Tuesday, August 11, 2009

English composition part 3

Since I last posted Lesley-Anne's composition, I've had a few requests to post more of her writing pieces. Unfortunately, I haven't had access to her English file as she usually keeps it at school, so my apologies to those who asked!

I finally managed to read another of her compositions when she brought it home to do her corrections. Here it is (in blue), reproduced below after the instructions, errors are hers.

You were out on an excursion with your class. Your friend asked you to follow him without the teacher's permission.

Based on the above situation, write a composition of at least 150 words. In your composition, make use of the points below
  • what your friend's intention was
  • what happened next
  • what happened in the end
Every time she comes into the classroom my ears work their magic. They completely shut out the noise. Okay, since it is science class, I shall put it in scientific terms. My ears are adapted to shut out unwanted noise. This is a behavioural adaptation. That is the best way I can put it. I have to admit that my science teacher has a special power though. That is the power to put people to sleep just by talking.

I was brimming with excitement when I woke up. My class was about to go on an excursion to the zoo to learn about animals. At last! Something interesting in science! We were waiting for the bus to arrive in our classroom. Then, our science teacher came in and started briefing us about behaving well and the rules to abide by when in the zoo. I only saw moving lips, I did not hear a thing. After what seemed like ages, the excursion bus came and brought us to the zoo.

When we arrived, we headed straight for the tiger enclosure. Just then, James pulled me aside. "What?" I asked.

"Let's leave the class and go see the other animals!"

"Why? You mean we can't see them with the class?"

"Didn't you hear Mrs Lam? We do not have time to see all the animals. We are only seeing those animals adapted to exteme climates."

I debated following James. If we were found out, we will be doomed. On the other hand, I would be able to see my favourite animals like the giraffes and the crocodiles. I may even be able to write some poetry on them and I do love poetry. The choice was obvious.

Me and James started walking very slowly and soon fell behind the class. Then, when our chance came, we ran off. James said I can pick whichever animal I want to see first. As long as I create a poem about it. I accepted the challenge.

We ran to the crocodile enclosure. "Okay Mr Poet! What is the poem?" James asked.

"Crocodile, crocodile with your toothy grin. With your cunning smile and your scaly chin," I answered.

"Only two lines?"

"It's called a couplet".

"I think it's lame. But it's still a poem anyway, I guess".

Victory! I won the challenge! For the rest of the day, James and I saw many cool animals and Mrs Lam was not in sight. In the end, me and James headed back towards the exit. We planned to hide behind the vending machine and wait to rejoin the class. This way, we would be twenty minutes ahead of the class which would only arrive at one o'clock.

However, much to our surprise, the entire class was already there. So was Mrs Lam. She caught sight of us and stormed over. "Where were you two? You don't know how worried we were! When we did a headcount and found out you two were missing, we traced back our steps and even searched the gents! We came hear to see if you were at the fast-food restaurant!"

Amazingly, my ears could not work their magic this time so I got it at full blast about safety and causing inconvenience to others. With Mrs Lam shouting at the top of her lungs, I was surprised she did not get a sore throat. I wondered why. However, I guess there will never be a scientific explanation for that.

Lesley-Anne was especially pleased with this composition as she'd scored 35/40. Before you say "waaah", it's probably important to note that this was the highest mark she'd scored to date and she doesn't consistently do this well. I guess writing depends partly on whether the topic inspires you, especially within the alloted time.

I also realise that Lesley-Anne's writing style is very conversational which makes the story readable. However, it's drastically different from the typical 'Model Compositions' you'll find sold at Popular bookstore. Personally, I detest those compositions, they're so stilted and pompous you often feel like you're reading a comprehension passage. It's like someone trying to squeeze in as many bombastic phrases and words within each sentence as possible, for the sole reason of demonstrating sophisticated vocabulary. It makes for very dreary reading. More appallingly, I've heard that some creative writing centres teach the kids to memorise such compositions to be regurgitated during exams (and uphold this an a model of examination success). Only in Singapore can you take creativity out of creative writing!

Having said that, I have no idea how examiners in Singapore will mark the PSLE compositions. My worry is that they are looking for the 'Model Composition' type of writing because Lesley-Anne's language is very simple in comparison.

Lesley-Anne's English teacher is totally against using what she calls cliches in writing, ie memorising complete chunks of fancy descriptive paragraphs. She says examiners will mark DOWN the score for such usage. I don't know if that's true but I hope so! I do know that if I were an examiner and had to read 200 scripts on the 'cloudless, azure sky' with a 'crimson, scorching sun', I'd certainly be tempted to grade them all a bold, scarlet F.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mon, I am not sure if PSLE teachers can sieve out originality when they read one. To me, it does not matter how the kid write as long as it comes across coherent, interesting and original. It would not be fair to penalise children who really love to describe the different colours of the skies and weather granually and deemed as plagiarism, sometimes they just coincide. I have long accepted that there will always be 2 major types of scorers in exams, the exam-smart ones, i.e. regurgitate other's composition and the really-smart ones. Even if the competition landscape may be deemed unfair, I believe in the longer run, the really-smart ones can think on their feet and outshine the exam-smart ones. That's just my thoughts, so grading wise, I would just say, come what may(since we cannot control)....as each uses his/her own strategy to score... The real test happens in the real world. Just my 2 cts.

Anyway, Bravo to L-A for such an interesting and original read and if she makes this consistent, she will have a reading fan club, so who cares about PSLE scores? :P


monlim said...

QX: Thanks for the encouragement! You're right of course, I remember in NUS, I did quite badly (ironically) in an English application module cos they wanted us to write in the most dreary, boring way ever. Thankfully I was old enough to know by then that I wasn't a bad writer lol!

I guess it's the usual parental kancheong-ness lah, we still want our kids to score at PSLE :P

Lilian said...

You wanted my honest opinion and this is it...I love it! She absolutely deserved the 35/40, I think in some schools she'd get close to or even full marks. None of the cringe-worthy cliches you see in many essays.

Everything she writes comes from that creative literary brain of hers (hmm, wonder where she got that from). I thought the previous compo was already excellent, this one surpassed my expectations. I like how she linked Science to the first and last parts of the story. Definitely a composition that will impress any examiner. You should be so very proud of her!

monlim said...

Wah really ah? The feedback is especially valuable to me coming from you! I was a bit apprehensive cos there were quite a few inconsistencies in grammar. Thank you thank you, I feel more assured now :)

hl said...

The composition is just too good to be true! In addition, it has a touch of humour. Very good indeed!

monlim said...

Thanks HL! I'm sure you can write one just as good, I have faith in your writing abilities :)

Veronica_L said...


Very good, better than the model ones, mroe readable I would say. She has definitely inherited your writing talent!

hope she writes more!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mon, My daughter, who is also in P6, is very impressed with Lesley Anne's compo. Well-done. My daughter is one of those who memorised phrases from model compos. She finds writing a chore and usually scores about 26-28 despite the effort. Your daughter's compo has inspired her to write in a more natural style. Thanks.


monlim said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Veronica!

Faith: Thanks for reading! I'm so glad to know that L-A's writing has inspired your daughter. I think it's hard to write well if you find writing a chore. Hopefully now if she begins to enjoy writing, she'll also get better grades for it. All the best to her for her PSLE!

Anonymous said...

Well Done, L_A! Keep up with the good work!!

Thanks for sharing Mon. My dd enjoyed reading L_A's compo, especially the poem!


Anonymous said...

Hi Monica
L-A has a natural flair for writing. Very creative and original too!

All the best for the coming PSLE. Next week is oral exam, yah?


monlim said...

Thanks Chris! I'm sure L-A will be very encouraged to hear all the heartening comments :)

LL: Thanks for the wishes! Yes, oral next week and prelims week after :O

HL said...

Looks like everyone has enjoyed Lesley-Anne's compo tremendously!

Anyway, PSLE Oral is just a week away! Is Lesley-Anne nervous? Well, I do! :)

monlim said...

HL: L-A is a last-minuter. Wait till next Wed, she'll start to freak out :D

HL said...

Is that true? Haha. She must be very intelligent to sit for the oral exam with little preparation!

monlim said...

Err... no leh, it's just called procrastination. Anyway, I'm sure all the schools have been busily preparing the PSLE kids :)

breve1970 said...

Thanks Monica.

Its a great piece of work, Lesley-Anne! Hannah read it and said that she hopes to write as well as L-A one day. In fact, she is so inspired that she wants me to post one of hers done in school on my blog. Haha.... She complained that I haven't mentioned much about her in my blog. :p.

monlim said...

Thanks Ann! Yes, you should blog more about your kids. There will come a time when they don't want to be talked about, so grab the opportunity now when you can!

Anonymous said...

Great writing! Model compositions are really not living up to expectations! Students can also argue with you that these so called model compositions are the norm. You are right! They should not regurgitate what they have read from such books cos I feel like regurgitating when I read them. Sigh. Why don't you compile your daughter's writing and publish them? They are inspirational!

