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Being a spelling bee pays off

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Spell it right: Children participate in an activity to learn spellings in Villivakkam, Chennai on Tuesday.
Spell it right: Children participate in an activity to learn spellings in Villivakkam, Chennai on Tuesday.

Liffy Thomas

SMS lingo which marks communication among youngsters complicates the issue

“Story-telling is also a good way to improve spellings, pronunciations and imagination”

CHENNAI: Along with punctuations and grammar, spellings are integral to written communication.

Apart from changing the meaning of the sentences in some cases, spelling mistakes set a bad impression about the writer.

Complicating the issues is the SMS lingo which rules most of the written communication by youngsters, including the examination answer scripts of students. Teachers say it is important to cultivate good spelling habit from the early age or it would only deteriorate in the present times where computers are used for most of the communication.

“We have reached a stage where if we are to take into account every spelling, then there would be no marks to be given. When one is young, the cell grasps these skills better but we need good teacher to trigger that,” says Aruna Marthandam, Head of Department of English, Meenakshi College for Women, who conducts workshops at schools.

Besides art and crafts workshops and fun activities at summer camps, phonetics, spellings and handwriting skills are preferred by many parents for their children, say camp organisers.

Increasingly spelling bee competitions, conducted at State, national and international level by different organisers, is encouraging students to brush up their spellings as well as improve their vocabulary.

V.Aruna, mother of Class IX student of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, recalls how her son V. I. Mukund was more than average in his studies, until he started participating in spelling bee competitions. For the last two years now Mukund is the winner at the State-level Spartan Spelling Bee competition.

“He has become our dictionary. His teachers also say he is using a good number of adjectives in essays and letter writing,” says Ms. Aruna.

While the Scripps Spelling Bee is one of the coveted titles most students aspire to win, at the national- level organisers such as MaRRS International Spelling Bee Competition and HDFC Standard Life Spelling Bee Competition are popular.

In each of these major competitions, the idea is not to make the participants learn by rote from a booklet and repeat the spellings. Instead, the youngsters are made to use these words in sentences, design activities to improve language skills and use words in multiple context.

A teacher in MaRRS says their competition also involves synonyms and antonyms.

While dictionary (digital or hard copy) is the best tool to master new words, Ms. Marthandam suggests audio-visual means are a better alternative.

“Story-telling is also a good way to improve spellings, pronunciations and imagination,” she adds.

Richard Frost, academic manager, British Council, says lots of intensive reading would help one notice spellings.

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