Premier's Spelling Bee - School resources

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A quick guide to the Premier's Spelling Bee

Who is eligible to compete?
The Premier’s Spelling Bee is open to all NSW government primary, central and community schools. The competition comprises two divisions – junior for Years 3 and 4 and senior for Years 5 and 6. At regional finals, each school can enter one student per division to a maximum of two students per school.

How do schools enter the Premier’s Spelling Bee?
Schools previously entered in 2021 will be sent an invitation to enrol. Other schools use the enrolment link on the website. 

An online entry form for the competition is available from Wednesday 27 April 2022, first week of term 2, here on the Premier's Spelling Bee website. School entries should be submitted before close of business on the final day of registration, 0 July 2022, last day of term 2. Please ensure that you include contact details for the teacher who will be looking after the entry. All teachers must provide a direct departmental email address (or the school's email if appropriate) to assist with our organisation. Entries can be submitted before schools know the names of the students they will be entering. There will be a web form available in June for school coordinators to register their students’ names. Your regional finalist names need to be submitted by Monday 26 July. 

How much does entry cost?
There is no cost associated with the Premier’s Spelling Bee. 

What are the competition stages?
Schools either follow official competition procedures or devise their own spelling activities to select students (a maximum of two, one per level) to represent the school at regional finals. These will take place 29 August to 9 September and will all be conducted on-line in 2022. The Premier’s Spelling Bee Coordinator will advise schools of the dates of regional finals early in Term 3. The winner of each division of each regional final goes on to the state finals: please note, the runner-up does not. State finals will be held on a Friday in November (TBC), 2022, in the Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Centre, Ultimo.

What does the school spelling bee coordinator do?
School Spelling Bee Coordinators should submit the online entry form for their school and download the 2022 word lists once they receive the confirmation and password information. They’ll then need to select the school’s representatives, by running in-school heats, preferably in a similar format as regional and state finals, and submit those names no later than Friday 5 August 2022. Once all the details are finalised, coordinators will receive an email with details of the date of the final their school will be attending. There are links to frequently asked questions and guidelines and procedure documents to help first-time coordinators and the Spelling Bee Support Officer is always happy to help. This 20 minute film on our website was designed to help coordinators organize their in-school competition as well as assist schools who host a regional final.

What word lists are used?
Words for the competition are provided by Macquarie Dictionary and are divided into several categories. Junior and senior students study different word lists. Regional and state finals also include unseen words in later rounds. Word lists will be available for download from The Arts Unit website Arts Community from Wednesday 27 April 2022. School spelling bee coordinators who entered in 2021 will be notified of their availability via email, but all state primary schools are welcome to enter.

What are the competition procedures?
At each final, there is a demonstration round using simple words to help familiarise contestants with the competition format. No one is eliminated in this round. This is followed by elimination rounds of increasing difficulty. The announcer reads the word, then a sentence including the word, and then repeats the word again. Each contestant must repeat the word to the satisfaction of the announcer before they spell, and then say the word again to indicate they have finished spelling. Up until this point, contestants may self-correct if they clearly indicate that they are starting again. Students have 45 seconds in which to spell the word. A warning bell is rung at 30 seconds with two bells at 45 seconds to indicate the contestant's time has expired. Contestants may ask the announcer to repeat the word – this is included in their 45 second time limit. Any self-corrections must also be made within the time limit. At the second bell, any incomplete spelling will be taken as the contestant's final answer. When a student has finished spelling a word, the announcer will either state 'That is correct' or 'that is incorrect. The correct spelling is…'

How is a winner determined?
At the regional and state finals, the elimination process continues round by round. To win the competition a contestant must spell more words correctly than all the other contestants. A contestant will only be eliminated if at least one other contestant in the same round spells their word correctly. If all contestants in a particular round misspell their words then no one is eliminated.

What are the prizes?
All regional finalists receive a certificate of participation. Regional winners and runners up receive a  Dictionary and Thesaurus from Macquarie Dictionary. Macquarie Dictionary will also provide each regional final winner's school with a free school-wide, one year subscription access to the Dictionary & Thesaurus online. This will provide the whole school with the ongoing opportunity to practice their spelling and help their fellow students in the lead up to the 2023 State Final. 

State finalists receive silver medallions, a Macquarie Dictionary, and other book prizes. State Champions receive gold medallions and are acknowledged along with their school on a perpetual trophy. State winners and runners-up also receive a free Macquarie Student App download.

