Thursday, August 28, 2008

How (not) to be creative in English Comprehension

Sometimes, I think God has a strange sense of humour. Here I am, a writer by profession, with a son who can't write to save his life. It's like David Beckham's son having two left feet. Not that I'm comparing myself with David Beckham. Ok, now that's confusing. Anyway, you know what I mean.

It's funny, considering we speak English at home and Andre does read a fair number of books. (For those who are not aware, Andre is 7). But I've since realised that speaking and reading doesn't automatically translate into having a good grasp of the language. Maybe it has to do maturity. For instance, Andre is very literal. If he reads "nothing escaped his teacher's eyes", he thinks there could be something literally shooting out of the teacher's eyes, like in an alien movie.

It probably also have to do with the fact that Andre's attention span is all of 2 minutes. In a typical primary 2 exam paper, you have something like 8 pages of exercises before you finally reach the much dreaded open-ended comprehension questions. Here's where many kids stumble but for Andre, it's not just a problem with comprehension, it's compounded by the fact that he is already very bored and wants to finish up the paper NOW. So throwing all caution to the wind, he will proceed to answer questions not by trying to understand the passage but by harnessing his extremely creative powers (honed from many hours of tv and computer games).

There was a mock test paper he did in school about a boy called Pipo who saved the day by using his intelligence. The last question was: "What kind of boy do you think Pipo is and why?" Andre's answer: "I think Pipo is a hippo because it rhymes with Pipo."

Another passage talked about the five senses - sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. One of the questions was: "How do you know it is cooler in an air-conditioned room?" Andre: "You can see the air-conditioner is on in the room."

And sometimes, just for fun, the paper will throw in one of their favourite types of questions: "What word in the passage has the same meaning as 'lively'?" The correct answer was "energetic" but Andre had no idea what energetic meant. Heck, he couldn't even remember what lively meant. So he wrote: "The word is 'the'."

Often, I end up yelling at him, yet am curbing my desire to laugh. I'm not sure how fruitful that is. Anyway, I think Andre scores A* for creativity, unfortunately, it doesn't count when it comes to exams in Singapore. And that's why he's going for English tuition.


Debbie said...

Monica, the Pipo is a hippo is hilarious!! I lurve ur son's sense of humour...he's brilliant!
I seriously think its a boy think, that short attention span, the mindset that work is best when it ends fast...I have 2 to deal with so you're lucky you have half my problem!!!


bACk in GERMANY said...

Hi Monica!

This is Cindy (aka PP), crossing over from Lilian's blog.

My son who thinks life is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy is sure gonna have problems with comprehension when he's back in Sg!!!
He'd like Pipo the Hippo too! ;)

monlim said...

I do think kids coming from overseas do get a culture shock, our education system is just so different! When are you coming back? Thanks for reading!

bACk in GERMANY said...

We'll be BACK in Singapore by the end of this year. The kids should start with their preschool come January 09. My son will be in K2, while my daughter will be in N2.

Yes, definitely a cultural shock, plus an all new language of Chinese to contend with.

monlim said...

That's very young still, don't worry, they'll have time to adjust. Good luck!

Winston Tay said...

This is truly a skill to harness, Mon. Your son's creativity is the basis of Neil Gaiman's career.

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