How to Write a Composition: For Primary School Students
In Singapore, the primary school English syllabus requires students to write a composition. But there is little guidance on how to do so. Most of the advice given by adults is generic, like “Read more books…” or “Write more compositions…” or “Use more good phrases…” That kind of advice is hardly effective. But don’t worry! The Writing Samurai aims to change all that!
This post will teach you the basics on how to write a composition and what are the important things to take note of. (Applicable for Primary School Students in Hong Kong sitting exams in the iPSLE format.)
1. The Basic Structure of a Composition
A primary school composition is categorised as a narrative composition. That means, your child is basically narrating a sequence of events from a plot he comes up with. Think of it as story-telling.
For every composition, there is a basic structure. It consists of 4 parts:
- Conflict / Problem
This the standard template which your child is expected to follow. ( Sure, there are many other creative ways to write – but for the sake of keeping this post specific, I am going to assume that your children are beginners in writing.)
Here’s what’s expected of each segment of the composition:
Introduction – Introduce the setting. Set the tone. Generate interest. Lead in to the next paragraph.
Conflict / Problem – This is the crux of the story. Your characters must be trying to overcome a conflict or a problem related to the theme of the story.
Resolution – Here is where the problem or conflict is resolved.
Conclusion – The ending of the story. Provide closure.
2. Planning for your composition
Your child must first plan for his composition. This is a crucial step that many students always leave out. Ask your child to jot down whatever ideas that come into his mind while he brainstorms for the topic.
*Students who sign up for the 30 days Free Trial of the Creative Writing Master Class will be taught how to plan their composition in 5 mins. Your child will also be provided with a planning template to guide his thoughts.*
If you are coaching your child, get her to scribble out her ideas:
- Who are the characters?
- What is the main problem here?
- How does the story end?
- Is the narration logical?
Then get her to organise the points according to the basic essay outline: Introduction >> Conflict/Problem >> Resolution >> Conclusion.
Failing to plan for a composition can lead to these problems:
- sudden change in plot – loopholes in the story
- confusion of pronouns (he, she, they…) This happens when students decide to write from a third person perspective and then switch to a first person midway thru the compo. ( Or vice versa.)
- writing a pointless introduction (describing weather or alarm clocks or school bells ringing…)
- inability to resolve the problem or conclude the story
So please make sure your child picks up the habit of planning!
3. Writing that first paragraph
Many students struggle with that first paragraph. Hence, they end up memorising introductions from model compositions to make up for their lack of ideas.
That may help them get over the mental hurdle in the short run, but… it totally defeats the purpose of CREATIVE WRITING. Your child’s creative brain might remain under-developed if all she does for ‘education’ is to simply memorise and regurgitate information. ( We’ve got enough subjects to test that already!)
The purpose of the first paragraph is to:
- capture the reader’s attention
- generate interest
- must be relevant to the story.
4. Writing the Problem / Conflict
All stories consist of a central problem or conflict which the characters are trying to resolve. This is the most important part of the story. Your child should be spending most of his time here.
Get him to throw in additional complications to the problem or conflict. In other words – Make The Problem Worse!
Also, you might want to get your child to describe in detail at this segment. Many students simply just breeze through the most important part of their story in 1 or 2 sentences.
The problem or conflict segment should be 1 -2 paragraphs long!
Your child should be trying to describe and narrate the events clearly here. She has to be super detailed. Encourage her to describe using her 5 senses (Sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch.) But make sure the description aims to accomplish a clear purpose. Words shouldn’t be used to fill up blank space just for the sake of it.
She must be able to build the suspense and make the reader feel excited, or worried, or nervous in the climax of the story. She can vary sentence structures and use emotive words to put the readers on the edge. She must make the problem or conflict seem SO BAD that the reader loses all hope for a proper resolution.
Have you ever watched a movie where the situation in which the hero is in, is so terrible that you lose all hope for your hero?
Yes, the conflict or problem must bring out that feeling of hopelessness in the reader.
5. Writing the Resolution
Writing this portion is fairly simple. All your child needs to do is to resolve the problem or conflict in a logical way. If possible, try to allow the main character to help resolve the conflict.
Also, consider solving the problem in other ways, rather than just turning to the police or complaining to the teacher.
Could the problem or conflict be solved by a stroke of luck? Could the community get involved to solve the problem together? Could the characters work out a compromise?
The key here is to be creative but logical at the same time.
6. Writing the Conclusion
By this time, the student is likely to be rushing to finish the composition. Most of my new students mess up this part of their composition rather badly. It is one of the common mistakes made by students during PSLE composition writing. They would simply write one or two sentences, stating how they have “learnt a lesson.”
There’s more to conclusions than simply just learning a lesson.
A conclusion is used to
- tie up the loose ends in the story.
- reflect on the events or the incident.
- make plans for the future.
- how will your character’s life be different from now onward?
Get your child to spend a bit more time in the conclusion segment. Ensure that the story has a proper closure.
This post just briefly covers the basics of primary school composition writing. There’s still a lot of things to take note – Avoiding grammar mistakes, varying sentence structure, using the right vocabulary, Content, Organisation…
Hope this has been helpful!
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You can check out more Free Compo Writing Resources (Model Compos, Test Papers, etc) on this page >>> Free Compo Writing Resources