More than 4,500 students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades from around the state are preparing for the 19th annual Elementary Spell Bowl competition Thursday at more than 20 statewide sites. At least 400 teams of eight students each will compete.

Local sites include the Merrillville Intermediate School gym, where 20 schools will compete, and Col. Wheeler Middle School in Crown Point. Competition will begin at 5 p.m. at both sites.

Schools competing at Merrillville are Aspire Charter Academy. Merrillville Intermediate School and Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Class 1; Alexander Hamilton Elementary School, Banneker Elementary School, Carl L. Polk Elementary School, Charter School of the Dunes and Vigil I. Bailey Elementary School in Class 2; 21st Century Charter School of Gary and River Forest Elementary School in Class 3; and Edgar L. Miller Elementary School, Henry P. Fieler Elementary School, Henry S. Evans Elementary School, Hosford Park Elementary School, Homer Iddings Elementary School, John Wood Elementary School, Jonas E. Salk Elementary School, Longfellow Elementary School and Meister Elementary School in Class 4.

The Indiana Academic Spell Bowl is a team concept with no individual winners. Each round consists of one team member writing the correct spelling of seven words while competing against one team member from each other school. Each word is graded immediately and an individual scoring chart maintains a running team score as the evening progresses.

The team members of the schools with highest scores in each of the four enrollment classifications at each site will be recognized with awards after the competition. In addition, the top 10 teams in each enrollment classification statewide will receive a plaque or certificate.

The competition is administered by the Indiana Association of School Principals and Department of Student Programs and sponsored by Purdue University.

Results will be posted at noon Friday at www.iasp.org. Click on Academic Competitions listed under the department headings, then Competition Results at the top of the page, then the appropriate link.