As Bee’s state and territory finals start, meet a school round hero
The Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee school round included the first braille-assisted Bee in vision-impaired Year 3 student Declan Lee among 57,543 registered students – now 2300 head into round two
READING LEVEL: GREEN
Declan Lee, take a bow. The nine-year-old Year 3 student has been blind since birth, but he wasn’t about to let that stop him from joining all the fun of the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee.
Taking his place alongside classmates at Tenison Woods College in Mount Gambier, SA, Declan was one of 57,543 students registered for the school round of the third annual Bee across three year group categories.
A big fan of game shows, Declan was keen to take part, so his teaching team approached Kids News, which administers the competition, to figure out how the “talented, enthusiastic speller” could participate. While currently restricted to the first round due to competition rules, Declan competed using a special keyboard, making him the competition’s first ever braille*-assisted Bee, thanks to his teachers’ ingenuity* and his own determination.
“He is in a mainstream* classroom with 24 other students, but he is supported by an education support officer (Carolyn Jones), who sits side-by-side to be his eyes in the classroom,” said his class teacher Narelle Drew.
As well as a proficient* speller, scoring 22/30 in the Green level round, Declan had the makings of a future reporter, turning the tables in the interview by asking his own questions after being asked to confirm his name.
“D-e-c-l-a-n,” he said. “What’s your name?” How old are you? When is your birthday? How do you spell ‘strategy*’ – how many letters are in ‘strategy’?”
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Laughing after calling out the second vowel, Declan cheekily declared* the attempt “Correct!”
“I write on the braille writer with my fingers,” he said. “My favourite thing to do every day is playing music. The instruments are piano and drums.”
There are six keys on Declan’s braille writer – button number one, he said, stands in for the letter “a”.
“If I push all six, I’ll write the word ‘for’ if I do that, the word ‘f-o-r’,” he said.
Declan lives with his grandmother and carer Marg.
“Grandma is ‘G-r-a-n-d-m-a’,” he said. “Well done.”
And a hearty well done indeed to all students who sat the Bee’s school round over the past month. The top 100 students in each category in every state and territory – approximately 2300 students nationwide – now progress to the second round. The state and territory finals commence at 9am AEST tomorrow, Monday 27 August. Eligible* students have until 5pm AEST Friday 1 September to sit the round.
Returning Green level entrants Vanessa Wong, 9, and Milla Whiteley, 10, share more than representing their state Victoria in the Years 3-4 group: both in Year 4, the girls are classmates and friends at Cheltenham East Primary School.
Enjoying the rare air of the 30/30 club, Vanessa said her parents were “really proud of me and they were very happy”.
And rather than any schoolyard rivalry* with Milla during next week’s second round, Vanessa said it would be “nice to have a friend there”.
“Even if I don’t win, my friend might do better than me,” she said.
For her part, Milla said while she was “a bit stressed and nervous” during the school round, her favourite thing about the Bee was the chance to “do more spelling”.
Making the second round made her “excited and joyful”, she said.
“I feel happy that I have a friend that I can count on to do well,” Milla said.
One of the reigning* 2022 champions, WA’s Ozi Egesi is on track to defend his title, topping the school round in his Years 5-6 Orange level category with a perfect score and a speedy time of under a minute.
The Providence Christian College student, who recently turned 12, was pleased he got 30/30 but said, “the tension* of the contest will grow stronger”.
“I will have to get serious about the state (and) territory round,” Ozi said. “There is no guarantee that I will win, as other students will be equally competitive. From now on, I will be employing my strategies of preparation to ensure that I give myself every opportunity to win.”
Slugging it out in the Years 7-8 category will be Hamish Tweeddale, 13, who carries the hopes of his home state as the only NSW student to make the Red level “Top Five” in the school round, which is otherwise dominated* by Victoria’s junior word wizards.
Attending Stanmore’s Newington College in Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s own electorate*, the Year 8 student, a 2022 state finalist, said he was “happy and excited” to have another crack at making the nationals and was ready to take on his fellow students from south of the border.
“I don’t do much specific preparation but I do read a lot,” he said.
Asked which word he would throw the PM’s way if he won the grand prize trip to Parliament House, Hamish did not hesitate: “Aficionado,” he said.
