Category Archives for English Essentials

Harry Houdini The Illusionist

Come one, come all and witness the amazing Harry Houdini!
Fill in the blanks with a suitable word. Each word can only be used once.

  • inflammation

  • restrain
  • repertoire
  • break
  • thrilling 
  • theatrical

Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz) was  Hungarian-born American illusionist and stunt performer. He was first noticed in vaudeville, a Q1. ________ genre of entertainment born in France and later became popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until early the 1930s.

Houdini began his career in 1891 but had little success until he began experimenting with escape acts. Three years later, Houdini met his wife and performance partner, Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, or simply known as “Bess”. 

Houdini’s big Q2. ________ came in 1899 where he performed at top vaudeville houses in the country. By 1920, Houdini had appeared in theatres all over Great Britain, performing escape acts and illusions.

He also toured the Netherlands, Germany, France and Russia, becoming widely known as “The Handcuff King”. In each city that he performed in, Houdini would challenge local police to Q3.________ and lock him in jail cells to perform escape routines.

In Moscow, he had escaped from a Siberian prison transport van, claiming that he would have had to travel to Siberia for the key if he was unable to escape. 

From freeing himself from jails to ropes and straitjackets, Houdini began to expand his Q4. ________. This began with escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can.

Possible failure and death was Q5.________ to Houdini’s audience. Such dangerous routines became part of his act, where he would be trapped in nailed packing crates, riveted boilers and even the belly of a whale that had washed ashore in Boston. 

Houdini passed away from peritonitis, the Q6.________ of the linings of abdomen walls, in 1926 and was buried in Machpelah Cemetery.

Answers

  • A1. theatrical
  • A2. break
  • A3. restrain
  • A4. repertoire
  • A5. thrilling
  • A6. inflammation
Recommended

Learn more about our key strategies for boosting our student's grades.

Visit our compilation of other posts related to all things English.

A New Years’ Party: The 5 Senses

A New Years’ Party: The 5 Senses

2021 is here! It’s time to say farewell to 2020 and usher in the new year by celebrating with our loved ones. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you taste? What can you feel?

One of the best ways to describe our surroundings is through the five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. This is collectively known as sensory imagery. Through involving the use of descriptive language to create mental images, the writer is able to engage the reader, making the scene come alive in the mind’s eye. Can you identify the specific sensory word(s) in the phrases below?

Sight:

  • Tungsten lamps painted the room with an orange glow
  • Fairy lights sparkled in hues of blue and red
  • Fireworks shattered into a thousand sparkles against the velvety black sky

Sound:

  • Sudden pop of party poppers
  • Swiftly followed by squeals of excitement and delight
  • The countdown ended with loud tooting and hooting
  • Hot hissing of sparklers
  • Whistling sounds turned into loud spatters of fireworks

Smell:

  • Sweet scent of pork ribs and burning charcoal
  • Aroma of mother’s freshly baked chicken pie

Taste:

  • Saccharine-sweet taste of strawberry custard
  • Freshly baked buttery crust left a sweet yet salty taste in my mouth

Touch:

  • Lush velvety texture of my dress
  • Fizzy soda tickled my tongue
  • "Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!" we cheered with delight as my mother pulled me into a warm embrace

Test Yourself
Exercise 1: Here are some celebratory idioms. Can you explain what they mean?

  • Life and soul of the party
  • Pour cold water on
  • Burning up the dance floor
  • Paint the town red
  • Let your hair down

Exercise 2: Using the party-related sensory imagery and idioms shared above, describe your own New Years’ party!

  • Someone who is very lively and the centre of attention of a party or social gathering
  • Someone who turns an atmosphere cold ; usually puts a dampener on ideas
  • To dance with fervour and enthusiasm
  • To enjoy yourself with flamboyance
  • To relax and behave more freely
Recommended

Learn more about our key strategies for boosting our student's grades.

Visit our compilation of other posts related to all things English.

Improve Your Vocabulary in Creative Writing and Composition

Improve Your Vocabulary in Creative Writing and Composition 

There are many ways to improve your vocabulary. Here are some ways you can hone your word-building prowess:

Part 1: Use Idiomatic Body Parts 

Parts of the body have long featured in how humans express ourselves. Not only do body parts feature heavily in metaphors and idioms alike, there are entire songs dedicated to them! For example, a well-known nursery rhyme goes, "head and shoulders, knees and toes". After all, our bodies and accompanying bodily sensations are the most direct things that we physically experience. Here are some idioms related to body parts:

Head
The head contains the brain, arguably the most important organ in the body. Is it any wonder then that there are a slew of idioms dedicated to the head? Examples you may hear and use in your everyday life include:

  • head start (an advantage)
  • off the top of my head (without careful thought, often due to lack of time)
  • bury one's head in the sand (to ignore an unpleasant reality)

Shoulders
Surprisingly, there are many idioms dedicated to shoulders, which are associated with providing support for one's body. You could...

