The Big Spell: Spelling bee gets more buzz with changes

Primary school teachers playing a word hunt game during a teachers' briefing for this year's The Big Spell last Friday. In a first, each school will receive a report on pupils' common spelling errors after the competition this year.
Primary school teachers playing a word hunt game during a teachers' briefing for this year's The Big Spell last Friday. In a first, each school will receive a report on pupils' common spelling errors after the competition this year.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Ms Debra Francisco, teaching specialist of the ST Schools team, sharing spelling games teachers can conduct in class.
Ms Debra Francisco, teaching specialist of the ST Schools team, sharing spelling games teachers can conduct in class.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

This year's The Big Spell aims to sharpen quality of competition

Singapore's nationwide spelling event for primary schoolers is returning for its sixth year, sharpening its focus on quality - with a tweak to its game play.

Close to 80 teachers from more than 60 schools got the details about this year's RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship - also known as The Big Spell - at a briefing held at the Singapore Press Holdings News Centre auditorium last Friday.

Like previous years, three rounds will be held: a preliminary written round, an intermediate oral round and a final oral round from which the winner will emerge.

Instead of an intermediate zonal format held simultaneously in four locations - where pupils compete within their school zones, a semi- final will be held at two venues.

Each school can field up to 10 representatives, capped to the first 1,000 participants.

In a first, the organisers will analyse how competitors fare and give each school a report following the competition, to get an insight into pupils' common errors and why they made them.

Said Ms Serene Luo, editor of the ST Schools team, which organises the annual event: "We hope that with this intel, teachers can bring that knowledge back into classrooms to help kids who struggle to improve on their foundational skills."

Ms Luo also gave teachers insights into commonly misspelt words based on a sample of spelling scripts from last year's preliminary round. Among words that tripped up competitors then: "raspberry" which many spelt as "rasberry", likely thrown off by the silent "p", while "unprecedented" had some spelling "unpresidented", likely because they did not understand its meaning and could not relate it to its root word.

ST Schools team's teaching specialist Debra Francisco shared spelling games educators could run in class, while Ms Florence Yap, a senior specialist in reading from the Ministry of Education's curriculum planning and development division, presented strategies teachers could use to teach spelling.

Teachers interviewed said they found the session useful.

Ms Cheryl Yap, 27, from Keming Primary School said she and her colleagues would use the materials provided at the briefing - a thumbdrive preloaded with learning resources - for weekly training sessions for her school's representatives.

Mrs Yap Yah Lian, 42, from St Anthony's Canossian Primary School said she liked the suggested spelling games and intended to try them with her P5 classes.

"It's a good start to ignite their passion and interest for spelling," said Mrs Yap.

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

•Additional reporting by David Tay

•The Big Spell *Preliminary round: March 11 *Semi-final round: April 1 *Final: April 22 Primary 4 to 6 pupils from MOE primary schools or pupils in the primary section of a full school are eligible to participate. They have to be registered by their schools. Registration enquiries should be sent to register@thebigspell.sg.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Spelling bee gets more buzz with changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe