PSLE Oral Reading Aloud Tips

By Mrs Elaine Loh

It’s the June school holiday and from here on, things will be moving pretty quickly for pupils sitting for the PSLE. Today, I will be giving you tips for the reading aloud component of the PSLE Oral exam which is applicable for children in the other levels as well.

The reading aloud component is the most overlooked component in the PSLE oral exam. Many parents encourage their children to practise the Stimulus-based Oral component more than the reading one since the reading aloud component carries just a third of the total oral grade. This wrong view can prove costly because the reading aloud component is the one where a child can hope to score the full mark easily if he knows what the examiner is looking out for. So what exactly are the examiners looking out for?

Put simply, the examiner is looking out for the following things:

  1. Well-paced and fluent reading. This means reading the passage smoothly and clearly.
  2. Accurate pronunciation and good intonation when reading in order to convey the right information, ideas and feelings in the passage.

So, before you get your child to practise reading aloud to you, here are some tips on how you can help him achieve what the examiner will be looking out for.

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PSLE Oral Tips: Stimulus-Based Conversation

PSLE Oral

by Mrs Elaine Loh

The PSLE Oral Examination is the first language component your child will be tested on as part of the English Language paper. Hence, I have written this article to help you guide your child as he prepares for it. The PSLE Oral component has two parts: the reading component and the Stimulus Based Oral (SBO) conversation component. This is the part of the examination that most children find daunting for one or more of the following reasons:

PSLE Oral
  •  Speaking to a complete stranger about something is not a natural thing your child does
  • Sharing his opinion and ideas is not something your introverted child enjoys doing
  • Organising his thought process is something your child is having difficulty with
  • The open-ended nature of the stimulus based oral conversation creates anxiety in your child because he does not know what to expect
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Write with Might

by Mrs Elaine Loh

Everyone loves a good story. Everyone loves telling stories. Telling stories is what makes us human. As a child, I loved writing and I still do. As a teacher, I believe every child can be nurtured into a future writer even if writing isn’t exactly your child’s forte. There are no shortcuts to writing a good story but there are writing techniques that when applied effectively, help make for a truly outstanding story, one that will be remembered long after it is read.

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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. If you are interested to know more about our courses, do give us a call at 6344 3398 or leave behind your name and email on our contact form. To go back to the index page, click here.

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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