How much content is enough in a piece of composition? That depends on the level the child is in and the expectations of the teacher marking the piece of writing. Generally, lower primary children are expected to write between 50 to 100 words, while those in upper primary 120 to 180 words.
My students, who come from different schools, tell me varying numbers of words, paragraphs or pages that they are expected to write in school.
Regardless of the number of words that children are expected to write for a piece of composition, the truth remains that many of them have this one problem - not fully developing their content.
Read this passage on "A Birthday Party".
Yesterday was my birthday. I invited my friends to my birthday party. My mother prepared lots of delicious food for the party. When my friends arrived, they gave me many presents. We started the party by playing some party games. Soon, we were hungry. We ate the food prepared by my mother. After eating, my friends and family sang me a birthday song and I cut the cake. When the party was over, my friends went home. I had a great time celebrating my birthday!
How would you rate this piece of composition?
If this is done by a Primary 1 student, it is acceptable. However, for a child who is in Primary 2 and above, this content is under-developed.
The passage goes from party invitation, to food preparation, to arrival of guests, to party games, cake-cutting and end of party, all in one paragraph of about 80 words.
Each significant moment of the day was only summed up in one sentence. Such pieces of writing will not receive high content marks. Teachers will very likely remark "Need to elaborate more!"
HOW CAN WE GET OUR KIDS TO ELABORATE THEIR STORIES?
A key technique is "EXPANDING A MOMENT".
Taking the above passage as an example, there are at least 4 significant moments in the birthday party:
1. Arrival of guests
2. Party games
3. Eating of food
To expand a moment simply means to focus on ONE significant moment, put some thought into it and describe it as much as you can. Using your 5 senses helps in developing the moment too.
Focusing on the moment of eating the party food.
From the ONE sentence, "We ate the food prepared by my mother", we can elaborate it using our 5 senses to:
Soon, my stomach was growling. The aroma of my favourite fried chicken filled the room and I was drawn to the dining table. At the sight of the delectable spread on the table, I began to salivate. "Guys, let's have lunch before playing!" I called out to my friends. My friends immediately dashed to the dining table, they too were attracted by the tantalising fragrance of the food. We sat and devoured the crispy chicken wings, creamy cheese tarts, juicy roasted ham and my favourite pepperoni pizza! "Your mom is a great cook!" praised John, wolfing down another mouthful of fried prawn noodles.
The above is an EXPANDED MOMENT.
Now, try it!
1. Pick one of your recent piece of writing.
2. Focus on one moment which you have written about in only one or two sentences.
3. Expand on that moment. Remember to describe as much as you can about the moment and try to use your 5 senses.
You'd be surprised how much content you can come up with!
Download these exercises to practice "Expanding the Moment".