Picture Composition Writing for Lower Primary: Developing the Story

Writing.

You either love it or hate it.

For our children who are in school, they have to write, whether they like it or not.

In Lower Primary (P1 and 2), children are taught Picture Composition. They are usually given 4 sequential pictures that tell a story, and some helping words. Students have to write a story of at least 80-100 words, based on the given pictures.

With the new PSLE Format, writing composition is no longer so straightforward. You have to know how to write a solid introduction, develop the plot, have good content, create suspense and end your story well.

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The marking scheme for Composition usually comprises of two aspects – Content and Language. Content refers to how well the story is developed and Language is the technical aspects such as grammar, punctuation and spelling.

I think the technical aspects of the language is rather straightforward, as there are specific rules which one can learn and follow.

It is the content development part of the writing process that is more abstract and which many children are weaker in.

As I guide our eldest (who is now in P2) in his preparation of his coming Composition Test, I’ve researched and compiled a few steps that I am using, to help him develop his story and have better content in his writing.

~ 5 Ways To Develop Your Story ~

1. Start with an interesting opening.

From my own teaching experience with lower Primary children, many of them like to begin their story by talking about the weather or time. Their story typically begins with sentences such as,

“Last Sunday,…”

“Yesterday, after dinner….”

“It was a hot day,….”

“One fine day, …”

Now, it can get rather boring for the teacher (or reader), after reading 20 compositions starting with the same types of sentences! There are other ways to begin your story to make it more interesting and captivating. Depending on the pictures given, you can start by describing the character, the setting, an action, or begin with speech or dialogue.

children writing character description

Children can do this by studying the first picture. Is there a character shown in the picture? Describe the character. What is the setting in the picture? Is it a busy street, a hospital, a park, a beach? Describe it. Are there any actions going on? Describe the action(s). If there is a character shown in the first picture, what could he or she be saying or thinking?

Learn 120 Phrases to Describe Characters’ Feelings! 

Get the child to brainstorm on each of these and choose the best and most suitable opening for that particular picture composition.

2. Put yourself in the character’s shoes.

It is common to hear children lament, “I do not know what to write….”

Ask them, “What would you do if you are (the character in the story)? How would you feel? What would you say?” Get them to describe it. Somehow, they will begin to realise that there are many things which they can write about the character, once they start to imagine themselves as the character!

3. Study the pictures. Look at the background and surrounding.

Is there anything worth mentioning that can contribute to your story? For example, if it is a picture of a beach, get the child to imagine being there. Use his 5 senses to describe what he could hear, see, smell, taste, touch?

4. Vary your sentence structure.

Many children are used to writing short sentences, as they are easier to write. It can also be because kids write whatever comes to their mind. However, too many short sentences make your story abrupt and curt. Get your child to combine his short sentences using conjunctions.

This is an example of simple, short sentences which Lower Primary children tend to write:

Evelyn saw the robber. She called the police. (2 very short and simple sentences.)

If we transform them into a complex sentence by joining them with the word “when”, we get:

Evelyn called the police when she saw the robber.

5. Have a good conclusion.

Lower Primary children often end their story abruptly.

For example,

The ambulance sent John to the hospital. He stayed in the hospital for two weeks. 

Now, this sometimes make their ending very abrupt.

Get them to stretch their imagination a little by asking them what the character (or those related to him/her) could be thinking about after the incident. What would he do or not do next.

So, the ending could be something like this:

The ambulance sent John to the hospital. He had to stay in the hospital for two weeks and felt really miserable. John felt bad making his parents worry for him and was glad that they did not blame him for his silly mistake. This is an incident that John will remember for the rest of his life! (The end)

tips for writing

I hope these tips are useful to help your children or students develop their content for Picture Composition. Good writing comes with practice and alot of reading. The key is to start writing. It is a process, not a destination!

If you are clueless as to how to help your child develop his/her writing skills, these writing tips and articles on composition writing will come in handy, especially for Primary School students.

Have fun writing with your child!

Download the eBook – “120 Phrases to Show Not Tell Characters’ Feelings” and get more marks for the Language Component in your school compositions.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

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35 thoughts on “Picture Composition Writing for Lower Primary: Developing the Story

    1. It’s true that many kids struggle with writing. Honestly, writing should be an enjoyable task, but the way kids are being tested in school, it can easily kill their enjoyment in writing. Just my personal opinion… 🙂

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  1. I really enjoyed this and can implement it when I begin teaching my daughter how to put her stories onto paper. I graduated as an English and Lit major and am currently a writer, so it’s always great to find sources, outside of mom, to share with my daughter.

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  2. You are so right that either you love or hate writing.

    I made my 5 year old boy to write 4 sentences about a movie he watched with his uncles and aunties. I wanted to develop the love of writing in a slower pace and at an early stage.

    But what I didn’t expect his response when I asked him to write another story about his outing with my sister and her husband. He said, I don’t like to write because my handwriting is so ugly. I suddenly realised that a slight unpleasant sight or stuck idea can turn writing into a hate affair.

    Perharps you might want to write a post on how to develop liking to write in a small way?

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    1. Thanks for the comment and suggestion, PR. Will keep that in mind. 🙂

      For a 5-year-old to write 4 sentences about his experience is a great effort. I’ll make a big deal out of it, display his work prominently at home and read it to the hubby etc.

      Is there a reason why he thinks his handwriting is ugly? If it is only his dislike of his own handwriting that’s stopping him from writing, you may want to get him to tell you his story while you write it down for him. Writing is basically putting one’s thoughts into written words. For a 5-year-old, I won’t want to force him. He has a long journey of writing to embark on once he starts primary school. If he can verbalise his thoughts to you, that’s a great start. You can also let him try typing out his sentences using pc or iPad, or just drawing a picture of his experience and talk about it.

      I guess the more important thing now is to create an interest and make it fun for him, for a start.

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      1. Thank you, Ing, for your suggestions and your reminder that 5 year old is still young.

        I displayed his writing on the wall in his room. It’s placed prominently. He’s a visual child. I guess he can see whether his handwriting is neat. It’s not neatly aligned. Some letters are tall, some small and some squeezed. I’m currently working towards helping him write his name within 3 lines. This would help build his self esteem before he can write confidently.

        I’ll try your suggestions. 🙂

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      2. well i have an idea. how about you do something that will improve your son’s handwriting. maybe you should make him practice more on just writing simple sentences. that might help. all the best to you.

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    2. WOW!. Thank you really much. This has really helped for my daughter. She now feels writing like her passion. She now knows how to elaborate and describe a composition well. What i could not do in all these years has improved my daughter fully just by reading all these for 5 minutes. All thanks to you. You are fabulously great! Hats off to you!

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      1. Thanks for sharing! It’s great to hear of children trying out these ideas and loving writing as a result. I’m encouraged by your comment. Thank you!

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  3. Thanks for sharing these ideas. I agree that giving a twist to usual openings and writing by changing the sentence structure they make so much difference to the teacher who may have read the same thing 20 times!

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  4. Hi
    I am glad for this blog!
    May I ask how do I start my 5years old to write? To share, my gal likes to draw a lot and always say it out as a ‘story book’ . Hear from you.. pls thanks!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Fiona! For a 5-year-old, I would focus more on developing the interest and enjoyment in writing, rather than the technical aspects of it (such as correct grammar, spelling, punctuation etc). It is great that your daughter likes to draw and describes her drawings as stories! That’s a very good start, I think. If she’s not resistant to it, you can try getting her to write a few words or sentences under her drawings. It doesn’t matter if she makes alot of grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes now. If what she wrote is incomprehensible, you can ask her to read it to you herself or tell you what she has written. You can also get her to talk about her drawings and you help her write out the sentences, after which, you can ask her to copy them, if she’s interested. Read lots of books to and with her. The ability to write is closely linked to what you read. Expose her to lots of good books. Hope this helps! 🙂

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        1. Hi Fiona, my kids usually ask me for the spelling of words they’re not sure of. I will get them to attempt to spell it based on the pronunciation of the words. If they’re just writing for fun, they will spell the words on their own, even if the spelling is wrong. I don’t correct them if they’re writing for fun. Developing an interest and a love for writing in my kids is more important to me now than writing perfect sentences. There’re many good children’s storybooks around, depending on what your child is interested in. We don’t really stick to any particular authors. I bring my kids to the library and let them choose books that attract them, so we read a wide range of books. They also enjoy reading non-fiction books, depending on what they’re interested in at the moment (e.g. Solar system, animals, volcanoes…) We do like books by Eric Carle, Mo Willem, Bill Martin Jr…. to name a few. For a start, you may want to let your child choose a book she likes, or borrow some non-fiction books on topics that interest her.

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  5. I was really worried for my 6 yr boy, who has just began to write sentences on his own. regarding correct grammar, punctuation, etc..! but after reading your blog it has made me more relaxed and take it step by step to the kids. thanks a lot.

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  6. I’m a Zimbabwean teacher teaching grade 2 .I can’t even explain how this magically method has made my life easy n interesting.thank you

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