Spelling Bee Competition drives Literacy Levels

A regional Spelling Bee, bringing together some of the brightest learners from ten local schools, took place at Masiza Primary, Kimberley this weekend. The top three shortlisted ‘spellers’, drawn from schools across Riverton, Ritchie and Barkley West areas, participated in this event, funded as part of Droogfontein Solar Power’s literacy programme.

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.

“It is important that our 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 Marion Green-Thompson, Economic Development Director for Droogfontein Solar Power.
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.

Droogfontein Solar Power’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 Solar 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 Green-Thompson.
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 Solar 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.