By the way, please may I know what the comments made by the teacher for this composition were?

This blog is very exciting!

monlim said...

Anon: Thanks for all your kind comments (on other posts too)! The problem with SG kids (and parents) is that they want to have a fixed formula for doing well. I'm sure if I compiled L-A's compos, you'll immediately find some kids trying to copy them, sigh...

For this compo, I think the teacher liked it a lot, she made L-A read it out to the class. There weren't many comments, if I recall, but it said ending was good and better use of vocab (which is L-A's weakness).

Anonymous said...

HAHA but at least it will stop the norm of the 'rubbish' okay I am not perfect, uncool model compositions that are out there in the open market. Well, glad that L has an open and creative mind.

I asked about the comments because I was curious of the link between the first paragraph and the rest of the story. In my humble opinion, the rest of the story is awesome. She has made it so real. This may be what kids actually talk and do.

I am just having a slight problem with the first paragraph. However, I realised that she could have put the first paragraph into the second paragraph to link "I only saw moving lips, I did not hear a thing"

Anyhow kudos to a job well done. If my kids could write as well as L can, that would be speactacular.

Well it's my humble opinion.

Sorry as I have read this very interesting and honest blog,
I have another question with regards to pedagogy. I am not sure whether you would be able to answer me but I am hoping for the best.

Is L exposed to educational blogs or has her teacher created educational blogs for the class? Curious, because I want to find out whether L has been exposed to this wonderful medium of learning.

Sorry for asking so many questions.

monlim said...

Anon: I think L-A wrote the first para to set the context and that's why the last sentence works cos it ties back to the first para, making it more cohesive.

Not really sure what you mean by educational blogs but as far as I know, the only blog L-A reads is mine! (well, and her class blog which has since faded away, I think) Hope that answers your question :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mon

Need your advice. Recently I have been asking my son who is in P4 to practise his composition writing, as his compo exam is round the corner. I noticed he was trying to be funny, or witty, but I am not sure how the exam marker will take it. At first I laughed it off, but subsequent pieces displayed the same "mischievous" writing, so I am not so sure whether to stop it or not.

Eg, in one compo where he wrote about pushing a girl into a pond and was punished by his mom who imposed a no-computer weekend, he ended off with this '...."Well, at least, I have my little bit of fun today" I mumbled to myself.' I laughed and thought it was witty, but then I also told him that he should write that he felt sorry.

Last night, the compo piece was about helping a girl who was lost and was rewarded with $10 by the girl's mother. He wrote as the concluding sentence ("I hope there will be more lost children the next time I come here again," I smiled to myself as I pocketed the money.) How? What do you think?


monlim said...

T: Actually, I love that your son is turning a twist on his compos, it sure makes for more interesting reading! Ok, here's my 2cts - I wouldn't discourage it as he's obviously trying to be original. If you try to force him to conform to a certain way of writing, it might stilt his style and make for very cliched writing.

Having said that, I don't know how much creative licence the teachers would give, ie whether they would mark it down (I hope not!) but to me, I think it's more important to look long term and try to instil the love of writing. By p6, the markers tend to be more accepting of alternative and original ideas, so he should be ok.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mon

Thanks for the advice. Ok, I think I will take the gamble and ask him to write his own way, and keep my fingers crossed that the teacher marking it will give him the creative licence!


lyx said...

WOW, such a good compo and only 35/40? The school's standard must be very high! I am also a Primary Six student and once got 37/40 but my composition was only half as good as hers!

Anonymous said...

So impressive! Why not write a book titled such as The Diary of Lesley Anne?
That would boost her interest in writing?

yeo_may_lin said...

Hi Mon. I chanced upon your girl's compo Part 1 & 2 last month but unable to find them today (can only find compo Part 3). Are they taken off from your blog? My girl is eager to read it because I kept praising how well your girl can write. Is it possible to put them up again or you would like to email me at yeo_may_lin@yahoo.com. Tks a lot!


monlim said...

May Lin: I've not taken them down, you can find them either by clicking on the "English" label under "Blog Contents" (right column) or you can type "English composition" in the search box on the top left hand corner.

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi, can you create a post on how to build suspense in compo? Oh and, also can you post about how to write an emotional story? (You know, those which make ppl cry)Thanks.

monlim said...

Anon: wah, that's too much to ask for a blog post! building suspense usually needs a good plot and as for emotional story, i think there's no one formula. depends on lots of things like whether pple can relate to the story, use of language, etc. It's probably too much to ask for a compo.

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