Organisation and sponsorship
The competition is organised by The Arts Unit of the NSW Department of Education. The official media partner is ABC Radio Sydney. The official word list supplier is Macquarie Dictionary. 


Frequently asked questions

Who do I talk with for more information?
Please contact the support officer on 02 85121173 or email spellingbee@det.nsw.edu.au

Where can I download a poster, participation certificate, information guides and wordlists?
Visit this year’s Premier’s Spelling Bee Webpage at various times throughout the year for all relevant information, links and downloads. The poster can be projected using your schools equipment.

How many students from each level attend regional finals?
One Stage two and one Stage 3 students are allowed per school.

Can Year 2 students compete in the Premier’s Spelling Bee?
Yes - Students can compete in higher age divisions of the competition but not lower. Year 2 students can compete in the Junior and Senior Division. Year 3 and 4 students can compete in the Junior and Senior Division. Year 5 and 6 students cannot compete in the Junior Division.

Should I give word lists to parents and students?
Yes, providing:

  • The word lists are not published on your school website (provide a link to the Premier’s Spelling Bee website) and supply the password to teachers, students and parents. 
  • The password is not published on your school website or any electronic publicly accessible forum.
  • Past coordinators have found it useful to put the password on their notice boards as well as supplying the front office with it, so interested parents can gain it without directly contacting the coordinating teacher.

Which word lists are for whom?

  • Junior Lists are for Years 3 and 4 – Level 1 - 5
  • Senior Lists are for Years 5 and 6 – Level 2 – 6.

How should I submit names of Regional Finalists?
Visit the Premier’s Spelling Bee Webpage and enter them in the online form when it becomes available in July – you will be sent a link via email. Please double check spelling of student names as these may appear on programs and certificates.

What words will be used at the Regional and State Finals?
Words at the Regional and State finals will be drawn randomly from both the general and categorised word lists.

Will all the words at the Regional and State Final come from the lists?
No -At regional finals, after approximately six rounds of words from the Official Word Lists, round(s) of unseen words, also provided by Macquarie Dictionary, will be used to determine a winner.

At State Finals, the first three to four rounds are taken from the seen words before the competition moves onto unseen words.

Where and when will my students attend a regional final?
All 2022 regionals will be conducted on line. Regional final dates are published in the Arts Community early in Term 3. Keep an eye out there or wait for an email from the Premier’s Spelling Bee Coordinator to notify you.

Will students be judged incorrect for failing to specify a capital letter?
No, students do not need to indicate capital letters in their spelling

Should students wear school uniform to the State Final?
Yes - Students are representing their schools and therefore should be in full uniform.

Do Regional Final runners-up compete at the State Final?
No - Names of regional final runners-up are recorded as reserves in case the winner cannot attend the State Final.

Does The Arts Unit provide permission notes for my students to attend Regional Finals?
No, schools devise their own permission notes if required.

Can independent and private schools enter the Premier’s Spelling Bee?
At this stage the competition is open for NSW Public, Central and Community school students only.

Can family members attend the state final as guests?
State finalists are welcome to bring family support. We will send an invitation to schools to forward to finalist contestants’ families. Please note we require all family and school supporters’ names for the state final, as the ABC have stringent security procedures at the venue.


Procedures for school coordinators

This is a guide only for running in-school Spelling Bees, according to the format used at Regional & State Finals. It is recommended but not compulsory for selecting students to represent at regional level.

Organisation before the day

  • Compile competition word lists from the posted lists. These can be tailored to particular curriculum areas or class relevance, but please do not present the word lists in alphabetical order. Contact me for a WORD version of the PDF lists to make that job much easier – happy to help explain.
  • Arrange a suitable venue – your school hall or other large space is ideal. You may wish to provide some of your students as an audience.
  • Set up space with chairs and tables according to instructions below.
  • Arrange two students to help out - one as chairperson, one as timekeeper.
  • Provide a stopwatch and bell for the timekeeper.
  • If possible provide 3 microphones for contestant, chairperson and announcer. Announcer and chairperson can share if necessary.

How to set up a spelling bee

Video

Speaking competitions officer from The Arts Unit, Andrew Lasaitis demonstrates best practice for school based teachers when setting up a spelling bee. This information is crucial to ensure that events run smoothly for the NSW Premier's Spelling Bee.

Venue
The venue should be arranged so that the contestants are angled towards the Announcer, rather than directly towards the audience. This is to avoid contestants being distracted by audience members and to limit audience members inadvertently prompting the contestants.

