Thomas Hassall year 9 bags second place in Word Mania

Last week, the mother of a year 9 student at Thomas Hassall Anglican College got a surprising call from the school.

Some of the students that helped the year to achieve second place in Word Mania was Vodel Shamoon, Marcus Runnko, Tiara Russo, Rebekah Ayala and Anthony Sultan. Picture and video: Simon Bennett

Some of the students that helped the year to achieve second place in Word Mania was Vodel Shamoon, Marcus Runnko, Tiara Russo, Rebekah Ayala and Anthony Sultan. Picture and video: Simon Bennett

She wasn’t expecting to be told her son had achieved one of the top marks in his cohort, helping them bag second place in Australia’s and New Zealand’s biggest literacy competition, Word Mania 2017.

From the bottom to the top: Marcus Runko has come a long way. Picture: Still from footage by Simon Bennett

From the bottom to the top: Marcus Runko has come a long way. Picture: Still from footage by Simon Bennett

Word Mania is a competition run by an online literacy education program LiteracyPlanet. More than 400,000 students from 3000 schools in Australia and New Zealand participated in the digital word-building exercise.

Students are challenged to create as many words as they can from a board of 15 randomly generated letter tiles in three minutes.

Marcus Runko, 15, has come a long way since he came to school in year 4. His mother was told he was at a lower literacy level but now he’s at the top of his class.

Mellisa Runko said everything changed when her son found interest in the literacy program offered by the school. And with hard work and using the program in his spare time, the student has exceeded expectations.

“When we first came to the school, they told us they could make Marcus an average student. He kept pushing through and when he began using the literacy program, he wanted to continue with it because he learnt from it. He’s come a long way and Word Mania has been a huge achievement for my son and our whole family,” she said.

“We’re proud of how he’s achieved this through hard work and believing in himself. As parents, we couldn’t ask for more. The results speak for themselves and it’s a message for other kids not to give up.”

Mrs Runko said Marcus’s Karate skills have also helped him improve. He attends Martial Energy at Wetherill Park. “He’s going for his black belt and is working hard for it. Karate has helped him to leap through boundaries. I believe it’s given him concentration skills and widened his attention span. You need to be focused when you’re on that floor.”

Marcus said he was proud of the whole year and it was a joint achievement. He wasn’t the only student who has come a long way – starting at the bottom and now at the top. “We came second place, so I think we did very well,” he said.

One of the school’s literacy teachers, Julie Smythe, said the concept of gamification was interesting

“The children who did well were students who didn’t just do it in their classroom,” she said. “But the real winners for us were the students who do it t home.

“Society is heading into the direction of gamification more now.

“It’s just so addictive and if we can bring entertainment and learning together, that’s a real bonus.”

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