Improve Creative Writing by Varying Sentences II

varying sentences

In the previous tip, we learnt two ways of varying sentences: using different sentence types and length of sentences. In this post, I will discuss a more difficult way to vary sentences. This method involves sentence synthesis skills: looks like all the hard work your child put in to practise sentence synthesis can also help in his writing as well!

Let us establish a common understanding first and talk about simple sentences. Simple sentences contain a subject (the focus of the sentence), a verb (what they are doing) and they also need to have a complete idea. Thus many simple sentences tend to be short. A simple sentences could be “Lucas (subject) threw (verb) the ball at Rui Feng (complete idea). Most children have no issue with this. However, an essay full of simple sentences is not will end of being boring and monotonous (remember the quote from the previous blog?)

Using the short sentence as a base, I am going discuss how you can get your child to form longer sentences.

Varying Sentences by Adding a Conjunction

By adding a conjunction between two or more simple sentences, we can create a compound or complex sentence. Let’s look at these two simple sentences, “They got to the stadium early. They had good seats.” By adding ‘and’, the sentence becomes “They got to the stadium early and had good seats.” Some conjunctions that help connect simple sentences are “and”, “but”, “yet”, “or” and “so”, etc. Please note that I am not going to expound on the difference between a compound and complex sentence. This needs another blog post.

Varying Sentences by Using a Semicolon

Your child can also add a semicolon between two simple sentences. While it does not change the meaning, doing so will show-off your child’s ability to use correct punctuation, it also creates some variety (rather than sentences separated by full stops).  Let’s look at another example. “Italy is my favourite country. In fact, I plan to spend two weeks there next year.” By adding a semicolon, it becomes, “Italy is my favourite country; in fact, I plan to spend two weeks there next year.” Do note that the semicolon indicates the two sentences are closely related to each other, as in the above example. Just a note of caution, DO NOT mistakenly use a comma to join two simple sentences together. Ensure your child understands the difference between a comma and a semicolon. For a irrelevant look at how to use a semicolon, read this rather funny illustration.

This ends the two parts, which shows four ways to vary a sentence. We now move on to the final part of how to improve Creative Writing.

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Improve Creative Writing by Varying Sentences I

varying sentences

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Gary Provost

This is the first part of a quote you might have seen popping up in various posts on English. Quite rightly, this is a monotonous and boring piece of writing. How can it be improved? The only way is by varying sentences. Let’s us explore this idea!

Varying sentence types

The simplest way to vary sentences is to add other types of sentences like an interrogative sentence (a question) or an exclamatory sentence (an exclamation that expresses a strong emotion) into your writing. To help you along, let us just do a quick revision on the Four types of sentences:

  • declarative sentence simply makes a statement or expresses an opinion. For example, James is good writer.
  • An imperative sentence gives a command or makes a request. For example, please sit down.
  • An interrogative sentence asks a question. For example, when are you going to complete your assignment?
  • An exclamatory sentence is a sentence that expresses great emotion such as excitement, surprise, happiness and anger, and ends with an exclamation point. For example, watch out!

Vary the length of your sentences

Short sentences show action and create a faster pace while longer sentences slow down the action and make the reader think more. In other words, when your child is trying to show lots of action, make him write short sentences. When the child is supposed to slow down (remember stretching the tension?) or describing thoughts and emotions, then ask your child to write longer sentences.

By using a variety of long and short, your child’s story will sound more interesting. This will help him score well for language. I know that some children may struggle with long sentences. In the next tip, I will cover synthesising sentences within an essay to achieve a better flow of sentence structures within a story.

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The Perfect Ending to Improve Creative Writing

Ending

Having a memorable ending or conclusion helps your child’s essay stand out. How can we do this? Let’s turn to time tested solutions in Classical Greek theatre. Greek plays are generally divided into comedies and tragedies. This is basically what we call a happy and sad ending. In addition, they also have what is called a tragicomedy. While this concept is complex, we have distilled it to a simpler form to help your child create a memorable story that stands out from among those of his peers.

Ending

My definition of a tragicomedy is one in which the hero succeeds but meets with a minor failure (usually personal) or when the hero fails but succeeds in his task due to external circumstances. Let’s look at the following examples:

Ending Type 1

The first is based on the theme of “a close escape”. The main character has forgotten to bring something to school. Despite his best attempts to borrow the item or buy it from the bookshop, he fails. He is ‘saved’ when the teacher who requires that item is called away on some emergency. This is an unusual storyline that will make his essay stand out.

Ending Type 2

In another example, let’s imagine the theme is “a challenging problem”. The main character solves the problem after some difficulty. However, the praises make him so swell-headed that he trips and falls in a ‘live’ interview. He has succeeded but suffers a small personal failure.

Both examples are story lines that are a little different from the general stories other students will write. This will help your child’s essay to stand out a bit more.

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ending

Stretching the Tension for Creative Writing in Primary School

Stretch Tension

In our previous posts, we discussed how to help your child to express emotions in their stories using the IDEA method. Another way your child can improve his essay is by improving the way the climax of his story is presented. We calling this ‘stretching the tension’. Let’s start by looking at how one of the masters of storytelling uses this method:

“Suddenly, she froze. There was something coming up the street on the opposite side. It was something black … Something tall and black … Something very tall and very black and very thin.”

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl could have simply revealed what ‘she’ in the story saw straight away, but he chose to reveal only bits and pieces of information to the readers in order to keep them in suspense before the final revelation.

This is an important tip to help your child achieve a climax in his story – by stretching the tension.