  • be a shoulder to cry on (someone who listens well to someone's problems)
  • have responsibilities fall on your shoulder
  • give someone the cold shoulder (ignore someone)

Knees... and Toes!
If you bring someone/something to their knees, you have defeated them. What if you're the bee's knees (excellent quality)? There are several more toe-related idioms than knee-related idioms, and these include:

  • toe the line (obey the rules)
  • keep someone on their toes (keep someone alert and prepared)
  • tread on someone's toes (offend someone)

Test Yourself
Can you complete each of the following body part idioms?

Q1. turn a b______ e___
Q2. play by e___
Q3. right u______ one's n____
Q4. up to one's n____
Q5. work one's f_____ to the b____
Q6. b_____f___ in one's s________
Q7. pat on the b____
Q8. b____ of contention
Q9. by the s____ of your t_____
Q10. A______s heel

Answers

A1. turn a blind eye (to sth)
A2. play by ear
A3. right under one's nose
A4. up to one's neck (in sth)
A5. work one's fingers to the bone
A6. butterflies in one's stomach
A7. pat on the back
A8. bone of contention
A9. by the skin of your teeth
A10. Achilles heel

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2... subscribe to our monthly newsletter where we share more tips!

For the Love of Poems and Puns

For the Love of Poems and Puns

Valentine’s Day is smack in the middle of February. As such, some people also call it the Month of Love – including us. To commemorate this lovely fact, this post is dedicated to celebrating the L ♡ V E of what we do best – English!

Have you ever pondered on Valentine’s Day card greetings? While the classic type is oft-adorned with simple, swirling penmanship, fancier cards may feature cut-outs, pop-ups, graphics and the like – providing a pleasant visual surprise for the recipient.

Other cards may be fancy, but the cards that we fancy are those plastered with adorable wordplay – who knew! Be it poetry or puns, linguistic surprises always catch our heart. But how do they work?

Poetry

The romantic nature of poems is a tale old as time – or at least, as old as Shakespeare. Some say that it was Shakespeare’s 154 love sonnets that pioneered the modern conception of poetry as romantic.

Indeed, several of the Bard’s pieces are truly iconic in their description of love. I dare say that many of us are familiar with the first line of Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?”
(Bonus points if you can fill in the next sentence! Answers below)

Because poetry uses both the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, it can be effectively used to convey depth of love for someone or something. Of course, poetry can be flipped onto its head and thought of as
humorous. Case in point? “Roses are red, violets are blue…” (What are the next two lines?)

Puns

While we’re on the topic of humour, let’s not forget puns! Puns, also known by the technical term ‘paronomasia’, are rhetorical devices that intentionally exploit the similarities between words for comedic effect. Many puns rely on linguistic phenomena such as homophones.

(Sidenote: If you were not privy to the January edition of OnCampus, our monthly e-publication, homophones are words with the same pronunciation, but different meanings. You may sign up for future issues of OnCampus on the bottom of this page.]

As you may expect, homophones and near-homophones are a prolific source of Valentine’s puns.
A pun that uses total homophones would be something like “would you be(e) mine?” In this case, ‘be’ and ‘bee’ sound the exact same. This pun is usually accompanied by bee/honey imagery, as in this vintage Valentine’s Day card.

“Would you be(e) mine” graphic:

Image Credit to https://live.staticflickr.com/5557/15189206665_ddc68211bf_b.jpg

Meanwhile, a pun that incorporates near-homophones might be something like “lettuce (let us) romaine (remain) together forever”.

“Lettuce romaine together forever” graphic:

image credit to https://live.staticflickr.com/1569/24575440269_1e6a68d86c_b.jpg

Here, “lettuce” and “romaine” (which are strewn on the ground in this picture) do not have the exact same pronunciation as the intended words, but they are close enough that the reader immediately thinks of the desired meaning behind the statement – “let us remain together forever”.