Chairs should be arranged in rows and contestants seated in spelling order as indicated on the draw. As each student takes their turn they come up to the microphone to spell. At the end of each round, eliminated students should join the audience and remaining contestants move up to take vacated seats.

We recommend a table and chairs for the chairperson, scorer and timekeeper to sit at during the final. Depending on the shape of your hall, this could be on one side either on the stage or in front of the audience.

Chairperson
The chairperson’s role during the competition is to announce contestants to the audience each time they spell. It is important to keep track of which contestants have been eliminated and announce only students still remaining in the competition. The best way to do this is by using the elimination sheets with space to write each contestant’s name. Place a tick or a cross next to each contestant’s name after each spelling attempt. As contestants are eliminated, a line should be drawn through their name.

Timekeeper
The timekeeper times the length of each contestant's spelling attempt. Timing begins once the announcer has finished speaking. A warning bell is rung at 30 seconds, with two bells at 45 seconds to indicate that the contestant’s time has expired. If a contestant has not finished spelling the word by the second bell, their answer is judged incorrect.

Announcers & scorers
It is the announcer’s role to read the words and the sentences which indicate the meaning of the word. It is important that announcers guard their facial expressions. Announcers should carefully read through the lists of words to be used in each round, and follow the pronunciation guides provided. Scorers record the students’ spelling and (with the announcer) determine if a word is correct.

In short - each student is given a different word, but of the same difficulty level, each round. Those who misspell are eliminated and the rest go on to the next round. This continues round by round until one student spells correctly in a round where all others misspell.

Finals procedures

  • All students should begin seated. Students stand up and walk to a common microphone to spell and then return to their seat.
  • There is a demonstration round, in which the first five students in each session get a practice word to demonstrate the competition format and procedures. Note: this is not an elimination round. At the State Finals, this practice round is extended to all competitors.
  • This is followed by elimination rounds of increasing difficulty.
  • The Announcer reads out each word, followed by a sentence including the word, and then repeats the word again.
  • Each contestant must repeat the word to the satisfaction of the Announcer before they spell, spell the word, then say the word again to indicate they have finished spelling.
  • Students have 45 seconds to spell the word. A warning bell is rung at 30 seconds and two bells at 45 seconds to indicate that the contestant’s time has expired. At the second bell, any incomplete spelling is taken as the contestant’s final answer.
  • Contestants may ask the announcer to repeat the word within their 45 second time limit.
  • Students may also self-correct within their time limit if they have not yet clearly finished by stating the word for the second time. To do this they need to indicate that they are starting again, and follow the same procedure; say the word, then spell it from the start, then say it again.
  • Students will NOT be judged incorrect for failing to indicate that the first letter of a proper noun is capitalised (e.g. Australia).
  • When a student has finished spelling a word, the Announcer states ‘That is correct’ or ‘That is incorrect. The correct spelling is…’
  • Students who misspell a word should remain seated on stage until the end of the round. At this point the Announcer will instigate a round of applause and ask those who have been eliminated to join the audience. This makes it clear how many students are still spelling.
  • For each round of the competition a new round of words is used, even if there were unused words left over from the previous round. This ensures all students are given a word of an equivalent level.

Determining a winner

  • To win the competition a contestant must spell more words correctly than all the other contestants.
  • In each round, each contestant is given a different word to all the other contestants.
  • A contestant is only eliminated if at least one other contestant in the same round spells a word correctly. If all contestants in a particular round misspell their given words no one is eliminated and the competition continues.
  • If all but one contestant misspells their given word, then the sole correct speller is deemed the winner. In this instance there will need to be a play off for runner-up between the remaining contestants, using the words from the existing round. The runner-up acts as a reserve should your winner be unable to attend a regional final.
  • At Regional Finals there is one junior and one senior winner. These winners compete in the State Final in Sydney in November. The runners-up do not. 

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    Past Premier's Spelling Bee finals

    NSW Premier's Spelling Bee 2019 - Senior State Final

    Video

    The Years 5 and 6 State Final, announced by Wendy Harmer, took place at ABC Centre, Ultimo, November 2019.

    NSW Premier's Spelling Bee 2019 - Junior State Final

    Video

    The Years 3 and 4 State Final, announced by Cassie McCullagh, took place at ABC Centre, Ultimo, November 2019.

    NSW Premier's Spelling Bee - Senior Final 2018

    Video

    The years 5 and 6 State Final took place at the Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Centre, Ultimo, November 2018.

    NSW Premier's Spelling Bee - Junior Final 2018

    Video

    The years 3 and 4 State Final took place at the Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Centre, Ultimo, November 2018.