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PSLE Paper 1 Composition

| Last-Minute Tips
SEPTEMBER 24, 2015
Selamat Hari Raya Haji to all our Muslim friends! (: Time flies and we are
about 7 days away from the PSLE English paper now. I would like to start by
just telling all our Primary 6 children and parents how great a job you have been
doing this year and to hang in there just a little longer! By this time, what is
most important is really to keep the children healthy and not too tensed up.
Hence, make sure that the children have ample rest so that their brains can
really function to their optimal abilities!

I have decided to do this post to provide some last-minute tips for composition
writing. For situational writing, we have touched on some common Q&A and
the step-by-step procedure in the previous posts. The following 3 tips for
composition writing were chosen not because they will deliver any sort of
miracle or help your child bump up 10 marks instantly. Bearing in mind
that compositions are marked holistically and every mark counts, I feel
that the tips below are possible for children to try out during this intense
period and may be able to fine tune their compositions, even if it is by a wee
bit. Therefore, sit tight as here are the three last-minute tips that I have for
composition writing in Paper 1.

1. Balance is key.
The five parts of a composition: Introduction, Build-up, Problem, Solution
and Conclusion should be proportionate in a composition. A good composition,
to begin with, should always have a balance.

For a composition with a typical structure as above, each part should be quite
equal in length to the others. It is fine if the build-up or problem is slightly
longer as those are the exciting parts of a story that help to develop the
given theme. However, it is a big no-no for the introduction to take up an entire
page and for the problem to only take up three lines. Having only three lines for
an introduction is also problematic as it does not help the readers to have a clear
sense of the setting and background of the story to draw them in. Each part
should therefore be sufficiently developed to achieve the role which they are
supposed to play.

Last minute application:

For the remaining compositions that your child is writing, make it an effort to
first check whether the composition is balanced by marking out the
paragraphs in the different parts. This has helped open the eyes of some of
my children and allowed them to see very clearly which is the part that they
need to extend.

2. Tell it like you are there.

As mentioned earlier, an introduction helps provide the setting and backgroun d
to a story. In fact, it is so important to give your readers a sense of where they
are as they read your story that I advise my children to describe each new
setting in their story. For instance, the story might have started in a restaurant
and the character ended up at the hospital. Readers should be able to see
themselves in the restaurant and at the hospital.

See. Hear. Smell.

How do you describe the setting then? There is no harm in memorising chunks
of description from model compositions. However, at this point, to memorise a
chunk will probably be stressful. Hence, it will probably be more fun
(hopefully!) and less stressful if your child is given the freedom to describe
what they see, hear and smell at each setting. Using the five senses to describe
a setting is not new and the three senses that we use most often are our sense of
sight, smell and hearing. This comes in useful when the children are unable
to remember what they have memorised for a particular setting or have
thought of a great idea that requires a setting that they have not used
often. In addition, I am sure the marker will find a description that is really
based on the child's experience to be something refreshing.

For instance, one of my pupils who was unsure of how to craft her intr oduction
for quite a while, recently decided to take this approach and came up with a few
main points for her setting. Together, we came up with: (Can you guess where
her setting was at?)
See: A waitress, neatly dressed in a traditional Cheongsum that was
immaculately woven with silk, *led us to our table* with a big smile on her
face. At the corner of the eighty-seater restaurant stood a large tank with big, fat
groupers which were unaware of their fate.

Hear: Porcelain utensils and bowls with golden flower motifs went "Clink!"
softly as waitresses cleaned and set up the tables at top speed for the hungry
diners who were next in the queue.

Smell: The heavenly aroma of roast duck wafted into my nostrils, making me
salivate instantly. *As I lay the crisp and white napkin on my lap, my stomach
gave a loud complain. I was ready for dinner.*

If your answer is an expensive Chinese restaurant, the description above has

done its job in pulling you into the setting.

Not all three senses need to be used and sometimes, using what you see and
what you hear can be enough. What is important is that the child must
remember to weave the character into the setting (as marked with ** in the
example above) so that the description does not seem disjointed from other
important details in the paragraph such as the "who" and "when".

Last minute application tip:

Play a relaxing game of describing the following settings with your children
when they take a breather. Let your child practise writing out some descriptions
and let them know that during the examination, they can always do this if they
really are unsure of where to start. Some interesting settings may be:

1. restaurants (consider different cuisines?)

2. supermarkets or convenience stores
3. a bus stop
4. a park
5. a classroom or a corner of the school
6. a bedroom (What is the personality of its owner?)

Always consider first whether these places are supposed to be crowded or quiet,
depending on your storyline. (e.g. a picnic at a park will be different form a
robber at a park)
3. Some helpful, flexible vocabulary for every

Although we said that by this time, packing in long descriptive phrases may be a
challenge, reading up on some flexible vocabulary that can be used for EVERY
(if not most) composition may not be a bad thing. Having one or two
alternatives to the usual words and expressions helps to add variety. Here is a
list for 5 type of words or situations that can be used in almost every piece of
writing. Your child may pick and choose the ones which he or she feels are
easier to remember and there should really be no pressure to remember all of
Last minute application tip:

Try picking out about 2 words per category to apply. Remember that it is
important for the spelling to be accurate, on top them being used in a
grammatically sound manner. I love getting my children to draw out phrases
that they need to remember and some of these certain are easy to imagine (e.g.
like an arrow from a bow) so draw away! It might be therapeutic for some of
your children too (: