Spelling fun at the zoo, with a little help from the animals

Pupils from Yu Neng Primary facing off in a round of "human Scrabble" at the Singapore Zoo on Jan 26, 2016.
Pupils from Yu Neng Primary facing off in a round of "human Scrabble" at the Singapore Zoo on Jan 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - The search for Singapore's top pupil speller started on Tuesday (Jan26) 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 "butterfly" 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 Primary, said: "It was tiring holding up the cards but it was fun."

On the most difficult word they spelled, also the winning word, 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 at the preliminary round. It is supported by Nanyang Polytechnic and the National Library Board, with venue partners Singapore Zoo and Suntec Singapore.

Mr Jason Wong, the country head of RHB Singapore, 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 rationale to raise 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 for Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said that 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 added.

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, on Tuesday (Jan 26) also began a series of spelling games that teachers and pupils can use in the classroom which show how spelling can be lots of fun.

Registration is via schools only and details will be sent to schools. The top spellers from the written preliminary round on March 26 will enter the zonal rounds on April 16. The best performers from the zonals will then move on to the grand final on April 30.

MOE 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.

All interested teachers can RSVP to info@bigspell2016.com.

Additional reporting by Ang Yiying.

Schools interested in subscribing to Little Red Dot or its sister publication for secondary schools, IN, should contact amyleo@sph.com.sg.