Regional Spelling Bee Competition drives Literacy Levels

Kruisfontein Community Centre: Saturday, 26 November 2016

A regional Spelling Bee, bringing together some of the brightest learners from local schools, took place at the Kruisfontein Community Centre this past weekend. The top three shortlisted ‘spellers’, drawn from twelve participating primary schools across Hankey, Patensie, Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp partook in this event, which is funded as part of Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm’s literacy programme. Malcolm Juba, Grade 5, St. Patricks Primary School won first prize with Tiffiny le Roux , Grade 4, Graslaagte Primary School winning the second place and Joslyn Jansen, Grade 5, Sea Vista Primary School taking home the third place.

“It is important that learners have the opportunity to learn and compete in a supportive environment and gain skills such as improved memory and the art of presenting in public,” said Pieter Oosthuisen, Plant Manager for Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.

Spelling Bees not only provide a valuable educational experience for the participating learners, but also allow them to engage in healthy competition. Other benefits derived from this fun activity include team building, improved grammar, building a competitive spirit, increased knowledge of the origin of words, developing cognitive skills including the ability to handle pressure; and most importantly, these events help to boost a child’s confidence level as they gain self-assurance through learning to speak in public.

The event was exclusive to Grade 4 learners at schools that participate in the ongoing Spellit literacy programme and included a prior selection process to ensure that the standard of the Spelling Bee could be kept in line with ‘national/international’ standards.

A spelling bee is a competition in which contestants are asked to spell a broad selection of words, usually with a varying degree of difficulty. These competitions are recognised as offering a range of benefits, from higher confidence to better vocabulary, and have a long history dating back to the 1850’s.

The event was supported and attended by parents, principals, teachers, friends and family. Each participant was awarded with a medal and a cash prize, with the first place prize winner taking home a trophy, medal and R1000 cash prize.

Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm’s literacy programme is aimed at helping primary school learners to achieve competency at Grade 4 international reading and spelling levels with the aims of improving matric pass rates and help learners to be better prepared for tertiary education and later employment.

Spell Its goal is “Learn-Ready” a literacy programme, which has impacted 350 000 primary school children since 2010. As with many other educational programmes that the Wind Farms fund, this programme is implemented through partnerships with the National Department of Basic Education and the various provincial departments.

“This programme is ideally focused on 4th Grade basic literacy, in line with international research that has shown this to be a critical transition period, when learners move from the ‘learning to read’ phase into the ‘reading to learn’ phase,” added Marion Green-Thompson, Economic Development Manager for Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.

The aim is for Grade 4 learners to have a whole word recognition vocabulary of between 5,000 and 10,000 words; and to be able to read at a speed of 123 words per minute. The programme consists of three components, namely: The Vocabulary Assistance Programme (VAP); Teacher Training and Capacity Building; and Spelling Bee Competitions. “The VAP is a step-by-step, fun series of card games, age-appropriate stories and interactive activities that assist learners to build on their existing knowledge while brushing up on the fundamentals of phonetics, spelling rules and word structure,” continued Green-Thompson.

The content is CAPS-aligned and gives educators exciting activities to do with their learners in the classroom while covering the required content to get learners spelling at their Grade level.

The support of Spell Its programme fits into the Wind Farm’s commitment and support of local education as part of their socio economic development initiatives. This includes an extensive education audit in the region; an ongoing Early Childhood Development bursary programme; funding of Early Childhood Development classroom equipment, training and provision of teaching aids; and an ongoing Foundation Phase Reading Coach Programme.

November 2016