2015 is a significant year for those taking PSLE, as they are the first batch of students to be assessed using the Revised PSLE English examination format. This is also the same batch of students who started Primary 1 with the STELLAR approach of learning English.
Some parents might still be confused or clueless about the new composition format.
These are the main differences between the old and the new format:
PSLE English Composition (Old Format)
Pupils are given 2 choices:
1. A scenario based question, where pupils are given a scenario and asked to continue with the story.
2. A picture based question, where pupils are given 4 sequential pictures (or 3 sequential pictures with a question mark for the 4th) and asked to write a story according to the pictures. This type of question is usually narrative.
PSLE English Composition (New Format)
Pupils are given ONE topic, with THREE different (no longer sequential) supporting pictures for them to interpret and write their stories. They have the choice of using ONE, TWO or all THREE of the pictures. They also have the freedom to write in ANY appropriate text type.
Here is an example of a Composition question based on the new format.
Continuous Writing (40 marks)
Write a composition of at least 150 words about a memorable celebration.
The pictures are provided to help you think about this topic.
Your composition should be based on one, two or all of the pictures. Consider the following points when writing your composition:
You may use the points or include other relevant points as well.
What Does This Mean For Students?
As you can see, the new composition format gives pupils more room for creativity and story development. What we like about this revised format is that students now have the freedom to be original in their content and not be afraid of being penalised for writing “out of point”.
On the other hand, this also means that the ‘popular’ method of memorising model compositions (which is a method we personally dislike) might not work!
From the example given above, students can develop their composition in countless ways, based on the given topic “a memorable celebration”. They could write a composition on a birthday celebration, a wedding anniversary party, a sad memory about something that took place in a party, something tragic that happened during a party, something that happened at a celebration that has taught him an important lesson, a memory of a loved one who has passed on… the options are almost endless!
The basics of writing composition are still the same in the new format. Students still need to know various writing techniques, such as character development, setting, climax, problem and resolution presented, interesting starting and conclusion.
The challenging part is, there is no longer a sequence (eg. 4 sequential pictures) to guide the weaker students in writing their composition. Students have to draft and create a piece of writing from scratch, based on their own ideas, imagination and creativity.
How can students prepare for such a composition format?
1. Expose your child to a variety of books, stories and texts.
2. Let your child learn the various writing techniques, such as character development, setting and plot.
3. Teach your child ways to plan their stories, such as the use of mind maps and drafting.
4. Teach your child ways to make their stories interesting and full of action.
5. Practise, practise and practise. (Which also means write, write and write!)
As we have always believed, writers are made, not born.
Good writing comes with much practice!