Throughout my years teaching students in Singapore how to write PSLE Essays, I realised that there are several common mistakes made by my students. If you are a parent guiding your child to take PSLE this year, be aware of some of the common mistakes.
1. Cliche Intro
Introductory paragraphs for compositions that use flowery phrases to describe the hot sun or weather are overused. Opening lines which start with a sound effect like “Riiiing!” or “Bang!” are also used too frequently.
For PSLE essay writing, you want to stand out, so avoid using such cliche openings that all the other students in Singapore are using. Be different and unique! The marker will not be impressed if your child wrote something that every other student is writing. If your child insist on describing the setting, get him to describe the setting specifically, instead of spending one paragraph talking about the weather when the weather has no part to play in the conflict later.
2. Jumping from one sequence to another, without adequate description.
Students have a habit of writing essays with minimal description, and focus too much on narrating from one sequence to another. This results in a chain of events that will happen very quickly in the essay and students will then have to worry about not having “enough” words to meet the requirement.
E.g: The robbers stormed into the bank, took the money and shot the security guard. Then they left before the police came. The witnesses told the police what had happened. The next day, the robbers are caught. The End.
What is lacking is the detailed description that accompanies each sequence.
E.g: The robbers stormed into the bank without warning. They glared at the shocked faces through their black ski masks. The customers cowered in fear and stifled screams were heard. Waving their guns and shouting grievous threats, the robbers herded all the customers into a corner…
Do not just jump from one sequence to another. Make sure your child adds in detailed description for each action that happens.
3. Illogical Content
Every time I mark an essay from new students, I cringe at the content of the story. There is always some illogical content like: Calling the police and the police will appear at the scene immediately or a car knocking down a pedestrian before exploding into flames on its own. Maybe primary school students are still too immature for their age. Maybe primary school students are influenced by the games they play or the shows they watch. As a parent, do point out any illogical fallacies and correct them. Any illogical content written during your child’s PSLE essay will cause him to lose marks.
4. Problem or Conflict is resolved too easily
Every essay will involve a problem or conflict which the characters in the story will seek to solve. In some essays, the problem could be a mischievous acts committed by the student. In other essays, the conflict could be between 2 characters fighting or arguing with each other. One of the mistakes that students tend to make is that they allow the problem to be resolved too easily.
E.g: Mark and John started fighting in the coffee shop. The police came and arrested them. The end.
Encourage your child to make the problem worse. Did Mark hit John too hard and John became unconscious? Did they accidentally injure a passerby? Keep in mind that when you make the problem worse, you must still keep the content logical!
5. Not participating in the Problem or Conflict
Many students, when writing from a first person point of view, will take a bystander approach to the problem or conflict that happens within the essay. They will write the essay such that the problem or conflict is happening to other people, while they just stand aside and watch.
E.g: Mark and John started fighting. I hid behind the wall and called the police.
Even when your child is writing as the first person, they must get involved in the problem or conflict. Instead of hiding behind a wall and watching the scene unfold before them, the main character must always partake in the conflict, willingly or not.
6. Memorising fancy phrases. Then using them wrongly.
I discourage students from blindly memorizing phrases then using it in their compositions. However, many of them still do it due to recommendations and coercing by parents. I have seen funny phrases like:
The students made a beeline for the bomb.
FYI, that phrase is used by one of my students who got A* for her PSLE English. Focus on learning the meaning of each phrase, how to use the phrase, and then let the child write naturally. Forcing them to write fancy phrases in a composition may only cause more problems.
7. Rushed Ending/Conclusion
The most common mistake for primary school composition writing always happens at the end. The ending is too rushed. Due to poor time management or lack of discipline, students often rush to finish the ending
By Jerry lee
Intellicat Tuition School
Thanks for reading my article!