Boosting Students' Confidence in Essay Writing
Parents often ask about how lessons are run at Creative Campus. Here's a video snippet of how an essay writing lesson is conducted. We approach essay writing for Secondary levels and up in the same manner.
This is a rare window into a GP lesson for a class comprising predominantly J1 students. The students were given 3 questions and this was the one question that no one chose because they found it difficult:
"Many receive an education, but few are educated." Discuss with reference to situations in your society today.
Empowering students with a methodical approach to essay writing
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We are happy to answer all your questions on scheduling and how we conduct lessons.
Is there such a thing as a ghost? Whatever an individual's personal views are on the subject, culturally most of us are brought up with the understanding that the dead lives in another form that still requires some kind of sustenance. An afterlife is largely dictated by several factors: the kind of life they had lived on earth; how their remains were disposed of at their death; and/or how they were remembered by the living.
The details of the afterlife in different cultures can vary, but the constants are that such a realm exists. This realm is governed by immutable laws, while the souls of the dead will remain there unless given licence by the gods to return to the land of the living for a specific reason. These reasons can include improper funeral rites; a lack of any kind of burial; murder where the body is missing or improperly buried; or to resolve some unfinished business.
The appearance of ghosts of the departed, even those of loved ones, is rarely considered a welcoming experience. The dead are supposed to remain in their own land and not expected to return to the world of the living. When such an event does occur, it is a sure sign that something is terribly wrong. Those who experience a spiritual encounter are expected to take care of the problem in order for the ghost to return to its proper place. This understanding is so prevalent that ghost stories can be found, with very similar themes across many cultures.
In various cultures, the spirits of the dead can benefit the living unless they are given improper burial rites. The Hungry Ghost Festival, which originated to honour and appease the dead, continues to be held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the year. Known as the "Ghost Month", this time is thought to be when the veil between the realm of the living and that of the dead is thinnest and the dead can easily cross over. So that’s why during the ghost festival, you see people leaving out food and gifts for the dead in the hope that they will be appeased and not bother the living.
Do you know a Spooky Place in Singapore?
There are many locations in Singapore that are thought to be haunted. Here, we highlight two locations that are considered to have high spook factor:
Changi Old Beach Houses
On paper, this place seems like a good idea. Need a break from hectic work life? Renting a house near the beach would be the perfect getaway. However, you might be in for something a little more sinister. People have reported feeling like they were stared at and some have even returned home with scars. Others have also complained about doors creaking open and shut non-stop, and at night, witnesses claim to have heard a woman wailing. Changi Beach was used as the site of the infamous Sook Ching massacre during WWII. It is rumoured that the souls of the innocent slain continue to roam the beach, weeping and wailing in the night. Passers-by also claim to have spotted bloodstains on walls.
EVERYBODY has heard the horror stories from Pulau Tekong. Boys, you share them in your bunks and then do not sleep at night. Girls, you hear them from your male friends and thank your lucky stars for the comfort of your own homes. The most frequently-told tale is that of a young man for Charlie Company who went for his 16km route march and got separated from the pack. He was later discovered by his platoon commander with all his insides laid out next to his body. Beds in the recruit's former bunk often shake for no reason and some people even report hearing his voice at night. Apparently, a third door was built in the bunk to let his spirit out but he continues to roam the bunkers.
Houseflies. They are everywhere and anywhere.
Believed to be native to Asia, houseflies now inhabit nearly every corner of the globe. Except for Antarctica and a few islands, houseflies live everywhere people do. Houseflies are synanthropic organisms: they benefit ecologically from their association with humans and domesticated animals. Conversely, houseflies are rarely found in the wilderness or in places where humans are absent. Should humankind cease to exist, houseflies might share our fate.
They procreate anywhere too, as and when they wish, laying their eggs even in feces. Their rate of reproduction is so fast that, if not for environmental conditions and predation, houseflies would perhaps rule the world.
Houseflies breed in the things we revile - garbage, animal dung, sewage, human excrement, and other nasty substances. While living among these filth, they feed on them too. With sponge-like mouth-parts, houseflies soak up liquefied substances. When a housefly locates something tasty but solid, it regurgitates onto the food. Its vomit contains digestive enzymes that quickly predigest and liquefy the food for the fly suck it all up.
Other than its gross vomits, houseflies poop a lot too. Nearly every time a housefly lands, it defecates. So, the housefly almost always does poop where it eats. Keep that in mind next time when one touches down on your favourite meal...
Something to ponder
1. How do houseflies decide something is appetising?
2. How do houseflies transmit diseases?
They step on it! Like butterflies, houseflies have their taste buds on their toes, so to speak. Taste receptors, called chemosensilla, are located at the far ends of the fly's tibia and tarsa (in simpler terms, the lower leg and foot). The moment they land on something of interest – your garbage, a pile of horse manure, or perhaps your lunch – they start sampling its flavour by walking around.
