How to score well for PSLE English Paper 1 (part 1)
To write a good English composition, two key concepts; theme and dilemma must be understood well.
18 - 20
Part of the PSLE marking rubric for English Paper 1
Every idea and choice of words must show the marker that the candidate understands the theme. Students tend to stray from the main theme as they try to use their prized collection of memorized power phrases in their writing. For example, students may write a story which tells of a frustrating day, whereas the theme of the composition was mainly to write about a disappointing day.
Therefore, the understanding of adjectives such as ‘frustrating’ and ‘disappointing’ is crucial in making sure one doesn't veer off topic.
A dilemma arises when an individual has to make a tough decision between two alternatives. Most of the time, the two alternatives will be equally unfavorable. Readers are more likely to keep reading if the characters in the story are facing tough and unenviable choices.
To successfully create a dilemma, firstly, the student will need to invest a bit of time in creating characters with distinct mindsets and strong beliefs in something. For example, a boy has a mindset of not getting involved in the affairs of others. Yet, he has a belief of helping others in need.
Next, the student will need to construct a situation that will place the character’s mindset and beliefs in opposition with each other. For example, the above-mentioned boy witnessed a younger boy being picked on by older boys at a playground. This will challenge the character’s beliefs. This creates anticipation and tension in the reader. Readers bring their own experiences to the table as they read a narrative. Most readers tend to anticipate the likely reactions from characters when they have to make tough choices. In other words, all readers have expectations.
A plot where the major character(s) respond predictably to events in the narrative will meet these expectations too easily and readers become disinterested. Hence, students need to construct situations where the major character(s) is forced into a corner. The character has to make a choice and live with the consequence resulting from it.
In conclusion, students need to make a conscious effort to create conflicting emotions in their main characters as they struggle to overcome uncomfortable situations in the narrative.
We will talk more about crafting these uncomfortable situations such as complications and setbacks in the next article.
About the Author
Teacher Chin has more than a decade of experience in teaching English from Primary Two to Primary Six in local primary schools. He is presently, in his free time, having immense enjoyment experimenting with the Nimzo-Indian Defence in chess and trying out the Apacs Lethal 9 in badminton doubles.