Near-homophones are more common (and perhaps, more delightful!) in Valentine’s greetings. Here are some of our favourites, for you to share with your loved ones this Valentine’s:

  • You’re soda-lightful (so delightful).
  • You’re the loaf (love) of my life.
  • I love you like no otter (other).
  • You’re one in chameleon (a million)!

And here’s one for the Science kids. Can you figure this out?

  • I sulfur when you _________.

Answers

1. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 begins with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate”

2. The original short poem goes “Roses are red / violets are blue / sugar’s sweet / and so are you”. However, we’ve heard more than one student come up with their own creative stanzas 

3. “I sulfur (suffer) when you argon (are gone)”. Sulfur and argon are
both chemical elements.

Effective Steps To Surviving The IP

Effective Steps To Surviving The IP

Being in the Integrated Programme has its perks – and make no mistake, it is a privilege that students in the IP track have more autonomy to explore academic subjects as they want. That said, this is not a privilege that one should take lightly.

Before you commence on your IP journey, be prepared to make certain tweaks to your mindset. To borrow the words of Dorothy from Wizards of Oz: Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas primary school anymore.

Your Worst Competitor Is...

One might think that in the absence of an entire national exam (the O Levels, typically slated for a student’s fourth year of secondary school), competition between peers would be less stiff. I honestly think that – just like it is outside of the IP scheme – the degree of competition mostly depends on one’s school environment.

My own IP classes were fortunately far from dog-eat-dog, but I did feel a constant pressure to keep up with my peers in the programme. Others may argue that competition in IP is bound to be more tense, given its reputation for being ‘elite’. 

But this post is not about debate. What I can confidently say is that your internal sense of competition is bound to increase, given the entrance requirements and expectations of the IP, no matter the external environment. That is:

  • Your peers will naturally seem more well put-together than you, and you might consequently feel a sense of inferiority.

  • The curriculum will seem way tougher than what you personally think you can handle, and you might consequently feel a sense of inferiority.

You see where I’m going with this? Do prepare for the fact that your worst competitor (AND critic, all rolled into one) might be yourself. 

If you’re struggling in a competitive environment, many will tell you, “don’t compare yourself to others”. I think it’s important to add: if you feel negatively overwhelmed, don’t compare yourself to who you think you should be, or the stage you think you should be at! This brings me to my next point … 

Give Yourself Time and Space

The IP scheme was introduced in 2002 for the express purpose of allowing students “broader learning experiences that would develop their creativity, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and leadership skills” (MOE, 2002). These are soft skills in which progress is often not linear, nor immediately visible. 

  • Don’t let your fear of not being ‘good enough’ inhibit the fun and joy that you’re learning to have
  • Grant yourself enough time to get used to the demands of the programme, which may seem all-too-rigorous at the start.
  • Give yourself space to experiment with new ideas, even if it means you risk making mistakes. The IP allows students more freedom to play around with different aspects of academic thought, so make the best of it.
  • If you’re facing extreme difficulty, talk to your friends or adults you trust. There’s always a way out!

Create your Own Structure

It is no coincidence that many students who leave the IP midway to pursue an alternative path cite the same reason: because the programme gives so much flexibility, structure has to be self-imposed. 

Taking personal responsibility and staying disciplined thus become crucial to surviving the IP. From CCA and leadership positions to the choice of subjects taken, it is you who will be in charge of carving your own path in the programme. 

I remember doing a lot of introspection in the programme, as I had to decide what choices to make on my own. I cannot say that I made the best ones as a carefree teenager, but I genuinely appreciate the freedom of choice which I was given.

When push comes to shove in the sixth (and last) year of the programme, discipline becomes all the more important. One obstacle that I, and many of my friends, experienced was the transition from blithe independence to the ‘now or never’ mindset that teachers started to drive home.

From my experience, friends who had experienced the O-Level crunch – and were therefore used to the levels of discipline necessary for staying on track – were more mentally equipped for the A-Levels. Still, you need not fret so long as you cultivate discipline within freedom.

New Ideas For Learning English

3 Powerful And Effective Skills To Write, Speak And Communicate With Impact

Now that we have hopefully put things into perspective, let’s put them into practice. I have compiled a fresh list of ideas that ideally will inject new life into your English learning.

Keep your ears perked

While I believe that books in their written form are timeless artefacts, they are not the be-all-end-all of language improvement. This is especially so if you are not a learner that thrives on written linguistic stimuli. 

  • Want to read more but prefer auditory input? Try audiobooks! There are many such sites (audiobooks.com ; audible.com) and mobile applications (e.g. Google Play Books) that allow you to access an extensive variety of titles whenever you like.


