I started looking through Lesley-Anne's English files. In p5, I notice she was given quite extensive exercises on plot development, what makes a good story and the elements of different genres of writing, such as mysteries and persuasive writing. She also has a list of literary elements that can be used in writing, such as theme, imagery, dramatic irony, characterisation and hyperbole. Obviously the kids don't have to use everything but Lesley-Anne tells me the teachers do go through some of them and give examples of how they are used.
This once again reinforced my belief that composition can be taught. Just because I don't know the techniques doesn't mean there aren't any. Lesley-Anne's file had worksheets and exercises that they do to strengthen their skills in specific writing elements. This is more concrete than just "practising" because without being equipped with know-how, you'll keep writing the same thing in the same style, with the same mistakes, over and over.
Then I looked at her p6 file and comparing her p6 and p5 compositions, I realised that her writing had improved noticeable towards the end of p5 and especially in p6. Lesley-Anne's reading has not increased significantly during this period, which tells me that either the way composition is taught in her class is very effective or she had matured on her own, or both.
I thought I would share a couple of samples of her writing to show her growth in this area. This is one of the early compositions she wrote in p5, she garnered 26/40, which was the best mark she received for composition in the entire year (in GEP, anything from 25 above is considered good, rarely do kids score above 30). It's based on the picture below and I reproduced it wholesale, mistakes and all:
Just because of a kite
"Mom, please let us go to the park. I want to fly my new kite!" said Tim. "Okay. But you have to let Henry have a go too." Mom replied. "I will", said Tim.
It was the perfect day to go to the park. The sun was shining and there was an occasional breeze. They even saw a duck or two in the pond. When there was a breeze, Tim started flying his kite. It was a lovely sight. The kite's yellow and orange tail stood out against the pale blue sky and the picture of an eagle on the kite looked as if it was really flying.
"My turn, my turn!" shouted Henry. "Not yet, not yet!" said Tim. "But you have flown it for five minutes already!"
"Well, it is my kite."
"Mom said to share!"
So, an argument began. Both of them were arguing so badly that they did not notice the kite being blown towards a tree. When they finally noticed, the kite was already tangled up in the tree's branches.
"Here is the deal", said Tim, "the first person to untangle the kite gets to fly it for the whole day." "Okay!" said Henry as he climbed up the tree while Tim tried to pull the kite down from below. Then, as Henry was about to reach for the kite, he lost his balance.
He fell of the tree, landed on the grass and rolled into the lake. "Help!" said Henry, "I'm going to drown!" "But you can swim. I can't help you because I cannot swim", said Tim. "I can't swim either with a sprained ankle. It hurts," said Henry.
Luckily, a passer-by stopped by to help. He jumped into the lake and saved Henry. "T.. Thank you", said Henry. "My pleasure!" said the kind passer-by. He even dropped the boys home. Henry's mother was told about the situation. She was too relieved to be angry and thanked the passer-by.
From that day on, Tim took up swimming lessons and Henry never climbed another tree. As for the kite, it is still stuck up there to this day!
I must confess that I have never read other p5 or p6 kids' compositions so I can't compare, but my gut feel tells me that this composition is ok but does not particularly stand out. Her language use is quite ordinary.
There was an evaluation form attached with the composition. I'm not sure if this is done also for mainstream students but I find this very constructive. Instead of just a score, the child is given a detailed breakdown on what she had done well and what was lacking. This evaluation form was given for every composition in p5 and also includes the child's own reflections on the areas of improvement.
This was the form for the composition above:
I know it's blurry. Here are the teacher's comments (in red):
Plot/Story Structure: Good, clear plot. Well planned.
Setting: More can be detailed here
Characterisation Feelings/Emotions: Deal with the feelings of both the boys
Dialogue: You need to know how to handle a dialogue
Story Idea Climax: Good storyline. Well done!
Grammar & Usage Vocabulary: Use better words and expressions.
Punctuation/ Capitalisation: Errors in both these areas. Errors in full-stops, commas and capital letters.
Spelling: No errors. Great.
Handwriting Neatness: Neat
I will post Lesley-Anne's p6 composition tomorrow.