Let’s take a look at one of the trickier questions that challenged our children in this year’s PSLE Math paper. After that, we’ll look at how we can modify the question to help reinforce concepts as well as to further challenge our children’s abilities. Read More…
With the PSLE Listening Comprehension Examination just around the corner, here are some tips to take note of:
#1 Glance through the questions before each passage is being read.
This allows you to get a rough idea of what the passage is going to be about and frames your mind to look out for whatever information is required.
#2 Look at the questions while the passage is being read to you.
A common mistake people make is to stare blankly into space while listening to what is being read. If you do this, there is a tendency for your mind to drift off and your thoughts to wander causing you to miss out on vital information. A good strategy is to look at the questions as the passage is being read. This helps your mind to focus better. You may circle the answer on the answer booklet during the first reading, as soon as the information is being read to you (otherwise you might forget what was being read all too soon.)
You may then choose to shade the OAS later during the second reading when you are sure that the answer you have selected is correct.
#3 Avoid dreaming when the passage is being read the second time.
Even if you are certain that you have chosen the correct answer after the first reading, always pay close attention to what is being read the second time. Think critically about what is being read and ask yourself, “Does what I have just heard answer this particular question?”
Listen with a CALM state of mind. If you feel nervous, always take deep breaths. Listen calmly to what is being read. When you panic, nothing you listen to will make sense so it is important to keep your nerves in check. Tell yourself, this is just another listening comprehension exam and if you do not get a perfect score, it’s okay. We all make mistakes. Just do your best and be happy with whatever your best is.
So far, we have discussed themes in essays. We have also talked about the nature of conflicts and how to use them to generate plots. Once your child has understood both aspects, he needs to decide on the dominant emotion or emotions of the essay. What is this?
Remember the cartoon “Inside Out”, where the main character is controlled by five emotions? Just like the main character, we experience many emotions, far more then the five listed in the movie. However, there are a few that we commonly experience more often – including happiness, sadness, fear, excitement and anger.
Including emotions into an essay is very important. We are all emotional creatures; we watch movies, read books and listen to stories because we want to feel fear, joy or excitement. We watch horror movies to get frightened, comedies to feel joy, Korean drama series to cry and action movies to feel thrills. Hence, for your child to write better stories, he needs to convey these feelings very well.
How can we incorporate them into a child’s essay? We start by looking at the theme, we can easily figure out what emotion or emotions would be predominant in the essay. Some essays will only have one while others will feature a changes of emotion. For instance, an essay that has the theme of “surprise” will probably have emotions of fear and excitement. On the other hand, an essay that has the theme of “disappointment” will have emotions of happy, leading to sad.
Thus, you need to get your child to first figure out what emotion are present. From here, your child will remember to include words and phrases that describe them, thus making their essay richer while demonstrating the use of appropriate vocabulary. How do we include them? A useful strategy is the IDEA technique, which we shall introduce in the next few tips.
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This is Part 4 of a 12 Part series. To go back to the index, please click here.
For our third tip, we are going to concentrate on writing a good story. This is important because good stories score well for content. How can we create great stories? The key to writing great stories is to create a strong “problem” or “conflict” so that the intense reaction of the main character may be explored before it is resolved as part of the story. In other words, creating conflicts is key to writing an excellent story.
In classical Literature, experts have divided conflicts into different types. One common conflict type is “Man vs. Man”. It basically means that the conflict arises because two (or more) people want different things. In the case of of an essay with the theme of “the secret”, the conflict could be based on how one person has discovered another person’s secret and wants to reveal it to other people. Thus, this creates an interesting conflict in which the main character(s) in the story have to try to stop this person.
Yet another type of conflict is “Man vs. Self”. In this case, the main character has to overcome a personal, usually inner, struggle. For example, if the main character keeps the secret, somebody might be harmed. However, revealing the secret will cause him pain in some form. Thus, the main character struggles with himself whether to keep the secret or not.
There are other types of conflicts. However, we will not go into details as they tend to be more difficult to construct a story around these conflicts due to the lack of time in an exam situation. If you are interested, you can go here for a simple and concise explanation of creating conflicts.
In the meantime, remember to read keeping checking our blog for more advice on writing. Also, remember to ‘like’ our FB page for more news and other important information.
This is Part 3 of a 12 Part series. To go back to the index, please click here.
In any piece of writing, we need to have a theme and ensure that we focus on the theme closely. Therefore, for this post, we are going to delve into the topic of the themes of the PSLE continuous writing section, and how we can focus on the theme to write better.
A bit of background first. In the old syllabus, the continuous writing question focuses on topics. However, in the new continuous writing format for PSLE, the question is based on a theme rather than a narrower topic. Hence, it is important to have an undivided focus on the theme throughout the essay.
Focus on the Theme
How can we achieve this? Let us look at the 2016 PSLE as an example. The theme for continuous writing is “the secret”. Firstly, your child needs to understand that a secret means something which is kept hidden from one or more persons. The essay therefore needs to focus on this – which character or characters are kept in the dark.
As the story progresses, the focus on the theme must always be kept in mind. Think about how the theme affects the main characters. Also, think about whether the premise changes at the end of the story. For example, in the case of “the secret”, the end result could be that the secret is still kept or that it is finally revealed. We will explore more about creating conflicts and developing plots latter in our series.
