Schools gear up for first round of RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship

Casuarina Primary pupils who will be taking part in the preliminary round of the National Spelling Championship on Mar 7. (From left) They are Aisyah Shaik Ahmed Ally, Poh Zhi Nan, Soh Jue Ning, Charmaine Lee, Tan Qian Xun, Muhammad Daanish Zuklife a
Casuarina Primary pupils who will be taking part in the preliminary round of the National Spelling Championship on Mar 7. (From left) They are Aisyah Shaik Ahmed Ally, Poh Zhi Nan, Soh Jue Ning, Charmaine Lee, Tan Qian Xun, Muhammad Daanish Zuklife and Charlene Tan. -- ST PHOTO: NUR SYAHIIDAH ZAINAL

TWELVE avid readers from Casuarina Primary want to make their school proud.

Armed with storybooks, word lists and dictionaries, they are gearing up for the preliminary round of the fourth RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship- also known as The Big Spell - next Saturday.

They will join some 1,400 participants vying for the title of Singapore's top pupil speller, who will win $5,000 in cash and the challenge trophy for his or her school. The second and third placegetters will win $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.

Registration for the competition has been extended to noon on Wednesday and the numbers increased to 20 pupils per school due to demand.

Said Ms Serene Goh, editor of The Straits Times Schools Programme: "This year, we are trying to open more spaces to younger competitors to give them experience at playing the game."

Primary 4 pupil Charlene Tan, nine, who reads between five and 10 books a week, is confident. She said: "For me, spelling is a breeze because I read a lot. I devour books every day."

Despite a packed week of revision for upcoming tests, the Casuarina Primary group has put in extra hours of practice.

Primary 6 pupils Poh Zhi Nan, 12, and Muhammad Daanish Zuklife, 11, have turned to the Internet to researchwords that are tricky or unfamiliar.

Zhi Nan said: "I will look for difficult words, memorise them and also look for their meanings."

Daanish added: "My mother tests me, too."

Classmate Aisyah Shaik Ahmed Ally, 11, quipped that she abandoned her mission to read a dictionary that her mother had bought her.

"I realised I couldn't read all of it when I reached the letter C, so I gave up and went online," she said. There, she found the Oxford Spelling Challenge, which she uses to test herself.

Madam Zuliana Zaid, the school's head of department for English language, said the competition helped pupils gain "greater precision of the English language" as "it emphasises the importance of spelling in literacy development".

In next Saturday's round, pupils will write out 50 words that are read to them. The top pupils will then compete in the next zonal round, an oral one.

The annual competition is organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

It is supported by the Institute of Technical Education College Central and the National Library Board, with Sports Hub Library and Suntec Singapore as venue partners.

Registration details have been sent to schools. E-mail enquiries to bigspell2015@punch.com.sg

Follow the action at www.straitstimes.com/bigspell

nszainal@sph.com.sg