Gearing up for a spell in the spotlight

Pupils to spell words aloud on stage in ST spelling contest's zonal round

Nanyang Primary School pupil Evelyne Chua, 10, has been working hard not only on her spelling but also on her "small case of stage fright".

Her mother has advised: "Look at the back of the room or just focus on one person."

Evelyne, who is in Primary 4, is among the 126 pupils who have made it to the zonal round of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2014.

Although they are the youngest participants in the contest for upper primary pupils, Primary 4 pupils have had a strong showing in previous editions of the spelling competition, also known as The Big Spell.

Among them was Kua Le Yi of Catholic Primary School, who was the South Zone champion last year and went on to finish as the overall first runner-up. Wong Yi Hao of Rosyth School, now in Primary 6, was No. 1 in the North Zone in 2012.

On April 5, this year's participants will compete in the four school zones: North, South, East and West. They will stand on stage and spell aloud the words read to them by a pronouncer.

These pupils from 55 primary schools were top scorers from the pen-and-paper preliminary round on March 1. A record 1,416 pupils from 122 schools signed up.

The Ministry of Education's (MOE) master teacher and senior specialist Soo Kim Bee said she was very pleased with the number of pupils who met the mark.

"In fact, two of the pupils did so well, they had perfect scores. This was totally unexpected," she added.

With about two weeks to the zonals, Evelyne plans to print lists of commonly misspelled words and familiarise herself with their pronunciation.

"Instead of just memorising, which I did for the preliminary round, I'm going to say out the words to prepare myself for spelling aloud on stage," she said.

Sabrina Foo, 10, will also be competing in the zonal round. "I feel nervous but quite excited," said the Primary 4 pupil from Singapore Chinese Girls' School.

She has been studying notes from her school and preparing at home with help from her parents. "My parents will test me on the words when we're free at home," she said.

The champion of each zone will earn a place at the final on April 26. The top 20 to 30 pupils ranked nationally will also get to participate in the final. The top speller wins $5,000, an individual trophy and a challenge trophy for his school, while those in second and third place win $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.

The competition is organised for the third time by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with MOE. It is supported by ITE College Central, the National Library Board and technology firm HP.

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