School students in Australia and New Zealand have spent the equivalent of 30 years practising their literacy skills during Word Mania 2017.

Run by LiteracyPlanet for Years 1 to 9, the annual competition is based on a digital word building exercise that challenges students to create as many words as they can from a board of 15 randomly generated letters in three minutes.

More than 400,000 students from 3,000 schools in Australia and New Zealand participated in Word Mania 2017, and spent 15.9 million minutes – the equivalent of more than 30 years worth of extra time – practising their literacy skills in just a few weeks. They played 5.3 million Word Mania games and built more than 126 million words.

Congratulations to the schools that placed first and their champion word builders:

  • Alamanda College, Point Cook, Victoria – Years 1 and 2.
  • Broadbeach State School, Gold Coast, Queensland – Year 3.
  • Living Waters Lutheran Primary School, Alice Springs, Northern Territory – Years 4 and 6.
  • Mark Oliphant College, Adelaide, South Australia – Year 5.
  • Melville Senior High School, Perth, Western Australia – Year 7.
  • Penrith Christian School, New South Wales – Year 8.
  • Eaglehawk Secondary College, Bendigo, Victoria – Year 9.

While it seems like a fun computer game, Word Mania is a complex exercise that involves a variety of literacy skills including phonics, word families, rhyming and root words, prefixes and suffixes, spelling, vocabulary, word recognition and word knowledge.

Over the course of the competition, student results improved significantly. The average Word Mania game score, which reflects a combination of the literacy and cognitive skills involved, increased by 36% and the average number of correct words per game increased by 20%.

Michael Nicolaides, Acting Lead Teacher at Alamanda College said the students enjoyed the competition and it added value in the classroom: “The hype of Word Mania swept the classrooms of Alamanda College and students of all ages were eager to participate. It was a fantastic achievement for our Year 1 and Year 2 classes to have finished first.

“Due to Word Mania we have seen an increase in our students’ spelling abilities and word recognition. All the teachers are extremely proud of the effort their students have put into this word building exercise. The most pleasing aspect of this exciting competition is the notion that students are having fun whilst learning and building on their word knowledge and understanding of spelling facts.”

Danneelle Heyne, Middle School Teacher at Penrith Christian School, said: “Year 8 have loved extending their literacy skills by using LiteracyPlanet’s Word Mania, and as a teacher I enjoy having learning in class reinforced by the use of technology, including educational game-based options”.

LiteracyPlanet CEO Adam McArthur said the popularity of the competition reflects the growing use of digital technologies in school education and how effective they can be for learning: “At LiteracyPlanet our goal is to make literacy learning fun. Children enjoy using digital technologies to learn. Research tells us that being engaged and motivated is one of the key factors for better learning outcomes, and we can see from the Word Mania data that students’ literacy skills improve noticeably over the few weeks of the competition”.

He added that the schools should be proud of their achievements: “Word building is a complex literacy skill, and with thousands of schools in two countries vying for the top spots in every year level, students at all these schools deserve to be proud of their efforts”.

To celebrate the success of Word Mania 2017, LiteracyPlanet is donating $7,000 to charity partner the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF): $50 for every million words built plus a little extra, to support ALNF’s literacy programs for marginalised, refugee and Indigenous children across Australia.