by Jerry Lee
Here are a collection of essays sent to me by students from our tuition centre or from my online essay writing course. I have looked through them, gave them marks and added in comments for further improvements. Do take a look at the essays to see what a model compo is supposed to be like and learn from the mistakes made as well.
Feel free to send me your essays or compositions. If the essay is good, I will feature it in this blog post as a sample essay or a model essay for other students in Singapore to take a look. All sample essays sent to me will be evaluated and marked. I will also give comments on how to improve your composition writing.
Click on essay title to view the essay.
Written by Kylia Chong, P5 28.10.15
Written by Mathi Malar, P4 28.10.15
A Kind Deed
Written by Anwen Wong, P5 28.9.15
Written by Derrick Png, P6 6.9.15
The Bicycle Lane
Written by Jeric Wong, P6 6.9.15
Written by Baptist Lim, P6. 12.7.15
Written by Naomi Tan, P6. 12.7.15
An Incident at Sea
Written by Mathi Malar, P4. 10.7.15
Written by P6. 10.7.15
Pictures Given: A variety of fried food, a toilet signage & a digestive aid juice.
An Incident on a Train
Written by Kevin, P6. 29.6.15
A Person In Need of Help
Written by Clar, P6. 24.6.15
Pictures Given: A Drowning Boy, An Open Umbrella and A Fire Extinguisher
by Jerry Lee
Dillon was my student in Primary 6. I wrote about his PSLE success story here. He came back for Upper Secondary English tuition last year. He was Sec 3 then, and he had to come back because he just failed his English CA1.
Failing Upper Secondary English was a wake-up call for him. It was also shocking to me too as he was always scoring B on average and never once did I remember him going below a C grade. However, the syllabus changes and increased difficulty of Upper Secondary English was a bit too much for him to handle.
When he came back to find me, he was still at a lost for what he did wrong for English. He is not a lazy student; in fact, he is one of the most hardworking students I have taught. He is also not playful; He is one of the most obedient and respectful students I have taught. His good attitude, his determination, his discipline, his drive to do well…made him a very easy student to teach.
I love teaching students like Dillon. All they need is a little tweak, a little push, and soon enough, you get to see some pretty ‘miraculous’ results. From F to A2 – in about 6 months.
Pretty amazing, right?
I would like to go around bragging about my SUPER-STAR ENGLISH TEACHING METHOD that will GUARANTEE A1 but alas, very few students can replicate Dillon’s fast improvement results.
But I dare say, if a student has Dillon qualities,
My SUPER-STAR ULTIMATE MASTER ENGLISH TEACHING METHOD will work for him. 110% results or money-back guarantee!
The problems that Dillon face with Upper Secondary English aren’t new. Almost all my students face the same problems. After looking through his test papers, I understood how to help him and how to push his grades up in the shortest time possible.
I am going to share my SUPER SECRET ULTIMATE MASTER ENGLISH TEACHING METHOD. But I will only summarise the main points – if I were to go into detail I might end up writing a book with as many pages as Lord of the Rings….
So here it goes:
1. Refocus on Grammar
After Dillon got his A’s for PSLE and happily went to Xinmin Secondary, he stopped tuition. Nothing wrong with that. Only as time passed, his grasp of English grammar slowly got thrown down the drain.
The English language is best learnt through application and habit. And when the Bad Habits start creeping in, they may just take over the Good Habits and replace them for good. It was appalling to see his Grammar degenerating to such a lousy state. I was almost tempted to believe that he scored A for his PSLE by fluke!
I forced Dillon to refocus on grammar by nit-picking on every single mistake he makes, and making him do corrections for every sentence that has a mistake. This process was so tedious and painful that he soon learnt to be more aware of what he is writing so that he makes less mistakes.
I also got him to refocus on time frames and subject-verb agreement rules. I wanted the Good Habits to come back and kick out the Bad Habits.
His grammar was getting flabby. I made sure it got back in shape again. Dillon learnt fast and cut down on a lot of mistakes. He started scoring an average of 8/10 for grammar editing, and all his sentences for his compositions and comprehension had less mistakes.
2. Tackling Inferential Questions
Dillon is your typical, good in math and science, struggle-with-languages-type of boy. Due to this inherent weakness, he had difficulty tackling the harder questions that deal with inference. In case you didn’t notice, most English questions in Upper Secondary deal with inference.
Inferential questions require a higher degree of thinking :
– seeing from perspective of a character or the author
– making logical interpretations based on the words used or evidence/ fact available
I trained his thought process to not read or see things so literally, at face value. I got him to think harder of hidden meanings. I got him to infer more from paragraphs, sentences and words. This thought process took some time to cultivate. But Dillon was a smart kid who was determined to learn. Soon, he got better with such questions.
3. Tackling Language Questions
Just like inferential questions, language questions are aplenty for secondary English.