Houseflies thrive in places that are teeming with pathogens, hence they have a bad habit of carrying disease-causing agents with them from place to place. A housefly will land on a pile of dog poop, inspect it thoroughly with its feet, and then fly over to your picnic table and walk around on your hamburger bun for a bit. Their food and breeding sites are already overflowing with bacteria, and then they vomit and defecate on them to add to the mess. Houseflies are known to transmit at least 65 diseases and infections, including cholera, dysentery, giardiasis, typhoid, leprosy, conjunctivitis, salmonella, and many more.
Major reforms to Singapore's education system were announced in parliament recently, most notably the abolishment of streaming by 2024, towards a system of Subject-based Banding (SBB). What will this mean for parents and students?
From the commentary that we have sampled, a most significant drawback of streaming is how it unwittingly punishes academically weaker students through labelling and stigmatisation. The new system of SBB will blunt this negative effect but not eradicate it, because while streaming is now less overt, it is but masked under the subject classifications G1-3.
We expect it will be quite challenging for schools to deliver on this new policy: there are time-table issues, and teachers having to juggle multiple levels within the same class, to say the least. Administrative and logistical issues can disrupt lesson delivery and the learning process in the classroom, because every system operates within limits that are made even more acute by the burdens it must bear.
There is an upside to this, though: mixing up of students of different bands, if managed properly, can be very conducive for learning. In perforating that cultural and social divide between 'weaker' and 'stronger' students, weaker students are motivated to do better when they see that the stronger students are human just like them; stronger students are pushed to excel lest they rest on their laurels. For both groups, their horizons are broadened. Anxious parents might feel more assured if their children have a one-track mind and focus on academic excellence -- but life is a long race, and its challenges, multi-faceted. In a well-managed multi-band classroom, students could pick up a more holistic spread of personal and social skills that will serve them well in life.
Moreover, unlike streaming which is very much fixed, SBB seems to offer flexibility – chances for mobility within the subject bands means that a student's education pathway is now less determined by the system than his or her own choices and commitment. For late bloomers, and those who desire to do better, they will have more chances to make good.
That said, the core of education and learning has not changed. In whatever way the education system is tweaked, the fundamental truth remains that learning happens and is determined at the level of the individual. For instance, the system may label a student – this is an operational matter. It is up to the student to not let the label define him and get in the way of what he must do: to be educated.
At Creative Campus, we focus on building the individual. The education system is not tailored to the individual, teachers at school may be over-burdened, and even good schools can be 'bad' as the case may be; but the student with the motivation and skills to learn, can prevail over these factors, and do all right. We teach English only – language is the conduit of thought, and through our programme, children learn to be curious, to imagine, analyse and express themselves with clarity and perspective. Regardless of the stream or band, this core ability makes the effective difference in one's education.
The following is the essay question from the 2018 PSLE English Paper 1, according to feedback from several of our students and other sources.
Write a composition of at least 150 words about teamwork. The pictures are provided to help you think about the topic. Your composition should be based on one or more of these pictures. Consider the following points when you plan your composition.
You may use the points in any order and include other relevant points as well. [* The three pictures given include a trophy; a group of students cooking; and several students gathering around, looking at a laptop.]
The topic was expected and the pictures were equally relatable. After all, all students need to do is to choose at least one picture and tell a story about how it relates to teamwork. However, merely doing so will give students an average grade. Delving deeper and handling the essay with a better perspective is what differentiates average students from the crème de la crème.
The trick to rise above the competition is to do one or more of the following:
On the one hand, schools tend to play the safe card for a major exam such as the PSLE. Hence, students are generally encouraged to write a narrative essay in the PSLE. The competition heats up with this approach, since the way to break the 35-mark barrier would be to:
On the other hand, students should be equipped to approach the PSLE essay. At Creative Campus, while we prepare the students on how to approach the topic differently, we also harness their personal voice to develop a plot that is unique to them. The focus on techniques, rather than staid model essays, will gear them to attempt any topic with ease, and in the process, stand out from their peers.
On the first week of 2019, students at Creative Campus were taught how to handle the PSLE 2018 question effectively. Should you be interested to receive a sample copy of the notes, click the button below to view and download.
If you're viewing the worksheet on a mobile device, click the download icon to save the file.
PSLE English Paper 1 2019: A Post-Mortem
Many giants in the food and beverage industry have started to reduce or completely eliminate the use of plastic straws in their establishments. One such company is Starbucks, which has vowed to ban plastic straws in all its stores worldwide by 2020.
The movement started to gain traction in 2015, when a video showing a sea turtle suffering because of a straw stuck in its nose went viral. This has led to the widespread movement against plastic straws, with celebrities like Ellen Pompeo and Neil DeGrasse Tyson backing the #StopSucking movement on social media.