  • Want to make the most of your commute? If you have earphones, podcasts (or audiobooks, as previously mentioned and informative videos are great for enjoying on the go! TEDTalks or How Stuff Works, which are available both as podcasts or as videos, are tried-and-tested channels that cover an immense number of topics. Feel free to find any channel that you like and will continue enjoying; consistency is after all, key to improvement.

Build your reading stamina 

If your purpose is to excel in school comprehensions and essay writing, I still do suggest that you ensure you have the stamina to understand or write an entire short text. If need be, you can slowly build up your ability to concentrate on texts:

  • Short attention span? Try reading shorter books, like novellas, short story compilations, or poetry collections! They still help you concretise your command of the language, and as a plus – you gain exposure to a more diverse range of writing styles.

  • Read when no one’s looking! Next time you come across an event brochure, advertisement, or any sort of non-conventional media material – pay attention to how its written or laid out, try asking yourself questions about its purpose, and challenge yourself to structure your thoughts into full sentences. This is of course good practice for VTC, but much more importantly – it’s good practice for life! Who knows, maybe you’ll end up wanting to go for the event!

Make conscious effort

Will Smith famously once said, “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready”, and it’s a good motto to prepare for exams by. Once you make conscious effort at the beginning of your learning process, it becomes much easier to keep it a habit. 

  • Make a list. I have been guilty of wondering what a word or phrase means, looking it up once, and then having this entire situation repeat itself the next time I see that particular word or phrase. To combat this endlessly cyclical phenomenon, try keeping a word log of words you don’t know. Collect words from all the compres you’ve had, books you’ve read, and people you’ve met. Look them up, so you’ve a working idea of what the dictionary defines them as. Then…

  • USE THE WORDS! Challenge yourself to write any sentence using those words, or even better – use them in your everyday life. I promise you that they become much harder to forget once they become part of your everyday vocabulary!
  • Connect the dots. After a while, you’ll begin to recognise some patterns between words. A particularly good example of this are word affixes that most people have an intuitive understanding of. Let me give an example:

      dis-: has the sense of negation, like in ‘disbelief’ (not-belief) or ‘dissimilar’ (not similar)


      junction: a common enough word, like in ‘road junction’. We know that it’s “a point where two or more things are joined” (Oxford English Dictionary).


      Hence, if we see the word ‘disjunction’, we can safely assume that it means something ‘not-joined’, which is similar to its dictionary definition: “a lack of correspondence or consistency”.

    dis-: has the sense of negation, like in ‘disbelief’ (not-belief) or ‘dissimilar’ (not similar)

    junction: a common enough word, like in ‘road junction’. We know that it’s “a point where two or more things are joined” (Oxford English Dictionary).

    Hence, if we see the word ‘disjunction’, we can safely assume that it means something ‘not-joined’, which is similar to its dictionary definition: “a lack of correspondence or consistency”.

That’s all we have for today. Enjoy the process!

Additional links:

List of audiobooks, available online

List of podcasts suitable for teenagers

More about words

Valuable Tips To Improving English

A FRESH LOOK AT ENGLISH FUNDAMENTALS

Greek mythology tells of a king named Sisyphus, punished by Zeus for an act of deceit. In the story, Sisyphus is eternally tasked to roll an enormous boulder up a steep hill, only to watch helplessly as the boulder inevitably rolls down when it reaches the top. 

Today, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “Sisyphean” as “denoting a task that can never be completed”. A Sisyphean task – this is what I think of when friends and family ask me for quick and easy ways to improve their English.

To me, learning is a life-long process, and few can ensure learning that is both immediate and authentic. I can, of course, do my best to help. 

STICK TO THE BASICS AND GO WIDE

How many of us here have heard that to get better at a language, we have to listen, read, write, and speak? Although these so-called four ‘language skills’ seem simple in theory, many people either under- or overthink them, leading to much spinning of their wheels.

The fact is that neither discounting the practice of fundamental usage skills, nor obsessing over the kind of material to consume, is beneficial towards the learner. All listening, reading, writing, and speaking will be helpful; in fact, the more diverse the content you consume, the better.  

DEVELOP DIVERSITY BY READING ANYTHING KNOWLEDGEABLE 

There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ type of thing to read! When I was younger, literature reigned king, and so I was told to only read books. Today, primary school students take Media Studies, which is “designed to train students to be media literate individuals” (SEAB, 2017).

Indeed, improving our English means being able to understand any text, so that we can critically think about its content or communicate effectively with its author. 

