Current affairs have always been a key feature of our curriculum. In our experience, discussing topical issues can boost students' critical thinking skills and make learning more fun. Creative Campus has been able weave current affairs into our lessons across all levels. This can be done even for critical years. News stories have been incorporated into the oral communication section of the P6 course. We are committed to helping our students stay up-to-date with the big issues because we believe that this will enable them to stay relevant in the new economy.
The following is a sample P6 lesson which demonstrates how current affairs can be tied in with PSLE needs. Preparing for PSLE Orals can be be a fun learning process. Students in the Essay and Oral Writing programme are given five minutes to respond to a news feature.
Topic 1: Singaporean Comic Wins International Prize
A Singaporean artist's graphic novel has topped the list of nominations for the Eisners, the Oscars of of the comic book world. Sonny Liew tells the BBC about the challenges he faced in making the book, which has been criticised by the Singaporean government for "potentially undermining" its authority.
1. What might be the benefits of reading comics? Would you recommend that children read comics?
Reading comics helps and trains us to visualise the picture according to the story. Comics also tell the story in a very simple way, allowing us to understand it better.
No, I would not recommend that children read comics because I feel that young children should be exposed to proper stories which teach them to write with good phrases and good expressions, and also to give reasons, a beginning, problem, and ending of a story.
Reading comics is a bit like watching television, since there are pictures and a picture tells a thousand words. I recommend that children read only age-appropriate and grammatically-correct comics.
The content of the comics have to be appropriate for children or it may scar them since some adult comics are very graphic. If the comics are not grammatically correct, the children reading them may start speaking poor English and using slangs more often.
2. Would you pursue a career in the arts or a sport? Why or why not?
I would pursue a career in the arts because I am musically-inclined and have the passion for it. Hence, I also thoroughly enjoy myself when I do anything related to music. I attend music classes which serve as training for my music, and when I want to pursue a career, it would be much easier for me to do something that I have had training in. In a nutshell, I would pursue a career in the arts as I have been having music lessons since young and love doing music.
I would pursue a career in the arts. I would like to become an author when I grow up. I enjoy reading a lot and I find writing a book lets me express my feelings and opinions about the world. Thus, I would like to become an author.
Last week, our secondary students were asked to read the following article and respond to the writer’s opinion [7-12 Nov 2016].
BOWIE, PRINCE AND A NOTE TO (BAFFLED?) MILLENNIALS BY AJ HARTLEY
In paragraph 4: Hartley states that in the past “the culture around pop music was positively tribal…The bands you listened to…it was about who you wanted to be, what you wanted to stand for…Music was life. It was identity.” In contrast, “there are so many more forms of easily accessible pop culture available today that music doesn’t have the exclusive force that it used to.” One of the questions we asked our students is if they agree with Hartley’s suggestion that the music one listens to can represent and mould one’s identity?
A Model Response, adapted from Dylan Lim’s essay [age 15], a student at Creative Campus
Firstly, I feel that the bulk of twenty-first century music merely entertains, conveying little meaning. Current songs aim to have catchy tunes and good rhythm, which allow the listener to simply enjoy and relax.
However, these songs rarely hold any deep meaning and usually comprise superficial repetitive lyrics. Selena Gomez’s Kill them with Kindness is an apt example — the chorus repeats the title five times.
Moreover, the more popular artists focus heavily on dubstep and electronic noises in their music, to the exclusion of meaningful lyrics.
For example, Kyga and The Chainsmokers compose mainly dubstep or electronic songs. Even in the few songs they have composed that contain lyrics, the lyrics hold absolutely no meaning, such as in The Chainsmokers’ Let me take a selfie.
However, there is a subset of modern music that advocates meaningful messages quite effectively. With all the strife in our world, some artists create music to respond to these pertinent issues in our communities.
Some explore discrimination while others respond to current events. Two good examples will be Michael Jackson’s Heal the world, which touches on conflicts stemming from discrimination, and the Black Eyed Peas’ Where is the love, which was released after the September 11 disaster. It was released again in light of the recent Paris bombings.
In response to AJ Hartley’s piece, I do agree that music greatly defined one’s identity in the past. Most fans of a certain genre rarely listened to another music genre. It almost resembled a form of discrimination, or a boycott of any foreign music.
For example, an R&B fan would mostly steer away from jazz or rap music, which was primarily listened to and composed by the African American community. In the past, fans also involved themselves in the various traditions that accompanied each music culture.
For example, one could identify a loyal rock fan by their long hair and exaggerated fashion sense. In comparison to the present, which music industry is dominated by tunes composed chiefly to entertain, I do feel that music played a more significant role in the past; it was key to a sense of identity for many.
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TOPIC: Write Music Video Review on Ok Go’s The Writing's on The Wall
You cannot help but be left slack-jawed and absolutely amazed after watching Ok Go’s The Writing on The Wall. The quirky representation of the song through the use of optical illusions is a welcome and lively twist that makes this video extremely memorable.
Although some viewers may be left slightly disorientated by the spinning camera shots in the later half of the video and befuddled by the optical illusions, the video scores on its clever use of perspective and illusions, and on its cohesiveness with the song’s main message.
The song’s primary message is that a couple is breaking up due to a growing distance between them. However, the speaker still wishes to end the relationship on a high note. This difference in perspective of the estranged couple is made all the more apparent by the use of optical illusions in the video.
Viewed from a certain angle, it may seem as though the band member is floating on thin air against a patterned background. When the camera angle shifts, you see that he is actually standing on the ground. Another example would be the words “I think I understand you” painted on a wall. Again, it is reduced to incoherent lines and fragments when the camera angle shifts.
The video comprises a string of fun and intriguing optical illusions which clearly illustrate the difference which each person’s perspective makes. It literally goes from a perfectly understandable sentence to a scrawl, demonstrating the differences in opinions and perspectives between this couple. This very visual and amusing representation of the song’s message makes the video highly enjoyable.
If you were to mute the video, the visuals alone create a joyful, almost whimsical wonderland and an exuberant atmosphere with its quirky illusions and colourful props. However, accompanied by the somewhat despondent and resigned melody, it combines to create an interesting experience for the viewer.
On the one hand, a break up is eminent, but you are chuckling away heartily at the antics and illusions. Although the main message of both video and song is sad, you thoroughly delight in it. This contrast further serves to bring out the contradiction in the message, that the parties want to have fun and be happy even in their last days as a couple. It not only allows you to see and hear its message, but feel the song’s intent as well.
All in all, it is a thoroughly enjoyable music video with a delightful twist of whimsy that very effectively brings out its main message.
~Lynn Hong, At Age 15
"The lyrics of the song speak about being in a relationship knowing that breakup is imminent and unavoidable. Lynn's review was particularly incisive in conveying the sense of order and chaos; and her appreciation of the video’s predominant play on optical illusions."
She felt herself relax as her fingers flew over the polished white keys of her expensive grand piano.
“Jessica!” She jerked to attention again as her piano teacher tapped her sharply on the small of her back.
“Sit up straight!”
Jessica nodded and smiled at her piano teacher. The piano teacher could not help but smile back too. Nobody could resist one of Jessica’s angelic smiles…
Much later that day, Jessica flopped onto her queen-sized bed, exhausted, with her arms and legs splayed out into what Mother would probably consider an unlady-like pose. Jessica closed her eyes and remembered the times when her parents had no expectations of her and just wanted Jessica to be Jessica. Then, they enrolled her for piano lessons, just for fun, and found, to their absolute delight, that she had a brilliant talent for playing the piano. That was when everything changed. Her parents became more and more demanding of her, until Jessica learned to put on the perfect facade. She learned to smile sweetly at the right time, to apologise when appropriate, and to sit up straight when playing the piano. Even then, her parents wanted more of her. They urged her to enter school competitions, and when she won those, the school competitions turned into inter-school competitions, and then, national competitions. Finally, there she was, taking part in an international competition–and that ultimate performance of her young life was only days away.
D-day arrived all too soon and months of preparation did not seem enough. Staring at the stage that she would soon step on, Jessica felt nausea curl through her entire being. Why had she agree to do this?
“I won’t fail,” Jessica whispered adamantly to herself. She had won competitions before. All she had to do was go up there and play the song she could play in her sleep. It would be easy as pie. Gazing at her parents who had already returned to their seats in the audience, she wished, for the first time in her life, that they were beside her. Her mother waved encouragingly at her and Jessica felt a surge of determination course through her. She could do this.
