9 Common Mistakes made in PSLE Composition Writing
Throughout my years teaching students in Singapore PSLE Composition Writing, I realised that there are several common mistakes made by my students. If you are a parent guiding your child to take PSLE this year, be aware of some of the common mistakes.
1. Cliched Intro
Introductory paragraphs for compositions that use flowery phrases to describe the hot sun or weather are overused. Opening lines which start with a sound effect like “Riiiing!” or “Bang!” are also used too frequently.
For PSLE composition writing, you want to stand out, so avoid using such cliched openings that all the other students in Singapore are using.
Be different and unique! The marker will not be impressed if your child wrote something that every other student is writing. If your child insist on describing the setting, get him to describe the specific setting, instead of spending one paragraph talking about the weather when the weather has no part to play in the conflict later.
2. Jumping from one sequence to another, without adequate description.
Students have a habit of writing compositions with minimal description, and focus too much on narrating from one sequence to another. This results in a chain of events that will happen very quickly in the essay and students will then have to worry about not having “enough” words to meet the requirement.
E.g: The robbers stormed into the bank, took the money and shot the security guard. Then they left before the police came. The witnesses told the police what had happened. The next day, the robbers are caught. The End.
What is lacking is the detailed description that accompanies each sequence.
E.g: The robbers stormed into the bank without warning. They glared at the shocked faces through their black ski masks. The customers cowered in fear and stifled screams were heard. Waving their guns and shouting grievous threats, the robbers herded all the customers into a corner…
Do not just jump from one sequence to another. Make sure your child adds in detailed description for each action that happens.
3. Illogical Content
Every time I mark a compo from new students, I cringe at the content of the story. There is always some illogical content like: Calling the police and the police will appear at the scene immediately or a car knocking down a pedestrian before exploding into flames on its own. Maybe primary school students are still too immature for their age. Maybe primary school students are influenced by the games they play or the shows they watch. As a parent, do point out any illogical fallacies and correct them. Any illogical content written during your child’s PSLE essay will cause him to lose marks.
4. Problem or Conflict is resolved too easily
Every essay will involve a problem or conflict which the characters in the story will seek to solve. In some essays, the problem could be mischievous acts committed by the student. In other essays, the conflict could be between 2 characters fighting or arguing with each other. One of the mistakes that students tend to make is that they allow the problem to be resolved too easily.
E.g: Mark and John started fighting in the coffee shop. The police came and arrested them. The end.
Encourage your child to make the problem worse. Did Mark hit John too hard and John became unconscious? Did they accidentally injure a passerby? Keep in mind that when you make the problem worse, you must still keep the content logical!
5. Not participating in the Problem or Conflict
Many students, when writing from a first person point of view, will take a bystander approach to the problem or conflict that happens within the essay. They will write the essay such that the problem or conflict is happening to other people, while they just stand aside and watch.
E.g: Mark and John started fighting. I hid behind the wall and called the police.
Even when your child is writing as the first person, they must get involved in the problem or conflict. Instead of hiding behind a wall and watching the scene unfold before them, the main character must always partake in the conflict, willingly or not.
6. Memorising fancy phrases. Then using them wrongly.
I discourage students from blindly memorizing phrases then using it in their compositions. However, many of them still do it due to recommendations and coercing by parents. I have seen funny phrases like:
The students made a beeline for the bomb.
FYI, that phrase is used by one of my students who got A* for her PSLE English. Focus on learning the meaning of each phrase, how to use the phrase, and then let the child write naturally. Forcing them to write fancy phrases in a composition may only cause more problems. Good phrases will fit into the sentence naturally. You don’t have to force them in.
7. Rushed Ending/Conclusion
The most common mistake for PSLE composition writing always happens at the end. The ending is too rushed. Due to poor time management or lack of discipline, students often rush to finish the ending. Then, the student will probably add in a lame, generic lesson learnt like: “I learnt never to tell lies again.”
8. Writing Out of Topic
Most students don’t plan their compositions. They tend to make it up as they go along. Hence they will often go off-topic as they get engaged in the task of writing and totally forget about the theme.
Also, as the topics become tougher or more specific, students tend to stray from the core topic. For example, a student writing a topic of ‘A Disappointment’ becomes ‘A Dilemma’, or a student writing about ‘A Bad Decision’ becomes ‘Bullying’. Many students lack the awareness to maintain focus on the core theme of the story.
Others lack the essential writing skills of description, variation of sentence structure or a set of powerful vocabulary. Therefore, they try to make the story more interesting by creating conflicts, problems and additional complications in the story. Sadly, most of the time, they just go out of point as the Resolution and Conclusion tend to be about the problem-created, not the topic they were supposed to write.
To make things worse, some students will try to end their stories with irrelevant proverbs like “A friend in need is a friend indeed” or “Honesty is the best policy” when the entire composition doesn’t even deal with Friendship or Honesty…
9. Writing overly-long sentences or joining sentences wrongly.
These students belong into 2 groups. Those who have a stronger grammar foundation, and those who have a weaker grammar foundation.
The students who are better at grammar seem to pride themselves in writing overly-wordy, long, complicated sentences that just confuse themselves and the reader. They think that long sentences demonstrate their writing prowess. Nothing could be further from that fact!
The 2nd group of students who are weaker in grammar try to write long sentences too! They do so by using commas to join 2 independent sentences together without any conjunctions or connectors! That is grammatically wrong.
What students should do is focus on writing clear and concise sentences that convey the message the reader easily. Sentence structure variation should then be used to improve the flow and fluency of the story.
Hope you enjoyed this article on PSLE Composition Writing. Take note of these mistakes. Don’t commit them ever again!
For examples of Model Compositions, you can check out this post >>> Model Compositions for Primary School Students
(This post was written by Jerry Lee and it first appeared at this original link.)
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