A moment of tension can be stretched out in 4 steps:

  1. Action / Non-action
  2. Bits of Dialogue
  3. Character’s thoughts/ feelings/ inner sensations
  4. 5 senses (what the character saw/ heard/ touched etc.)
Bad example:

Amy fell off the ladder.

Good example:

Amy felt the ladder wobble. “Aargh!” she screamed, throwing out her arms. The room became a sudden blur. Fear gripped her. She tried to grab something but her fingers closed on thin air.

As you can see from the good example, instead of just saying that Amy fell off the ladder, her emotions, what she saw, what she tried to do and so on, expressed. This makes the reader wonder what was going to happen to Amy and feel compelled to read further. This is what contributes to a good story.

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Emotions through Actions for Creative Writing in Primary School

Action

Now that we have gone through the first three letters of the IDEA technique, we are now moving to the final letter of the IDEA technique. “A”, the last letter, stands for Action. How can your child use this technique? Remember the simple rule of “show, not tell”? By using the character’s actions, your child can show how his character responds to the development of the plot and paint a great picture of emotions in a story.

Bad example:
James was upset that the bully had ruined his project.
Good example:
James sank down on the concrete steps and sat motionless for minutes. He stared at his broken project with sad, empty eyes.

To summarise, the IDEA technique comprises of Inner Sensations, Dialogue, Emotions and Action. Your child can choose to use these four different parts together or separately. By using this method, your child will be able to write well-developed stories that will score well not only for content but also for language.

With this post, I have completed the IDEA technique. Now, we will move on to writing a good climax for a story. A good climax is essential for any good story, but it is a skill not easily mastered. Please watch out for it in my next blog. To go back to the index to access the earlier materials, please click here

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Emotions through Inner Thoughts for Creative Writing in Primary School

In my previous blog post, I touched on creating dialogue as a way to help characters express emotions. For this post, I am going touch on using inner thoughts to display emotions. This is the third part of the IDEA method and ‘E’ stands for emotional expressions.  The key to this is the simple rule of “show, not tell”. Do not write phrases like “he was angry” or “she was sad”. Use his thoughts to show his emotions.

Bad example:

James was upset that the bully had ruined his project.

Good example:

The memory of Shawn stepping on his project kept replaying in his mind. Disappointment, and a sense of being useless, overcame him. How could someone be so nasty?

Just like the previous methods, your child needs to know how to develop these inner thoughts through practice. You can ask your child to develop inner thoughts for important emotions like anger, happiness, sadness, fear and excitement so that he can use can use them in his essay.

Ultimately, for a story to be well developed, it is important for the main characters to display emotions. At the same time, it is also important for your child to include these emotions as they can help with showcasing your child’s strong language skills. The IDEA method is a great way to include emotions into your child’s writing.

In the next blog, I will move on to the next technique. To go back to the index to access the earlier materials, please click here

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Creating Dialogue for Creative Writing in Primary School

Dialogue

In my previous blog, I had talked about the IDEA technique. To recap, the IDEA technique a way for students to write about their character’s emotions. This will help to develop their story and make their characters more engaging. Most importantly, it will add emotional depth to you child’s story so that he can score well in story development. I have gone through Inner Sensations, the “I” part of the IDEA technique in the previous blog. Now, let us move into the “D” part – which stands for Dialogue. 

Many people also express their emotions via dialogue and using it is one way of ensuring sentence variation within a story as well. Of course, you need to ensure your child knows his punctuation well before he starts building a conversation into his writing. If you are unsure about the appropriate punctuation for dialogue, do check a grammar resource.

Bad example

James was upset that the bully had ruined his project.

Good example

“Why me?” James sniffed. “Goodbye,” he whispered softly, as if his project could hear him

Can you see the difference by adding dialogue? However, it is also important to ensure grammar accuracy. So do ensure he knows his punctuation rules. At the same time, do remind him not to overdo dialogue. It should not dominate the story.

In the next blog, I will move on to the next technique. To go back to the index to access the earlier materials, please click here.

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Describing Inner Sensations for Creative Writing in Primary School

inner sensations

How can your child show the character’s emotions appropriately in an essay after he has decided what emotion to express? I would recommend this simple method – the IDEA technique. While I am going to focus on the “I” part, I thought I better give a simple introduction to the IDEA technique. “I” stands for Inner Sensations, which is all about the body’s physical reaction to an emotion. “D” means Dialogue which is what the character(s) say in response to an emotion. “E” represents Emotional Expressions, which the thoughts of a character when he feels emotions. Finally, “A” is for Actions, which is what the character does to show his emotions. You can use just one technique or combine the technique to show the character’s emotions.

Let’s move on to the first technique, “I”, which stands for Inner Sensations. This technique includes visceral sensations (e.g. lungs, heart, stomach, throat) and the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste). By showing appropriate bodily response of a character, your child can effectively convey the character’s emotions and response to the conflict, thus developing the story. At the same time, it also helps your child demonstrate apt and effective vocabulary.

inner sensations

Bad example

James was upset that the bully had ruined his project.

Good example

The sight of its broken wheels made James’ heart ache. Tears burned at the back of his eyes. Soon, his vision blurred. He felt so tired.

Practise this technique with your child by getting him to think of possible bodily response based on common emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, excitement and anger. You can list these expressions down and your child can use these expressions the next time he writes an essay.

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This is Part 5 of a 12 Part series. To go back to the index, please click here.

PSLE Listening Comprehension Examination

Listening Comprehension

Listening Comprehension Skills

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?”

#4 FINALLY

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.