synonyms, or antonyms?’” Leeds said. “It just kind of adds another layer of interest and a different approach to vocabulary.”

When McKinney first got his results back, there was a grading mix-up, so he didn’t know he had a perfect score.

“When I actually got my test back, it said I got one wrong. But we looked over that one on someone else’s that got it right, and I had it actually right,” McKinney said. “I was actually really surprised and excited about getting the perfect score.”

The Ogden students participate in three meets per year, and Jamie started competing in the fourth grade. Leeds prepares her students using graphic organizers, Quizlet and even the board game Apples to Apples.

McKinney plays lacrosse and video games in his free time, and he said he wants to be a doctor when he grows up.

Leeds said she thinks the competition teaches her students to work hard even if it’s not for a grade.

“Jamie and his classmates, I mean they work so hard,” Leeds said. “It’s easy to put this on the backburner because it’s not a grade on the report card, but I was really inspired by his motivation to just give it his all.”

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