Proud dad Geoff Tweeddale said, “I expect he is good at spelling because he is a keen reader.”
“Whereas our other kids prefer novels, we are far more likely to find Hamish with his nose in a nonfiction book, especially one about technology or aviation*,” Mr Tweeddale said. “We learned long ago never to challenge any fact with him as (Hamish) is invariably* right.”
TOP THREE PERFORMERS IN EACH CATEGORY, IN EVERY STATE AND TERRITORY
NSW GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Tiffany P, North Rocks Public School: 30/30, 1:34.377
2. Zack S, Vaucluse Public School: 30/30, 1:36.572
3. Christopher J, St Declan’s Catholic Primary School: 30/30, 1:45.369
NSW ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Angus K, Shore: 30/30, 2:00.391
2. Uzair K, Epping West Public School: 30/30, 2:21.476
3. Shahir H, Epping West Public School: 30/30, 2:23.610
NSW RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
1. Hamish T, Newington College: 30/30, 3:45.902
2. Jesse H, Neutral Bay Public School: 29/30, 2:53.221
3. Colin N, Christian Brothers’ High School: 29/30, 4:33.039
VIC GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Vanessa W, Cheltenham East Primary School: 30/30, 0:59.634
2. Reyansh I, Heatherton Christian College: 30/30, 1:40.760
3. Miles M, St Joseph’s School: 30/30, 1:57.725
VIC ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Xavier L, Haileybury College Brighton: 30/30, 1:57.760
2. Torah C, St Michael’s School: 30/30, 2:03.511
3. Carlos L, Yarra Valley Grammar: 30/30, 2:04.994
VIC RED LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Keshav N, Alamanda K-9 College: 30/30, 1:35.626
2. Ashleen H, Alamanda K-9 College: 30/30, 2:03.302
3. Nathan L, Haileybury College City: 30/30, 2:13.147
QLD GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Charlotte H, St Mary’s Catholic Primary School: 30/30, 1:43.060
2. Ella B, Somerville House: 30/30, 2:00.942
3. Spencer G, Marian Catholic School: 30/30, 2:01.220
QLD ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Lucy C, Manly State School: 30/30, 1:19.022
2. Hannah Z, Somerville House: 29/30, 2:59.330
3. Jacob F, Glasshouse Christian College: 28/30, 1.21.265
QLD RED LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Manny R, Sheldon College: 29/30, 2:46.653
2. Ethan K, Kingaroy State High School: 28/30, 1:24.692
3. Aadilah A, MacGregor State High School: 28/30, 3:58.145
SA GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Henry W, Black Forest Primary School: 30/30, 2:07.351
2. Georgia S, Tenison Woods College: 29/30, 1:43.245
3. Alex W, Black Forest Primary School: 29/30, 2:14.674
SA ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Melinda W, Pedare Christian College: 29/30, 1:34.067
2. Max Y, Tenison Woods College: 28/30, 1:56.434
3. Edward K, Lobethal Lutheran School: 28/30, 2:07.033
SA RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
1. Musashi N, Modbury High School: 29/30, 1:51.336
2. Charlene J, St John’s Grammar School: 28/30, 4:07.836
3. Tanmay S, St John’s Grammar School: 27/30, 5:23.643
TAS GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Max K, Dominic College: 30/30, 3:07.132
2. Emmy C, Lansdowne Crescent Primary School: 29/30, 1:33.940
3. Eliza M, Launceston Christian School: 29/30, 1:45.003
TAS ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Sofia L, Princes Street Primary School: 29/30, 1:09.519
2. Sahaja B, Fahan School: 29/30, 2:21.091
3. Declan S, Launceston Christian School: 28/30, 1:51.344
TAS RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
1. Kevin L, Riverside High School: 30/30, 4:34.456
2. Mia C, Sacred Heart College: 29/30, 3:10.973
3. Ethan D, Riverside High School: 27/30, 2:34.073
WA GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Ronan H, Hollywood Primary School: 30/30, 1:24.168
2. Lovell Z, Christ Church Grammar School: 30/30, 2:05.066
3. Nash G, Our Lady of Lourdes School: 30/30, 2:32.230
WA ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Ozi E, Providence Christian College: 30/30, 0.56.501
2. Joanne L, Bull Creek Primary School: 29/30, 1:30.122
3. Thishane W, Ranford Primary School: 29/30, 2:07.853
WA RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
1. Aiden m, Harrisdale Senior High School: 29/30, 1:42.932
2. Harshaan S, Willetton Senior High School: 29/30, 2:36.810
3. Krish K, Willetton Senior High School: 29/30, 2:38.188
NT GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Dulcie S, Ross Park Primary School: 28/30, 2:18.241
2. Kaytlyn S, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School: 27/30, 3:02.717
