New Zealand’s national spelling bee competition is back this year after being cancelled last year due to COVID-19.

The aim of Spelling Bee Aotearoa New Zealand is to encourage students to learn new words and gain a love of language.

Students in Years 9 and 10 will start learning the 2021 spelling list from March, sit a test mid-year, and the top 200 spellers from throughout the country will work their way through the semi-finals to culminate in the national final later in the year.

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

The event has undergone a name change this year from New Zealand Spelling Bee to Spelling Bee Aotearoa New Zealand.

Janet Lucas, Programme Director, says the new name reflects how words and language evolve over time.

“Five years ago, commonly used te reo Māori kupu (words) were added to our wordlists. Our new name is seen as the next step and is a sign of respect for the country’s bicultural foundations.”

Janet says the tremendous change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has also been reflected in our vocabulary with words such as quarantine, epidemiology, bubble, isolation, community spread, transmission, incubation period, asymptomatic and ventilator becoming part of our lives.

“Our ability to wrestle with these words shows just how much language changes and the important role it plays to help us understand events around us.”

Spelling is an important skill because it helps students with all their curriculum subjects, not just English, says Janet.

The wordlist studied by students to prepare for the competition correlates with their academic studies and Education Perfect hosts all the resources so students can access them in an electronic format.

There are also spelling resources available for Year 1-10 students that teachers can use for their own classroom spelling bee and provide a learning pathway to the national spelling bee.

Four Teacher Awards, worth $2000 each, are also awarded annually to teachers and educators whose innovative and effective programme or initiative instils a love of language in their students.

The national spelling bee has seen tens of thousands of students participate since it started in 2005 and in 2016 the final was televised in a TVNZ show called Spellbound.

The event has grown significantly since 2014, when the Wright Family Foundation came on board as the programme’s sole sponsor, allowing it to expand into primary and intermediate schools. About 800 primary and intermediate schools now sign up for the classroom programme every year.

Chloe Wright, CEO of Wright Family Foundation and Patron of Spelling Bee Aotearoa New Zealand, says the vision of the Foundation is to create articulate readers and writers who go on to higher education with confidence.

“The event has the goal of expanding children’s vocabulary and encouraging a love of language – which is something we are passionate about fostering,” she says.
Teachers and educators can register their schools for Spelling Bee Aotearoa New Zealand now at www.spellingbee.co.nz

Photo caption:
Sarah Wong from Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland was the 2019 New Zealand Spelling Bee Champion, spelling the word ‘stalactite’ to take out the title.

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