“What does this phrase mean?”
“What does this sentence mean?”
“Why did the author used this word?”
I helped Dillon expand his limited vocabulary. But because there’s so many English words in the dictionary, I taught him to a smarter way – to infer the meaning of words, phrases or sentences based on the context of the passage and the adjacent sentences. All he needs now is a little common sense, a little logical thinking, and he should be able to get most language questions right.
4. Writing Expository / Argumentative Essays
All Upper Secondary students struggle with their essays. Not only do they have a lack of knowledge in general subject matters, they also do not have the skills to phrase a point across.
This is a tough area to teach. But I got Dillon to understand the requirements of Expository and Argumentative essays. I taught him how to come up with sound logical points, organise them, and back them up with evidence. I taught him how to write powerful introductions and strong, body paragraphs. I taught him how to construct a sound compo.
Dillon loves writing overly-long, complicated sentences with flowery words that are usually out of place. He is also prone to repetition of the same point again and again just to make up for the lack of content in his essay. I made him cut down on unnecessary words, phrases or sentences that provided no value to his essay. I taught him how to get his point across in the clearest and most succinct way possible.
Although he still can improve further in this area, at least he is not writing gibberish or failing his compos anymore.
5. Situational Writing
For situational writing, many students (including Dillon), worry so much about the format and structure of the situational writing that they forget all about the tone and context. I got Dillon to understand the nuances between different writing tones:
Next I made sure he matched the right tone with the right context.
E.g “Write a graduation speech for your school”
– context=graduation speech for school
– tone= motivational and polite
I taught him the right words to use for the right context and tone. I taught him how to vary his sentence structures for greater impact. I made sure his points are well organised.
Improving Upper Secondary English
Once a student reaches Upper Secondary, his grammar application should be sound (hopefully), and he should be focusing on learning the harder content such as the last 4 points mentioned above.
Again with the right attitude and mindset, half the battle is already won. All Dillon needed was someone to coach him and guide him in the technical aspects of the English language. With sufficient coaching, he was able to boost his marks so ‘miraculously’.
I hope this article has been helpful in providing an insight on how to prepare your child for the Upper Secondary English syllabus and of course, the eventual, big O-level.
Stay consistent in your learning and you will reap the results of your hard work.
by Shen Li Lee
I dreamt I stood in a studio,
And watched two sculptors there.
The clay they used was a young child’s mind,
And they fashioned it with care.
One was a teacher—the tools she used,
Were books, music, and art.
The other, a parent—working with a guiding hand,
And a gentle loving heart.
Day after day, the teacher toiled
With a touch that was deft and sure.
While the parent labored by her side,
And polished and smoothed it o’er.
And when at last, their task was done,
They were proud of what they had wrought.
For the things they had molded into the child,
Could neither be sold nor bought.
And each agreed they would have failed
If each had worked alone,
For behind the teacher stood the school,
And behind the parent, the home.
– Author Unknown
How can we help children with reading at home? Here are some tips a school sent me which I felt was very handy so I have shared it here…
Place and Time
- Select a place that is quiet and peaceful.
- Choose a time when your child is not tired, hungry, or really keen to do something else so you can enjoy reading together.
Image Source: Pinterest – Lisa Chance
What should you read?
- Choose something of interest to your child.
- It should not be too difficult.
- Accept your child’s efforts.
- Avoid criticism, threats, and comparisons with other children.
- Try to relax and stay calm. Stop the session if you feel yourself becoming frustrated and read to your child instead.
Praise Your Child
- When your child reads well.
- When your child corrects herself after making a mistake.
- When your child reads a word correctly after you have provided help.
- When your child reads easy books silently to himself (these should be books he can read without making mistakes).
- 4 to 5 times a week is ideal.
- 10 to 15 minutes each time suits most children.
When your child makes a mistake that doesn’t make sense
- Wait and let your child solve it if she can.
- Ask one or two questions about the story to help him think of the meaning.
- Keep the story going by telling your child the word if it is still incorrect.
When your child makes a mistake that does not really change the meaning of the sentence
- Some children lose confidence if you correct every mistake they make so you will need to decide whether the mistake really matters, and whether your child will lose confidence if you try to help her correct it.
- If you decide not to correct it, let your child continue reading without interruption.
- If you decide to correct the mistake:
- Ask your child to think about the way the words looks. For example, does the word begin the same way as other words he knows Are there any parts in the word that your child already knows?
- Tell your child the word if she has not corrected it after two attempts.
When your child comes to an unknown words and says nothing
- Wait and let your child think about the story.
- Suggest that your child go back to the beginning of the sentence, or
- Ask your child to think of a word which begins the same way as the unknown word, and makes sense in the sentence.
- Tell your child the word if he still does not recognise it.