3. Ruben B, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School: 26/30, 2:27.438
NT ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. Rheyner L, Girraween Primary School: 27/30, 2:48.755
2. Gianne G, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School: 26/30, 4:46.598
3. Jasper H, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School: 25/30, 2:52.860
NT RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
Did not compete
ACT GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1. Tofarati O, Brindabella Christian College: 30/30, 3:00.880
2. Sophie L, Brindabella Christian College: 29/30, 2:23.757
3. Annabel L, Canberra Girls’ Grammar School: 29/30, 2:52.791
ACT ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1. James J, Burgmann Anglican School: 27/30: 2:37.221
2. Kanisshka S, Burgmann Anglican School: 27/30, 2:44.873
3. Jack B, Burgmann Anglican School: 26/30, 2:38.482
ACT RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
1. Maleesha G, Burgmann Anglican School: 29/30, 3:27.646
2. Tanuj G, Burgmann Anglican School: 29/30, 4:01.717
3. Charvi K, Burgmann Anglican School: 29/30, 4:40.257
- braille: a reading and writing system for blind and vision-impaired people
- ingenuity: being clever, inventive or resourceful
- mainstream: regular, typical, conventional
- proficient: skilled, capable, can do something well
- strategy: plan for achieving something or reaching a goal
- declared: a very clear, firm and often loud announcement
- eligible: to qualify or be chosen for something
- rivalry: competition between people who want the same thing
- dominated: controlled, ruled, owned by
- reigning: being the most recent winner of a competition
- tension: uptight or uncomfortable feeling before an important event
- electorate: geographically defined areas represented by a member of parliament
- aficionado: someone who is very interested in and enthusiastic about a certain subject
- aviation: related to flying
- invariably: always, without exception
- How many students were registered for the 2023 Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee?
- Which two instruments does first-time Bee participant Declan Lee love to play every day?
- Who is the reigning Orange level (Years 5-6) champion?
- What do Vanessa Wong and Milla Whiteley have in common?
- Which word would Hamish Tweeddale ask the PM to spell if he won the grand prize?
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1. Spelling blind
Have a think about the books you read and the spelling strategies you learn in the classroom.
How would being vision-impaired affect how you learn to spell? Think of at least three strategies that would hinder your spelling knowledge and learning.
How do you think Declan overcame some of these challenges to be the amazing speller that he is, achieving such a strong score in the school round of the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee competition?
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
WA student Ozi Egasi said that “the tension of the contest will grow stronger”. What do you think he means by this statement?
Do you think Ozi has extra pressure on him since he was one of the winners in last year’s competition? Explain why or why not.
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
Conjunctions are important in connecting ideas in a text and improving its flow. They help to join sentences, clauses or phrases to create a coherent and meaningful text.
Co-ordinating conjunctions are used to connect equal ideas or phrases – for example: and, but, or, so, yet, nor.
Subordinating conjunctions are connecting words or phrases that join a subordinating clause to the main idea. They provide additional information about the main idea – for example: because, although, while, when, if, since, until.
Complete at least two activities from the choices below:
Read the news article carefully and highlight all the conjunctions used in the text.
Write down the conjunctions you found and the words or phrases they connect.
Identify the type of conjunction used (coordinating conjunctions or subordinating conjunctions).
Explain the role of conjunctions in connecting ideas and improving the flow of a text.
Write a short paragraph about something you found interesting in the article. Challenge yourself to re-use three conjunctions from the text. Can you up-level them to a higher level conjunction? Does it make the sentence better or harder to read? (Sometimes, the basic conjunction is the best choice).