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.
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,
“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 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?
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.
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)
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.
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