When your child is not interested in the story
- Read the first few pages to your child, and talk about the story together, or
- Help her find a story that is of more interest to her.
When the story is too long
- Take turns reading, alternating with your child so that you read every second page (or chapter), or
- Help your child find a shorter story.
Questions to ask your child to help with Fiction books
I particularly like this section because it helps children to think about the stories they read. If your child is an aspiring writer, like mine, it helps him learn to think about the impact of a story and how to improve his own stories.
For the emergent reader
- Where does the story take place?
- When did the story take place?
- What did the character look like?
- Where did the character live?
- Who are the key characters in the book?
- What happened in the story?
- What kinds of people are there in the story?
- Explain something that happened at a specific point in the story.
For the developing reader
- If you were going to interview this character/author, which questions would you ask?
- Which is your favourite part? Why?
- Who would you like to meet most in the story? Why?
- What do you think would happen next if the story carried on past the ending of the book?
- Who was the storyteller? How do you know?
- Predict what you think is going to happen next. Why do you think this?
- Is this a place you could visit? Why/why not?
- How is the main character feeling at the start/middle/end of the story? Why do they feel that way? Does this surprise you?
For the beginning reader
- Were you surprised by the ending? Is it what you expected? Why/why not?
- What is the main event of the story? Why do you think this?
- How has the text been organised?
- Why do you think authors use short sentences?
- How did you think it would end/should end?
- Has the author used an unusual layout in the text? If so, describe it and say why you think they did this?
- Has the author used a variety of sentence structures?
- Has the author put certain words in bold or italic? Why have they done this?
For the expanding reader
- Why did the author choose this title?
- Do you want to read the rest of the text? How does the writer encourage you to read the rest of the text?
- Can you find some examples of effective description? What makes it effective?
- Which part of the story best describes the setting?
- Can you find examples of powerful adjectives? What do they tell you about a character or setting?
- Can you find examples of powerful adverbs? What do they tell you about a character, their actions or the setting?
- Can you find examples of powerful verbs? what do they tell you a bout a character, their actions or the setting?
- Find an example of a word you don’t know the meaning of. Using the text around it, what do you think it means?
For the bridging reader
- Can you think of another story that has a similar theme? For example, good over evil, weak over strong, wise over foolish?
- Why did the author choose this setting?
- What makes this a successful story? What evidence do you have to justify your opinion?
- How could the story be improved or changed for the better?
- What was the most exciting part of the story? Explain your answer as fully as you can.
- What genre is this story? How do you know?
- What was the least exciting part of the story? Explain your answer as fully as you can.
- When the author writes in short sentences, what does this tell you?
For the fluent reader
- Does you know another story which deals with the same issues? For example, social, cultural, moral issues?
- Have you ever been in a similar situation to the character in the book? What happened?
- How would you have felt in the same situation?
- What would you have done differently to the character in a particular situation from the book?
- How would you feel if you were treated in the same way as the main character?
- Have you read any other stories that have similar characters to this one? If so, which story was it and what happened?
- Do you think this book is trying to give the reader a message? If so, what is it?
Photo Credit: Pinterest – Andrea Knight
Questions to ask your child to help with Non-fiction books
For the emergent reader
- What is the text about? what is the title of the text? Who is the author of the text?
- What kind of things would you expect to see in this book?
- Can you find examples of different features of this text type?
- Find something that interests you from the text. Explain why you chose that particular part.
- Where would you look to find out what a technical word means?
- What is on the cover of the book? What does this tell you about the content inside?’
For the developing reader
- Which parts of the book could help you find the information you need?
- When would you use the contents page in the book?
- When would you use the index page in the book?
- What sort of person do you think would use this book?
- When might someone use this book? Why?
- Can you suggest ideas for other sections or chapters to go into the book?
- Do you think the author of the book is an “expert” about the topic of the book? Why/why not?
For the beginning reader
- Can you find an example of a page you think has an interesting layout? Why did you choose it?
- Why have some of the words been written in italics?
- What are the subheadings for?
- Why have some of the words been written in bold?
- How does the layout help the reader
- What is the purpose of the pictures?
- Can you find examples of words which tell you the order of something?
- What kind of text is this? How do you know?
For the expanding reader
- Why does this book contain technical vocabulary?
- Find an example of a technical word. Read the sentence it is in. What do you think it means based on how it has been used in the sentence?
- Are there any examples of persuasive language?
- Why do we need a glossary in a text?
For the bridging reader
- Why has the writer written this text?
- Have you found any of the illustrations, diagrams or pictures useful? Why/why not? Try to explain fully.
- Why did the writer choose to present the information in the way they did?
- How could the information be presented better?
- What makes this text successful?
- Are there any features that it hasn’t got? Why do you think it doesn’t have them?
- Can you think another text that is similar to this one? What are the similarities and differences between them?