The search for Singapore's top pupil speller started yesterday at the Singapore Zoo - with a little help from the animals.
Pupils from Clementi Primary and Yu Neng Primary excitedly demonstrated their knowledge of animal names in a game of "human Scrabble", spelling words such as "tigress" and "tortoises", at the launch of the fifth RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship.
But it was Yu Neng Primary's "rhinoceroses" that clinched the win. Fye Ng Wood Huee, eight, a Primary 3 pupil from Yu Neng, said: "It was tiring holding up the cards but it was fun."
On the most difficult word they spelled, also the winning word, his schoolmate, Fitri Falisha, eight, also in Primary 3, said: "It took a lot of time to check with one another."
The event, organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, is expected to draw more than 1,500 pupils in the preliminary round. It is supported by Nanyang Polytechnic and the National Library Board, with the Singapore Zoo and Suntec Singapore as venue partners.
Country head of RHB Singapore Jason Wong said the event has come a long way from when it first started in 2012. "We believe that over the years, The Big Spell has embedded a reputable image onto the hearts of children, parents, teachers and the public at large in Singapore," he added.
Calling The Big Spell a mind sport for spellers of the highest calibre, ST deputy editor Ignatius Low referred to the increasing rate of sign-ups as a testament to its aims of raising English standards as well as sportsmanship.
"No doubt this is why it enjoys such strong support from schools, teachers and parents, and pupils across the country," he added.
Ms May Lok, director of education at Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said that the Singapore Zoo prides itself on being a "living classroom". "Like so many of the educational initiatives we engage in, a spelling contest is but one way to encourage the curiosity of young minds, so they can go on a wonderful voyage to seek greater knowledge," she said.
Ms Lee Hui Shan, 28, who teaches English at Yu Neng Primary, said of the game her pupils played at the launch: "Many pupils find that memorising spelling is very tedious, but this shows them that learning how to spell can be fun."
The Straits Times' weekly school publication for primary school pupils, Little Red Dot, yesterday also began a series of spelling games that teachers and pupils can use in the classroom.
Registration for the championship is via schools only. The top spellers from the written preliminary round on March 26 will enter the zonal rounds on April 16. The best performers will then move on to the grand final on April 30.
Teachers are invited to attend the competition briefing on Feb 1, where they will learn about the importance of teaching correct pronunciation and the interplay between vocabulary development and the teaching of spelling, in a session conducted by Ms Shakila Vasu, a master teacher from the English Language Institute of Singapore.
•Additional reporting by Ang Yiying
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