Updated: Nov 2, 2021
As students progress from forming coherent sentences in the lower primary, they are now faced with the daunting task of managing continuous writing in the upper levels. Are you as anxious or perhaps as clueless as they are? Fret not, for Learning Point is here to help!
This article is separated into two parts, the first explores the Language component (emphasis on grammar, punctuation, story-flow and vocabulary), while the second focuses on the Content component (emphasis on the relevance and depth of the ideas within a story).
Students lose precious marks in the content component when they do not have enough depth in their storylines. This lack of content is usually exhibited in their touch-and-go efforts on their plot points. Marks are further penalised if they spend too much time and word count on irrelevant plot points. If you are a parent guiding your child to write outstanding compositions, be aware of these common mistakes. Take this sample composition question as an example:
A Near-drowning Experience Write a composition of at least 120 words about A Near-drowning Experience. The pictures are provided to help you think about this topic. Your composition should be based on one or more of these pictures.
These mistakes are illustrated by extracts from two students’ work. Student A is the quick yet careless writer. Student B is the more competent writer.
In the story, Titan, his family members and his pet dog were at the seaside for a casual Sunday picnic.
4 Common Content Mistakes
Common mistake #1: Unnecessary character
Student A introduced the character “Jackson” abruptly. Jackson adds no real value to the whole story. Students do that sometimes due to a lack of planning or simply to increase the word count in his/her story. Although Student A demonstrated his competence in composing a dialogue between Jackson and Titan, the introduction of a new character was entirely unnecessary.
Common mistake #2: No-follow up action between the characters
After being rejected by Titan, Jackson ran back to his parents. Instead of that, Jackson could be a character who contributed to the problem, or perhaps even joined Titan in looking at the jellyfish and be the one who got Titan into trouble.
What if I tell you that this paragraph only contributes to mark deduction and has no relevance and no depth to the story? It’s true. Not only does it not add value to the Content component, mistakes in Language present in the paragraph is also taken into account.
Let’s take a look at how it can be improved.
Remedy #1: Focus on the main character’s thoughts and actions
Rather than introducing another character, Student B displayed his language competency by describing Titan’s thoughts and actions. This is good as it is a crucial part of character development.
Remedy #2: Build up the drama
Student B did a great job in building up the story to its climax. He introduced the upcoming problem by:
a) drawing the reader’s attention to the strength of the waves – with the intention of hinting that the waves could possibly wash him away. b) indicating Titan’s confidence in his swimming skills which demonstrated that Titan would be neglecting the danger ahead. c) drawing out Titan’s carelessness in noticing that he was going further and further out to sea. These are very good plot points that can lead to the climax of the story.
These are very good plot points that can lead to the climax of the story.
What strategies does your child use in planning his/her story? Have you seen our plot graph technique and read the article on how your child can plan his/her story well?
Let’s take a look at another example.
Common mistake #3: The problem is resolved too easily / out of point
The title is “A Near-drowning Experience”. The interaction with the jellyfish was a mere distraction. A near-drowning experience should be one that has a real, almost-drown struggle in the water. Not simply “Come back” and then came back and everyone was safe and sound.
Common mistake #4: Lack of description, lack of dramatisation
Not having enough description and dramatisation in the composition is the bane of most teachers who teach composition writing. The dog barking and trying to get attention is a good buildup (likened to a chair-gripping moment) towards the climax of the story, but what does Student A mean by “loudly” and “wildly”? It could be even better.
Isolate the incident and put it to a test. If you have to write a step by step, specific to how a person was saved from a near-drowning experience, how would you be able to do it effectively in that less-than-one-minute occurrence?
Let’s take a look at how it can be improved.
Remedy #3: Make the problem worse
The suspense was built further by having the Father not understand what Buddy was attempting to do. Would the main character pass out and drown in the water during the wait? All these complexities and multiple perspectives get the reader involved and captured, making room for more depth in the story. Making the problem worse is not about having the main character die, in fact writing about death is discouraged.
Remedy #4: Dramatise the situation by giving details of what was happening
Student B went further by: a) describing how Father did not understand at first and then resolved it with Buddy’s action. b) providing step-by-step description of what the lifeguard did to save the main character. c) demonstrated how the panic-stricken Mother reacted.
Describing and dramatising the actual event is the right way to invest word count and time. Focus effort on plot points and make time for checking through after completing the 1st draft is the way to go!
Did you notice some mistakes that your child is making from this list? We hope that by pointing out these errors, it will help you and your child to hone his/her skill of writing good compositions.