However, while conservationists laud the move for the awareness it creates, they are also skeptical about the positive impact on the environment this movement actually creates. Scientists have found that while there are approximately 7.5 million plastic straws strewn across beaches in the US, nearly 9000 kilograms of plastic end up on coastlines worldwide. Read more here!
1. Should the effort spent on reducing plastic straw usage be invested In cutting plastic in other ways?
2. Has human impact on the earth been a positive one?
Another year of GP-grind is over and the general consensus has been that both Papers 1 and 2 were ‘ok’ except for the slightly surprising Application Question.
Once again, my students who sat for the A Levels 2018 hail from different JCs. Several students had been under my tutelage since Primary 5--that’s practically half their young lives! Hence, it goes without saying that this bunch is particularly dear to me.
I will miss many of the unique personalities who spent Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons with me, especially the vibrant few who gave me acutely perceptive essays and evaluations. It’s been a wonderful run with this lot. I know each has been invested in his or her learning and worked hard to see improvements, even at the Prelim exams.
Paper 1 was a fair paper offering a good range of topics and themes for candidates to choose from.
The more accessible questions are Q 1, 2, 5, 7 and 9.
The key to acing the GP essay is in the candidate’s evaluation and analysis of criteria and issues related to the question asked. Hence, those who merely listed factors and/or went about essay topics in a 'pros and cons' manner would have presented limited arguments. These scripts would not score well in their content.
The following made their maiden appearances this year:
Q3. In an age of rapid technological advancement, is a single career for life realistic?
While technology is a favourite and popular topic for exam-setters and students alike, this year, the link to the idea of a single career is new.
Q6. Do handicrafts still have value when machine-produced goods are readily available?
A narrower topic than the more oft-asked questions surrounding traditions, culture and traditional skills.
Q9. Is pressure a motivating force or a cause for unhappiness?
The question presents ‘pressure’ as a new version of its more popular cousin ‘competition’.
Paper 2 comprised a single passage on millennials across ‘rich worlds’ failing to vote. Most found the Comprehension Short Questions and Summary manageable. The ‘curveball’ was the Application Question which, according to feedback from several of our students and other sources, is framed as follows:
The author argues that “Whilst they are most interested in issues and causes that they are given credit for, are better educated than past generations, are more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and are less keen on drugs and alcohol, millennials seldom establish the habits that inclined their parents to vote.”
To what extent do you agree with the author’s view, based on the experiences of you and your peers in your society.
The unusual wording of the AQ stumped students momentarily. For the first time at GP, the AQ was framed around a quote instead of the usual requirement of students picking arguments from the passage to evaluate their relevance and applicability to their society.
However, once they got past the initial bafflement, students knew to respond to the AQ by evaluating their agreement or disagreement to the quoted assertion, and citing at least one other argument from the passage to support their evaluations.
Some learning points from the experience:
One of the key questions that my students asked me was whether they were right to quote and address another of the writer’s arguments beyond the sentence quoted in the question.
My personal take is that students should indeed bring in another point from the passage rather than solely address the point(s) quoted in the question. Otherwise, is it no different from a run-of-the-mill discursive essay question framed around a quote? After all, the difference between an AQ and an essay question is that the former requires students to apply the writer’s arguments to their social circumstances. The key qualifier is that the additional quote or argument introduced in their AQ response must be relevant to the issue(s) raised in the statement quoted in the question.
In fact, the statement cited tweaked the focus of the AQ to something more manageable for students [by itemising the key issues they should address] since a standard AQ would have been on the voting habits and behaviour of millennials, which some candidates might have found to be more challenging.
This year, the AQ cued students on addressing certain issues more specifically. Good scripts should evaluate these issues, citing independent evidence and, where possible, bring in additional points of the author’s from the passage. Any links made to voting habits is a plus.
First, students can address the first issue quoted in the question: millennials being ‘most interested in issues and causes that they are given credit for’.
1) Evaluation: Millennials’ actions are driven by credit or acknowledgement received, as opposed to genuine empathy or belief in the cause/issue. This suggests that millennials are reward-focussed and hence, lacking sincerity.
2) Intuitively, this seems relevant and applicable to SG because:
3) However, students can qualify their agreement, citing the growing trend of numerous Singaporean millennials who are harnessing the power of the Web and social media to make a difference.
General Paper 2017: A Post-Mortem
General Paper 2019: A Post-Mortem
Second, students can address the next assertion that millennials are “better educated than past generations, are more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and are less keen on drugs and alcohol.”
1) Evaluation: It is true that because they are better informed and knowledgeable, millennials tend to pick and choose their causes and interests according to personal preferences and interests.
2) Students can then cross reference the author’s argument in para 8 on how political commitment can be built in school. He asserts that “teenagers who experienced democracy first-hand during their studies are more likely to vote afterwards...Yet, schools and governments, wary of accusations of politicising the classroom, may shy away from such programmes” that involve open discussions and debates.
