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NZ Spelling Bee National Final This Saturday

Nineteen of New Zealand’s top spellers will battle it out for the coveted title of 2018 New Zealand Spelling Bee champion at the event’s tension-filled national final in Wellington on Saturday.

The finalists have won their places out of a field of hundreds of Year 9 and 10 students, from more than 100 secondary schools and colleges around New Zealand.

The rigorous competition began with a written classroom test, followed by six regional semi-finals held around New Zealand in which the top 200 spellers competed.

Now in its 14th year, the New Zealand Spelling Bee, supported by the Wright Family Foundation, is a competitive spelling event aimed at encouraging Year 0 to 10 students to gain a love of the English language. The programme improves spelling capabilities, comprehension and communication skills.

Founder Janet Lucas is expecting a tough competition this weekend – with many of the spellers taking an extremely competitive stance and working hard for the win.

“It will be an interesting final. There are some amazing spellers, some who are in the final for the second year in a row, and many of them really want to win and have worked hard to get here.

“One of the things that’s great about the Spelling Bee is that anyone can take part – money is no barrier, which makes it fair and equal for everyone. Our sponsorship from the Wright Family Foundation means that the finalists win airfares and accommodation for themselves and a parent or caregiver to travel to the final – successful students don’t have to fundraise to get there.

“All the resources are free, so long term our hope is that every school will take part as there is no cost to it. We want it to be accessible to everyone and make it easy for teachers to include spelling in their classroom programme.”

The 19 finalists will be treated to a banquet dinner and will visit Parliament and Te Papa before competing in the grand final.

The winner will receive the spelling bee trophy, $5000 towards their academic pursuits, and the coveted title of New Zealand Spelling Bee champion.

The New Zealand Spelling Bee has become a much-loved annual event and has seen tens of thousands of students participate since it started in 2005.

Its inspiration was Spellbound, a documentary film about the US-based Scripps National Spelling Bee. In 2016 the New Zealand Spelling Bee final was televised in a TVNZ show, also called Spellbound.

Janet says it’s a fallacy that in the age of spellcheck, knowing how to spell is not important.

“It’s actually more important than ever. By widening word knowledge, children are better able to understand and enjoy language, be it online, spoken, or in print.

“Lack of communication skills is at the root of so many problems in society. The Spelling Bee aims to increase vocabulary, leading to effective communication skills and a person’s ability to express themselves.

“The fact that the Bee grows every year proves the demand for a sport with a more intellectual focus, that is competitive and challenging in a fun way.”

In addition to the National Spelling Bee for Year 9-10 students, the New Zealand Spelling Bee encompasses a second programme: the New Zealand Classroom Spelling Bee, for Years 0 to 8. Resources are provided free of charge for both programmes, allowing students to study word lists and learn new words, competing in classroom tests.

The New Zealand Spelling Bee has grown significantly since 2014, when the Wright Family Foundation came on board as the programme’s sole sponsor. The foundation’s support secured the event’s future, resourcing it so that the programme could be expanded into primary and intermediate schools. About 800 primary schools and intermediate schools now sign up for the classroom programme every year.

Teachers interested in signing up for the programme can find out more at www.spellingbee.co.nz.


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