Updated: Nov 2
You’ve probably done everything you know to do to help your child improve in English composition writing techniques. You’ve gone through papers from top schools, developed a study plan, and encouraged him/her to read widely. Maybe you’ve even had your child engage in the rather new age practice of “positive visualisation” – that is, imagining in great detail the desired positive outcome. All that is great, but is there anything more targeted you could do to help your child improve his/her composition writing skills? That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this article: 5 tried-and-tested techniques you can immediately use at home.
Compo Tip 1: Identify and Replace Adjectives
This exercise is simple: Have your child go through an old composition he/she wrote and replace all the simple (and boring) adjectives in the piece of writing. The goal here is to expand your child’s vocabulary.
For this to be effective, aim to do the exercise with your child at least once a week.
If your child is younger and hasn’t had as much practice identifying the parts of speech, you may have to help by circling all the adjectives for starters. (Over time though, you should slowly guide your child to be able to do this on his/her own.)
Then, have the child use a thesaurus to replace the simple adjectives with ones that are more interesting and relevant to the topic.
Example Topic: An Inconsiderate Act Example: An old man slowly shuffled onto the crowded train platform. After replacing the adjectives: A grey-haired and tired-looking elderly man slowly shuffled onto the teeming train platform. Why this works: The extra detail helps develop the setting of the story. Since there’s more effort given to describing the elderly man and the train platform, it clues the reader in that both of these are going to be important to the story somehow. (Maybe the inconsiderate act was committed against him?)
Compo Tip 2: Improve the Start of Sentences
Again using a piece of work that your child has done, your role is to identify repetitive sentences and get your child to replace them with more effective language starters.
We’ve provided a few examples on how to do this below (Tip: Use the acronym “WWHACS + verbs” to make it easier to remember):
Compo Tip 3: Reverse Engineer Model Compositions
This exercise helps the child better understand good composition planning using a plot graph.
In this activity, you and your child are to look at a model composition from an assessment book and draw out a plot graph based on the story. (Check out our article on how to plan a composition for an example of what a finished plot graph looks like!) Specifically, you’ll want to mark out: – Introduction: How the writer used A/C/S/S to develop the setting – Rising Action: How the story built up to the climax – is there any use of suspense? – Climax: How the problem erupted at the maximum point of tension – Falling Action: What was said or what took place to resolve the problem – Conclusion: How the writer gives the readers a sense of closure in the ending
Compo Tip 4: Record Spelling Mistakes in a Notebook
For the more conscientious of children, we’d recommend using a notebook to compile ALL the spelling mistakes the child makes throughout the year.
This makes it easy to revise on a regular basis, since all the information is in one location.
The easiest way to organize the words is with an old-school A-Z contacts book like below:
A regular notebook would also suffice, but you’d have to come up with your own classification system in that case 🙂
Compo Tip 5: Record Good Phrases
As with the spelling mistakes, have your child record good phrases he/she encounters throughout the year.
These can be in another notebook if your child is a visual learner.
Or if you find your child learning better with kinaesthetic and tactile study aids, consider getting color-coded keyring flash cards like the ones depicted:
Ideally, these phrases should be grouped by topic or category – descriptive language for people, expressions of fear, facial expressions, and so on. This makes it easier for the child to access when practicing composition writing. And when exam season rolls around, it also enables easy last-minute revision because everything is in the same place!