Literacy buzz in Baker
Spelling Bee draws attention to students' ability

BAKER LAKE (May 12/99) - Clara Noah is a tutor/counsellor with Jonah Amitnaaq secondary school in Baker Lake who saw a serious literacy problem among students and decided it was time to do something about it.

Noah said the average Grade 7 or Grade 8 student at the school is operating at a reading and writing level as low as Grade 2 or Grade 3. The Grade 9 and Grade 10 students are operating at a level of a Grade 5 or Grade 6 student.

"This is not to say all students operate at a low level, but a great number of them do. There is a solution to this problem though, and that is through practice."

Noah decided one way to get students to pay more attention to their reading and writing skills was to make it fun, so she came up with the idea of holding the first annual Spelling Bee.

"This was a start-up to get students motivated to improve on their reading and writing levels," said Noah. "The Spelling Bee had 75 words students had to study from, which were given to them two weeks prior to the Bee.

"All levels had the same list to study from. Success didn't depend on their grade level, but how well they studied and how they did during the Spelling Bee. Most of the students did well, but some of them got really nervous and couldn't remember anything."

Noah said the community was very generous in helping her meet her fund-raising goals for the event and she was able to offer prizes of $250 for first, $150 for second, and $100 for third place in each of the three categories.

The competition attracted 19 students in the intermediate category, 22 in junior, and 12 in senior. First place winners also received hats and a shirt with first annual Spelling Bee at Jonah Amitnaaq and their category on it.

Noah said the Spelling Bee was aimed at increasing the public's awareness of the literacy problem and letting students know it's important for them to improve their reading and writing levels.

"I'm really impressed they studied so hard and, because of this, there's 75 more words in their vocabulary. While we were having the Spelling Bee it was so quiet. I've never seen junior high students so quiet in my life. You could have heard a pin drop."

The intermediate winners were Marjorie Kaluraq (first), Melody Peryouar (second), and Roxanne Rudiger (third). In junior it was Carmen Ikuutaq (first), Charlene Mannik (second), and Jenine Bodner (third). Senior winners were Sherri Lee Ikuutaq (first), Daisy Faith Avaala (second), and Abbygail Noah (third).

"I'm hoping this is the first step in making people aware there is a problem that needs to be addressed and solved. Maybe because of the Spelling Bee, more people will want to help out and the students will say we can do this.

"It's basically a wake-up call. A way of communicating with the public to say we have to do something about this. I'm planning another one for next year which I hope will be even more successful."