All set for The Big Spell

North Vista Primary pupils (from left) Lee Zhan Yi, 11, Alexis Neo, 11, Yeong Jing Yi, 10, and Laura Lai, 11, have been hitting the books in the run-up to the nationwide spelling competition.

SINGAPORE - One word Primary 6 pupil Alexis Neo, 11, has no problem spelling is "embarrassed" - because of the catchy phrase "red red slap slap" her teacher taught her.

The 11-year-old, who initially could not spell it, explained that the mnemonic helps her remember how many "r's" and "s's" there are in the word.

Across Singapore, teachers and pupils are preparing for the preliminary round of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, to be held this Saturday at ITE College Central. More than 1,000 pupils are expected to take part. Just one will eventually win $5,000 and bragging rights as the Republic's spelling star.

Kenneth Poh, 11, and his friends from Mayflower Primary School have also been honing their spelling skills - since their first day of school.

Teachers at Mayflower stress the importance of spelling beginning in Primary 1, using a special grid format that shows a word's spelling and definition, the context, and a visual describing it. Pupils are encouraged to read books, newspapers and encyclopaedias to improve their vocabulary.

Those in the upper primary levels take the school's in-house spelling tests, and the top scorers get to represent the school in the nationwide event.

Kenneth, who is in Primary 6, is a huge fan of spelling-based activities. He said: "Spelling actually lets me learn new words, words that I can use while speaking. When I learn how to spell a word, I also learn its meaning. It helps when we have to use creative words in compositions too."

In the March 1 pen-and-paper round, pupils will spell 50 words that are read out to them. The scripts will be marked by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The top pupils in each zone will make it to the next round, which is an oral one. This is the third time the competition is co-organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the MOE. It is supported by ITE College Central, the National Library Board and tech company HP.

Only Primary 4, 5 and 6 pupils from MOE primary schools and primary sections of a full school are eligible. Schools have until Feb 24 to register up to 12 participants.

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