Her performance was going well and Jessica was sure there were no mistakes, when disaster struck. Jessica’s fingers were flying faster, when they suddenly stumbled and struck the wrong note. The horrible, disharmonious chord made Jessica cringe, but she had to go on. Panic began to course through her, and more and more discordant notes met her ears, hitting her like blows to the gut. Finally, the music ended, and the battered and bruised Jessica pulled herself out of the rubble of her collapsed reputation. Her performance had been ruined. The following hesitant applause sounded like it was coming from underwater. Dragging herself off the stage, Jessica felt tears threatening to fall freely. What would her parents do, now that they knew she was not the perfect girl they had thought she was. She would soon find out.
“Jessica!” She cringed as she heard the familiar voice of her parents. Slowly, she turned, expecting to meet the irate eyes of her parents.
“We’re so proud of you!” They gushed.
“What?” Jessica was stunned.
“You kept on going, despite the mistakes you made. That was mature and very professional!” Her parents beamed at her.
Finally, Jessica understood. She did not need to put on a facade. Her parents accepted her just the way she was.
~excerpted from an essay by Isabelle Tan (Raffles Girls’ Primary School, Primary 6 2015)
How has technology affected the types of relationships that people make?
~ excerpted from an essay by Chang Si Yuan (Raffles Institution, Secondary 4 2015)
Is quantity necessarily less important than quality? Though technology is often accused of making relationships less intimate, it is false to claim that the intimacy of interpersonal relationships is the only thing that matters. Technology has revolutionised how people communicate and create relationships, especially due to the rise of social media, the internet and the dawn of the smartphone. Even if technology has made one’s intimate relationships less personal, it has also equipped individuals to reach many more people than ever before, changing the way people communicate and relate to one another, businesses and their community, where quantity trumps quality, and a lack of the latter is not necessarily a bad thing.
Personal relationships have been affected by developments in technology in the form of shallower communication. Text-based communication, which lacks the emotional depth of face-to-face interaction, is now widespread due to the accessibility of smartphones. Families which end up sending text messages over the dinner table despite the ability to converse verbally are now a common sight. Though the quality of relationships has suffered, the reach and ability to create personal relationships has expanded greatly. Online dating platforms have experienced a revival in popularity in recent times, with applications such as Finder accumulating a massive user base barely months after release. Together with its population of “successful” pairings between individuals, it seems that an increase in reach of communication– which arises from technology– has indeed benefited people in making new relationships.
Technology has also changed the way people interact with businesses and the economy, giving companies more productive workers and even more active patrons. Especially due to developments in the smartphone technology, people are now more connected than they have ever been. Employees can be mobilised to work by the delivery of one text message, due to the omnipresence of a mobile phone signal, not to mention the fact that the internet allows workers to collaborate with others despite geographical boundaries. A lack of depth in relationships has its benefits, such as how the lack of emotion in a text-based message can lead to heightened productivity, without employees being preoccupied with personal sentiments and unclear communication which arise from verbal communication. Even the relationship between corporations and its customers has changed, with companies being able to reach wider audiences via internet advertising, and customers being able to send feedback to economic entities and allowing them to make improvements on products and services– such as how an online petition from students persuaded a Mexican restaurant to serve free water. As such, new relationships shaped by technology with a lack of quality in communication and a wider reach can benefit businesses and the people around them.
The introduction raises a refreshing stance on the impact of technology on relationships today. Clear thesis statement too.
The first body paragraph raises a popular counterargument on how technology impacts the depth of relationships.
The second paragraph takes on the issue of relationships in commerce.
Linguistically, the essay is written incisively and with clarity.
“Hey! Ian Aloysius Chua! Come back here now! And stop running!” I hollered while chasing after my best buddy. It was my Show and Tell presentation that Monday morning and I wanted… no, I needed Ian to dress up as a chicken. He, of course, had refused me flatly. There was only one way to get Ian to comply. I threatened to tell our teacher, Mr Soh, that Ian had bullied me previously (actually he did not, but I was feeling mean that day). Ian shot me a disapproving look but finally relented reluctantly. He dragged himself into the washroom to change into the chicken suit I had bought.
