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With the increasingly academically demanding syllabus, it is only right for our parental instinct to kick in and search for tips that may help our children not only do better, but excel in their exams. Besides ensuring our children receive ample rest and have a healthy diet, they should also be equipped with certain skills before entering the examination hall. While we are unable to sit beside our children and guide them in their writing, there are some helpful tips that could be used in preparation for their PSLE English composition.
Here are 5 tips compiled from top students, teachers and tutors to help your child improve in his composition, from how to write a good introduction to curating a satisfying conclusion.
1. Compile all the essays that seem of quality to you
Every time you stumble across an essay that awes you, be it your friends’ or the top student’s, keep a copy of it for yourself. This includes any printed articles or essay examples that your teachers have provided for you. Keep these essays so that you can always go back to them to see the structure and format of a good essay. Reading exemplary essays will help you improve in your grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.
Notice how we emphasised on compiling essays that seem of quality TO YOU. This is important as we may read exceptionally great essays that are full of jargons and terminologies we cannot fully comprehend, which may lead to a disastrous attempt at reusing them in our own essays, creating an awkward flow of the essay. In all, you are basically creating a journal of outstanding essays.
2. Create a Word Bank
It is no surprise by now that having a word bank would significantly increase a child’s range of vocabulary. There are a few ways in going about creating a word bank – writing it down every time you stumble upon a foreign word or purposefully flipping the dictionary every day for two words that you want to learn the meaning of.
While there is no one definite way to compile good vocabulary for composition writing, it is advisable that you categorise the words and phrases you learn according to their themes such as ‘happy phrases’ and ‘angry phrases’.
Besides simply stating the definition of the words and phrases, you can also list synonyms of those words to prevent you from writing the same words repeatedly in your English composition. Instead use a variety of words to improve and score well in your composition.
An example is as follows:
3. Tell it like you are living it.
With English compositions, you have to appeal and hook the readers right off the bat during the introduction of your composition. An interesting introduction keeps the readers wanting more, making your readers look forward to the rest of your essay.
So, how does one write a good composition introduction? Provide a setting and background to your story by describing the settings of your story. Describe it as if you are there and you want your readers to experience the same things as you. A general guideline is to use your 5 senses to describe the setting – sight, taste, touch, smell, sound.
Some of the following prompts may guide you in describing your stories instead of simply stating it.
Sight – What do you notice about your surroundings? Be specific about the colour, shapes and details. Try highlighting unusual details in your description.
Taste – What does the food taste like? Sour, sweet, tangy? How is the texture like on your tongue? Crumbly, melty, chewy?
Touch – How does the carpet beneath your feet feel like? Is it soft and furry or rough? Are your feet warm or cold?
Smell – Using your olfactory senses, ask yourself what is in the air you can smell. Buttery cookies? Pungent smell?
Sound – Use onomatopoeia! The school bell goes “RING!”. The door squeaked. The car WHOOSHED by.
Pro tip #1: You do not have to use all five senses all the time and there is no need to delve too deep for each description.
Pro tip #2: Ensure that you describe the setting every time you introduce a new setting to your story.
4. Know what the examiners want
As much as we would like our children to write to their hearts’ content and be as creative as they would like, there are certain rubrics to follow to ensure that your child scores well for composition writing. With reference to Singapore Examinations Assessment Board (SEAB)’s marking scheme for English composition, these are some aspects of an essay examiners are looking out for, paired with some useful tips.
- Clarity of purpose
Ensure there is coherence in the story as well as the writing. Use linking words such as “Furthermore” or “On the other hand”.
- Appropriate register and tone
When the essay calls for a formal or informal tone, ensure that the word choice conveys the said tone. Informal tone will most likely be used in dialogues.
- Good organisation
A well-organised and cohesive essay with a good flow allows itself to be understood easily. Achieve this by planning your essay before you begin writing.
- Use of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation
Make sure the rules of grammar are followed, and the spelling and punctuation are correctly applied. Practice writing often in order to improve in this aspect.
- Use a variety of vocabulary appropriately
This is where your word bank comes in handy! Remember not to force words you do not fully comprehend yet into your essay lest you create an awkward flow in your essay.
5. Read. A lot.
Last but not least, cultivate your child’s reading habit. While this seems like a very obvious tip, most of us think that rigorous practices are enough to improve one’s composition writing. While it is true that practice makes perfect, English composition writing relies heavily on a child’s exposure to reading.
Encourage your children to read by letting them explore the texts they wish to pick up – newspapers, fictional books, non-fictional books etc. Being exposed to a variety of ways of writing helps them understand the structure of a well-balanced text and encourages them to reuse the phrases they have read. This improves their sentence structure and grammar while broadening their vocabulary.