Finally, students can take on the point that millennials “seldom establish the habits that inclined their parents to vote.”
1) The author further attributes [para 3, lines 30-32] parents’ committed actions to their attachment to their communities.
2) Evaluation: This sense of rootedness makes the older generation more concerned and involved with how their homes and communities are run. Conversely, millennials are marrying and having families much later on in live, with some choosing never to settle down in the conventional/traditional way their parents did.
3) This is true in SG as evidenced by falling birthrates and more single women. This is mainly attributable to females receiving equal opportunities and access to education and careers, and compounded by the rising costs of living which makes financially supporting a family more difficult than in the past generations.
Fewer births but more singles-- ”...more Singapore women are in tertiary educational institutions than men... Getting married is no longer a necessity," said Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research. Other reasons include long work hours, the high cost of living and a relatively long wait for Housing Board flats, said experts.
Given the 30 minutes assigned for the AQ, students should look at handling 2 out of the 3 above points of argument.
By limiting or qualifying agreement of relevance of the authors' arguments, a candidate fulfils the 'extent' or 'how far do you agree' aspect of the question.
Our J1 students have already started preparing hard for General Paper 2019. We take a break from lessons until January 2019. I look forward to more intellectual sparring and argumentation with my students in the new year!~Contributed by Geraldine Chew [Ms] 14 November 2018
1. CAN'T FAULT HIM
A little boy in my infant class came to school and told me he could spell his mum’s name. “M-U-M,” he said proudly. Before I could congratulate him, another little boy said excitedly, “That’s how you spell my mum’s name too!”
2. FAST & FURIOUS
A turtle was walking down a dark alley when he was mugged by a gang of snails. A police detective came to investigate and asked the turtle if he could explain what happened. The turtle looked at the detective with a confused look on his face and replied, “I don’t know, it all happened so fast.”
3. MAN V. WOMAN
My newly retired husband was watching as I went about my daily routine. I vacuumed, cleaned, ironed and sorted the laundry, and after making us both a cup of coffee, I sat down. Hubby looked at me thoughtfully. Has he finally realised he could help, I wondered?
My hopes were dashed when he said, “Isn’t it wonderful how you always find ways to keep yourself so busy.”
When a teacher asked my six-year-old why his handwriting wasn’t as neat as usual, he responded, “I’m trying a new font.”
A man approaches a very beautiful woman in a large supermarket and says, “I’ve lost my wife in the aisles. Would you mind talking to me for a couple of minutes?”
“Why?” the woman replies.
“Because every time I speak to a pretty lady, my wife appears out of nowhere.”
6. BIRDS OF FEATHER
A football coach called out the new member saying, "Look, I'm not supposed to have you on this team because you failed your mathematics but we really do need you to play for us. What I'll do is ask you one simple maths question and if you answer it correctly I'll sign a slip to say that you've passed maths, OK?'
The player nodded. "Right" said the coach: "What's four plus four?" The player wrinkled his forehead and thought for a while, then replied, "Eight!"
Immediately all the other team members shouted," Aw, come on coach. Give him another chance!"
7. OLD GENERATION
While he was visiting, my father asked for the password to our Wi-Fi.
“It’s taped under the modem,” I told him.
After three failed attempts to log on, he asked, “Am I spelling this right? T-A-P-E-D-U-N-D-E-R-T-H-E-M-O-D-E-M?”
A man is drinking with his wife when out of the blue he announces, "I love you."
"Is that you or the beer talking?" she asks.
"It’s me," he says, "talking to the beer."
On the one hand, the personal slant makes it easier for the student to surface points from their experiences (and content can take on a more analogous/ anecdotal perspective). A more personal voice and informal tone also seem permissible.
On the other hand, however, students might fall into the trap of using less elegant expression. Thus, it might be harder to score well in the language marks. Content can also be more superficial because of the less formal way each question has been framed.
However, the content to each essay topic has the potential to be elevated and the student who structures and expresses his ideas more eloquently will stand apart from the masses.
This week, we conducted the lesson with our students on how to competently answer these essay questions. Should you be interested to receive the notes, click the button below to view and download.
If you're viewing the worksheet on a mobile device, click the download icon to save the file.
Click on each student's name to view their survey responses.
Bryan is Creative Campus' very experienced administrative executive who has helped countless parents with their queries. So, why not put him to the test?
A Few Words About The Directors
Creative Campus embodies two teachers’ shared vision of the ideal learning environment; an ideal that has been honed over 20 years of collaboration. Directors, Ms Geraldine Chew and Mrs Elizabeth Yeo, were the pioneer teachers of The Learning Lab. Together, they have been instrumental in training the pioneering stable of teachers at the Lab and developing its English curriculum.
‘O’ Levels English Paper 1 2019: A Post-Mortem