Dilan Tan's mum tests him on his spelling every day - and it is not because she is a tiger mum.
The Primary 6 pupil at St Joseph's Institution Junior is sticking to a tried-and-tested method of preparing for the upcoming RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship: His mother challenges him with difficult words from the Merriam-Webster website daily.
Dilan, 11, has taken part in the nationwide spelling contest for two consecutive years, making it to the finals but not winning. This year's competition is his last chance. He said: "This time, I will be more careful in listening and spelling because, in the past two years, my carelessness was what caused me to lose."
The annual event for primary school pupils - organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education - will hold its preliminary round next week on Saturday. Already, more than 60 schools have signed up. The closing date for registration is this Friday.
Also known as The Big Spell, the fifth run of the event is supported by Nanyang Polytechnic and the National Library Board, with the Singapore Zoo and Suntec Singapore as venue partners.
With some 1,500 pupils expected to participate this year, Dilan faces some stiff competition, including repeat participants such as Jerome Thomas Ng, 11, a Primary 6 pupil from Henry Park Primary School.
He was a finalist who was twice crowned West Zone champion.
Asked about their chances of beating each other, both displayed sportsmanship. Jerome said: "To me, this is more of a friendly competition. I am confident that I will make it to the top three, though."
Other than studying notes given by his school, he finds difficult words online and memorises them - a strategy that served him well in previous years.
Dilan said: "It is a fair fight, so at the end of the day, we will see who is better."
They are gunning for the top prize of $5,000 for the champion speller and the challenge trophy for their school.
Also competing is first-timer Megan Sierra Chan, 11, a Primary 6 pupil from St Hilda's Primary School. She said: "I feel excited. However, it is also very nerve-racking."
She looks up the origins and meanings of words to help her remember their spelling. She and her schoolmates are using the March school holidays to practise their spelling.
Other schools, such as Clementi Primary School and Henry Park Primary School, are using the resources provided in Little Red Dot, The Straits Times' weekly publication for primary schools, to teach pupils spelling techniques.
The top spellers from the preliminary round will compete in the zonal round on April 16 and the grand final on April 30. •For more information, visit www.straitstimes.com/bigspell Teachers with inquiries can write to firstname.lastname@example.org •To subscribe to Little Red Dot, please contact Ms Amy Leo at email@example.com or Ms Carmen Choy at firstname.lastname@example.org