Spelling whizzes in finals
In primary school Shi-on
Ko and Jack Trubshaw were so advanced in spelling their teachers made them go through the dictionary and pick words to be tested on.
Now, aged 14 and 15, the two Whanga¯ rei students have made it to the New Zealand Spelling
Bee finals in Wellington on November 3.
Ko, a Year 10 student at Whanga¯ rei Boys’ High School, and Trubshaw, a Year 10 student at
Huanui College, made it to the finals after outspelling students from around the region in two semifinals in August.
“I was quite amazed that I made it through to the finals because I watched it on TV a few years ago and I was like ‘wow, they’re so good, I’ll never get through’ but then I did,” Trubshaw said.
Ko was also surprised: “I was so confused, I was like ‘okay, I’ll take it’.”
To get into the semifinals, students first have to take a spelling test and get 75 out of 100 words correct.
In the semifinals, spellers are eliminated as they get words wrong until there is one person left. The finals follow the same format.
Both Ko and Trubshaw said they spent about an hour a week preparing for the finals.
“I just look at lots of words, I search up online lots of difficult words to spell and go over them,” Trubshaw said.
“I just look over the words and get my mum or one of my family members to test me on it. If I get it wrong I’ll just keep doing it until I know I’ve got it right. I think I learn better from making mistakes,” Ko said.
But with so many possible words to learn, the pair each have their own tricks.
“I learn the language of origin because that kind of helps with other words,” said Jack.
“I learn the spelling rules because most words follow a pattern — like i before e except after c — they help you to know what to do,” Ko said.
The pair have always been good at spelling. Ko’s mum said when he was at primary and intermediate school he had to pick words from the dictionary to be tested on because he was ahead of the set list. Trubshaw’s mum said he was the same.
Now they enjoy the challenge of it.
There are 19 finalists in the New Zealand Spelling Bee and the winner will receive a trophy and $5000 towards their academic pursuits.
Shi-on Ko, Whanga¯ rei Boys’ High School, and Jack Trubshaw, Huanui College, are heading to the New Zealand Spelling Bee final in Wellington next month.