Improve Creative Writing by Understanding Your Teacher’s Marking

Understand Your Teacher's Marking

Did you know that when an excellent teacher marks an essay, he will put in annotations to indicate the specific grammar error in order to help the child? Most of the time, the teacher will let the student know what these annotations mean. However, whether the student remembers what they mean is another matter. They will also probably not be able to explain them to their parents. How can students understand and remember the different annotations? I am sure most parents will agree that understanding the teacher’s marking is important – it allows students to understand the error and be more careful the next time! Let us give you a table of common annotations so that you can refer to it whenever you see an annotation by your child’s teacher.

Key to Marking:

P          punctuation

Sp        spelling

T           tenses

Stc         sentence structure

Gr          grammar

V            vocabulary

SVA        subject verb agreement

Exp         wrong expression

//             start new paragraph

^^^          elaborate / more details

?             unclear / does not make sense

This list is not complete and some teachers might have their own annotations, but many teachers do use the same ones.

This ends RG’s 12-part series on how to help improve your child’s creative writing.  To go back to the index page, click here.

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The Perfect Ending to Improve Creative Writing


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.


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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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


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


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?”


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.

Emotions in Storytelling for Creative Writing in Primary School


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.