To ensure that your child does not go out of theme, ask your child to check at the end of each paragraph if it still focuses around the theme. By doing so, you can be assured that there is focus on the theme.
Remember, keeping your child’s writing with the theme in mind is key to scoring good marks. No matter how good your child’s language is, going out of theme is going to have a big impact on his marks.
Remember to read keeping checking our blog for more advice on writing. Also, remember to ‘like’ our FB page for more news and other important information.
In our next blog, we will be talking about how to create conflicts, develop plots as well as improve their writing. Look out for it!
A couple of months ago, we posted a set of 12 Creative Writing Tips. However, they were edited for a Facebook audience and some information was left out. We are pleased to present the full set for your reading pleasure as requested by some parents.
We hope that with this full set, you’ll be able to understand the requirements of the continuous writing component of Paper 1, and help your child understand how to tweak his writing to ensure the requirements are met. With these tips, we are confident that your child will be able to improve on his creative writing. At the same time, please check our webpage every now and then for more information and tips. If you prefer frequent and bite-size tips, do like our Facebook Page. Without further ado, let’s talk about the marking rubrics.
Teachers generally divided the marking rubrics into two sections – content and language. We know that children can write other genres for the continuous writing component, we will only be concentrating on Narrative genre as Expository writing requires a rather different style.
For a child to score well in content, their essay must be:
- clearly focused on the theme
- based on at least one of the given pictures
- succinct, impactful and relevant
- well organised
- well developed
For a child to score well in language, their essay must:
- use correctly a variety of sentence structures
- demonstrate the correct use of grammar, including tenses
- use correct spelling
- use appropriate punctuation
- employ an apt and effective choice of vocabulary
In the tips found below, I will go through how to improve the content, as well as how to improve the language.
We will be launching a series of PSLE Intensive courses for our Primary 6 students. Seats are limited. Please register early to avoid disappointment.
It takes a lot of tender loving care to guide a child to achieve good grades for his studies. I am pleased to congratulate our students for achieving great results. Best of luck!
Mastery of English, especially English academic language, is a necessity for continued advancement in the Singapore education system. English is a compulsory component for all levels, and thus, students need to do well to move on to the next stage.
Unfortunately, English is not a simple language to master. Grammar seems arbitrary and words used in different contexts and different subjects have different meanings. I will highlight just two primary school subjects below though this idea permutes through all subjects taught in English.
Mathematics: Academic Language
One subject where English has some influence is Mathematics. I am sure most parents are already aware of this. However, this is an important point, and I would like to emphasise it. For problem sums, it is not only important to know the models or methods for solving it, but also equally important for the student to understand the English language behind it so that he can understand what the sum is asking for. Needless to say, being weak in English can stop a student with superior mathematical ability from scoring distinctions.
Science: Academic Language
Similarly, English and Science are inseparable. There has been a huge debate about the role of English in Primary school Science. There seems to be a gap between the use of scientific words and the actual meaning of the English word. However, I believe that this is not the case. For example, in explaining how a balloon fills up with air, a student might choose the word ‘expanded’ instead of ‘inflated’. The correct word required might seem a distinction made only for scientific reasons. However, if you check the dictionary, to inflate means “fill (something) with air or gas, so it becomes distended”, while to expand means “become larger or more extensive”. Therefore, inflate is a better choice than expand. Hence the word ‘expand’ is not accepted. This shows that a grasp of excellent English increases the chance of excellence in one’s Science grades.
Certainly teachers do give definitions for these words when they teach these topics. However, we must agree that it is not as simple as just giving the definition. Moreover, in trying to get the students to relate to the subject matter, the teacher might use plain everyday English to get the point across. This might be the reason some students end up answering questions in a very general way rather than in a way that demonstrates their mastery of the content.
How can parents help?
One key concept that we need to learn is to help our children master and use academic language. What is academic language? Academic language is the language used in textbooks and on tests. It is different in structure and vocabulary from the everyday spoken English. Just because a student speaks English well does not mean it will be easy for them to pick up academic language. Academic language becomes harder as the student moves up the levels. Some examples of academic language include alliteration in language arts, ratios in mathematics and atoms in science. If we can help our children to learn academic language, they will benefit in English and other subjects.
Some tips for improving academic language
1. Reading about the same topic in different genres is a great way of learning academic language. There are many story books on Math and getting children to read them before reading the related textbooks or notes would not only interest the children but help them learn.
2. Drill children into the habit of underlining key instructional words, as these are also part of academic language. Ask children to underline the keywords of a textbook or a complex question. Get them to think about exactly what that word is asking them to do.
3. Get children to translate the textbook or academic subject into plain English or get them to explain a concept or topic in academic language. This strategy works extremely well for Science, as the students have to be careful of the words they choose.
English is certainly one of the keys to academic success, not only in terms of its importance as a subject but also its significance to other subjects. Therefore, it is important to find English teachers who are aware of this aspect. It is also equally important to find Mathematics and Science teachers who are committed to explaining the terms of the language of their respective disciplines.
The simple reason why children hate reading is usually because they are weak at reading.
Children are just like us – we tend to avoid tasks that we are weak in. For example, if we find exercising a chore, it is usually because we are unfit in the first place. Conversely, people tend to do what they do best. For example, when people choose what courses to enrol in for higher education, they tend to choose the subjects they scored the highest grade in.