Hello! This is Mrs Wong and here is my first blog post as the latest member at Lil’ But Mighty. :)
I will be kicking off my first post with Continuous Writing for Paper 1. Continuous writing may not be everyone’s forte but with exposure to various themes as well as being equipped with the knowledge on what to take note of, getting through Paper 1 should be a breeze!
With the latest Paper 1 – Continuous Writing syllabus for PSLE, pupils are given 3 pictures, a topic and some pointers to help them in their writing. Pupils can choose to use 1, 2 or all 3 pictures for their writing. These pictures are not in sequence and pupils do not have to use all 3 pictures for their writing. This change in syllabus allows pupils to be more creative in their storyline as they have a wider scope in exploring the picture(s) they want to use with regards to the topic.
Some pupils have the misconception that to score well, it is better to use more pictures. This is not the case. Scoring well depends on how well the pupil can connect the topic to the chosen picture(s) as well as how the topic is being developed, based on the chosen picture(s). As you can see, addressing the topic is key to achieving success in your continuous writing and today, I am going to share with you 4 tips on how to do that well.
1) Be Familiar with the Types of Topics
Topics vary and here are some possible categories that can be tested in Paper 1:
A Considerate Act
An Honest Act
A Respectful Act
A Kind Act
The above are positive values. The opposite can be tested as well eg. An Inconsiderate Act.
A Sad/Happy Incident
A Desperate Moment
An Emotional Moment
A Pleasant Surprise
A Careless Mistake
An Embarrassing Incident
A Close Shave
Knowing the topics that can be tested means that you can think through the keywords and possible storylines beforehand. We will talk more about this in the next point.
2) Study the Topic and Unpack the Words (What’s the Focus?)
It is important to understand the main focus in the topic and ensure that the main gist of the storyline is about the topic.
For example, based on the topic – A Careless Mistake.
- Study the word ‘careless’. What does this word mean?
Careless is deemed as not paying enough attention to what one does, not giving enough care or concern.
- What must I write about being careless?
This comes to the next word in the topic – Mistake.
A mistake is an error in action or judgement caused by poor reasoning or insufficient knowledge.
Thus, this composition must focus on a mistake made due to being carelessness and not anything else. You also need to bear in mind that there should be consequences to a mistake. How would the following storylines fare in addressing the topic?
All the keywords in the topic must be addressed accurately.
Linking back to our previous point on familiarising yourselves with the various topics that could be tested, this means that you can actually start finding out what each of the keywords means before the examination to ensure that you understand the requirements of the theme.
You may run through questions like these:
What does the keyword(s) mean? Are there other synonyms or phrases? This will help you in Point 3!
What details will define and show the topic in the story? E.g. A desperate moment → character might have tried or considered several options + important consequences to character’s actions
Which part of the story will the topic be shown most clearly? The problem or the solution?
In addition, you should also brainstorm and jot down possible storylines like the ones written above.
3) Show Awareness of Topic Throughout
In order to really show that you are addressing the topic, It would be good to reiterate the topic whenever possible in the storyline to add focus in the composition. Many children think that by mentioning the key phrase once in the composition, they would secure the content point for addressing the topic. However, this is often not so. Awareness of the topic should be shown throughout the writing.
Using the topic of “A Careless Mistake” again, these would be the following parts of the story which the topic could be addressed:
Before the problem (Introduction or build-up)
→ Clue to show that Tom was someone susceptible to making careless mistakes (unfocused, daydreamer)
During the problem
→ Using the keywords directly to link back to the topic
After the problem (Solution/ Consequences or Conclusion)
→ Using the keywords directly to link back to the topic
Take note that the keywords do not need to be repeated entirely (add some variety!) every time but could be put across in different manners to illustrate the topic.
Besides studying and unpacking the words in the topic, studying the pointers accompanied in the question is essential too. These pointers will guide the pupils in their writing and addressing these pointers will help to ensure that you meet the content requirements. Remember, these pointers are part of the question too.
4) A Neutral/Positive Topic
There will be occasions where the given topics are neutral or positive such that it appears not to have an obvious problem to elaborate in the storyline. For composition writing, it is essential to identify the main problem and solve it. This gives the storyline a climax so that it does not appear ‘flat’. Thus, pupils may find it a challenge when faced with neutral or positive topics.
For example, for the topic on ‘A Celebration’, at first glance, since it is a positive topic, it does not appear to have a clear problem to be solved. There are two ways that you can execute the story:
Write a story focused on a celebration without a problem. Writers with a rich repertoire of vocabulary and language structures should be able to paint a vivid picture of the celebration and emotions involved in the occasion. This will be crucial in helping one to achieve an above average score.
Insert a reasonable/probable problem in the storyline without forgetting that the focus should still be on the celebration. The problem could be something that stands in the way of the celebration (which is the problem in the story) but eventually, this problem was solved and the ending must end in a positive manner in order to focus on the topic of a celebration. E.g. Before a surprise celebration, a blackout happened but the celebration continued and the blackout made it an unforgettable one. Remember, this is NOT a ‘disastrous’ celebration.
The above guidelines will help pupils to approach the question with more discernment and of course, with more practice, pupils will be able to handle the Continuous Writing section in Paper 1 more confidently! :)
Do you like the way that we have analysed composition questions and would like us to analyse your writing so that you can grow in your strengths and work on your weaknesses?
About the Author: Mrs Wong is an approachable and experienced English Teacher at Lil' but Mighty who encourages all students to discover their strengths and work on their weaknesses. She believes that curiosity is the key to learning and engages the students well to ensure that their learning is optimised. She gains satisfaction in seeing her students grow more confident of themselves.