To borrow the words of linguist Wilhem von Humboldt: language is the ‘infinite use of finite means’. English, like any other language, does not draw from a fixed pool of knowledge.

Outside the classroom – which is to say, in the grander scheme of things – English is used in multifarious ways. Reading (and listening, speaking, and writing) diversely is a surefire way to improve without even feeling like you’re trying. It’s like ‘learning by osmosis’!

EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN FOR BETTER RECALL AND MEMORY

I may be biased as a Linguistics major, but delving into the history of language and words is one of my favourite ways to improve. Have you ever looked at a list of irregular verbs and wondered why English grammar was so hard to master?

Have you ever looked at an idiom and questioned how exactly their meaning could differ so drastically from its literal one? Well, your answers lie in history – how English has changed over time. 

This video, for example, explains why irregular verbs even exist:

By looking up how a particularly difficult-to-remember grammar or vocabulary point has evolved over time to be the way it currently is, you equip yourself with a mnemonic device that will concretise your memory further. 

Download Your Free Copy of our Pro Tips for Comprehension, Composition and Cloze Passages

Pro Tips To Help Your Child In The EOYs

This Free Giveaway can be easily viewed on your mobile devices

GP IP Essay Writing Classes

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​​​​​​​​​

  • The video shows how the teacher helps the students get over the fear of an assignment by deconstructing the perceived 'tough' question.
  • One of the goals is to empower students with a structured approach to essay writing. This is done by analysing and breaking down the question. to more manageable bite sizes.
  • We also believe in the value of an interactive, lively class discussion. When steered by an experienced teacher, this can stretch the ability of each student to think more critically about a topic.

Keen to find out more about our GP classes, or classes of other levels (K2, Primary & Secondary) ? Kindly click the Call Now button below and get in touch with our admin representative.

We are happy to answer all your questions on scheduling and how we conduct lessons.

Let’s Tickle Your Punny Bone

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.”

4.NEW-AGE RESPONSE
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.”

5.TRUTH BEWARE
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?”

8. HONESTY
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."

Blog on English Essentials

Hello and welcome to our first of many blogs regarding English enrichment and its many aspects.  We will be talking about many forms and meanings relating to English, ranging from punctuation, pronunciation, spelling, grammar, phonics and a whole lot more.  

English Oral Practice

To start us off, we will begin by looking at oral and pronunciation, and why many students, who are learning English, find it difficult at first.  This is because everybody has an accent from their mother tongue and so can be difficult to lose when learning a new language. Furthermore, certain word soundings will be challenging, but keep practicing, and never give up if you really want to sound like a English native.

Here are three methods for you to try.

  • Arrow Circle Right

    Interacting with a native.

    This is the obvious and best method and will give you that much needed interaction of talking and listening that will be vital.  Subsequently, it will give direct access to an English source in which the person can help with your pronunciation. In addition, they will be able to identify your mispronunciation of words or syllables. If you need further assistance, listening to music or a podcast will definitely be of value.

  • Arrow Circle Right
    Study each word and sound them out.

    At this point, you can begin systematically focusing on specific sounds especially ones that give you the most trouble.  Do not give up and continue to sound them out, going slowly at first so that you accentuate each letter until you have it perfected, then you can speed it up.  Keep everything basic and do not rush ahead of yourself. Start off with small words and then work your way up to the more difficult and structurally longer vocabularies.
  • Arrow Circle Right
    Do you have the appropriate tools at your disposal?  

    Many English students study in one of two ways. Some buy a book and follow it blindly, where others enrol onto a course.  The prior will most likely focus on grammar rather than pronunciation, therefore, it can have major implications on your verbatim skills.  The latter, will offer you so much more in terms of an all rounded experience as you will be encompassed with other students starting off at the same level and a teacher to guide.

Let’s take a look at some words.

Socialisation (so shul iz a shion)

Television (tel a viz ion)

Following (fo low ing)

Pronouncing (pro nown sing)

Weather (weth er)

Internet (in te net)

Condition (con dit shon)

Anomaly (a nom ma lee)

Adding to letters (vowels) together will dramatically change the pronunciation.

ou and ow, gives the “ow” sound.Out, owl.

ea and ee, gives the “ee” sound.Fleeing, seeing, sea.

ie and ei, gives the “ee” sound.Receive, receipt,

oi, gives the oy sound.Choice.

Want To Know More About Our English Enrichment Classes? 
Call Us Today

1 2 3