“It would be such fun,” I clapped with glee, ignoring the huge sulk on Ian’s face.
“Deston Kang!” Mr Soh’s voice boomed in the classroom minutes later. I was next to present the topic on “My Favourite Animal”. I stood up in front of the class and dragged Ian onto the small platform. He seemed really grumpy. Initially, as I was introducing myself, I kept stealing glances at Ian. He was constantly rolling his eyes and did not seem pleased. Everyone kept laughing at him. I elbowed Ian and hissed. Ian sighed, then started clucking away and walking around the classroom.
It was a riot! The whole class started shrieking and the girls squealed with delight. Surprisingly, I spotted a smile play on Ian’s lips. Even though beads of perspiration formed on his forehead after circling the class several times, I could tell that Ian was beginning to enjoy himself. He was a natural…
~ excerpted from an essay by Deston Kang (Ai Tong School, Primary 4 2015)
In the context of social media platforms, comment on the phrase 'oversharing does not equate to honesty'.
~ excerpted from Girvan Tay’s essay (Raffles Junior College, Year 6 2015)
In this technology-enabled day and age, our news feeds are constantly bursting with new posts, opinions, images and the like; yet for the most part, there exists a facade to establish a veneer of happiness and acceptability, sometimes masking a more sinister depression beneath the visages of smiles and cheerful posts. While oversharing, to some extent, does eventually result in greater honesty, it is a more prevalent phenomenon that oversharing does not equate to honesty, due to its masking of the truth on the part of readers and the possible applications available to establish a false image.
The argument exists that oversharing can open the doors to greater honesty. Social media, by its definition, is user-generated, user-regulated media which is policed by an extensive—potentially global–audience. As such, owing to the fact that there are numerous individuals reading and evaluating one’s posts, dishonesty is (theoretically) called out more quickly. This, in turn, can pave the road for greater honesty. Oversharing–or the act of sharing a sizeable chunk of personal information online–is thus compelled by such forces to become a more truthful act, as the more one posts, the more one’s deception can be quickly detected. This can be seen in the example of the debacle involving Amy Cheong, the NTUC executive who was punished severely for one racist remark on her social networking page. Communal policing is thus, to a large extent, effective in quickly seizing the underlying thoughts and opinions that people share online and punishing them for it, should requital be necessary. Moreover, a private US security contractor recently announced that it is developing software to detect variations across an individual’s posts to determine a person’s true intentions and affiliations. This is something which technological moguls such as Facebook or Google can use to customize interfaces for users. Evidently, the more posts one has online, the more one is likely to slip up and reveal his true nature, or similarly, express their true underlying affiliations and thoughts–which can be red-flagged and called out. As such, the individual is compelled to become more truthful, and only post what he truly thinks or feels, in order to avoid unwanted attention or consequences–or avoid posting at all–hence, making for a more truthful nature of posts online.
Yet, this argument fails to acknowledge the darker, more insidious nature of social media –that it defines who you are in the eyes of others. A study conducted in the United Kingdom revealed that nearly 60% of teenagers get their first impression of others from the posts on their Facebook page, and increasingly, employees and college admission boards too preview the social media profiles and posts of candidates. Faced with such scrutiny, the motivation to lie, to construct an embellished image of oneself is much higher than what optimists might think, to the extent that people are willing to spend time and effort churning out a slew of carefully manipulated posts in order to boost the image others have of them. This is seen in a recent US-based study which highlights that out of the plethora of happy posts online, there are nearly twice as many sad incidents in these individual’s lives. A Singaporean study by the Nanyang Technological University also revealed that most teenagers rigorously filter and edit their posts online to convey the best possible image of themselves, with ‘sad’ or genuine posts constituting a mere 13% of our news feeds. Evidently, the act of oversharing does not necessarily equate to increased honesty. The instances cited highlight the prevalence of individuals doctoring their posts to show the more favourable versions of themselves. Oversharing one’s opinions and thoughts therefore does not equate to honesty.
In conclusion, while dishonesty on social media may occasionally be weeded out, for the most part, the fact that social media is now the go-to platform to learn more about individuals and news, and that people often feel pressured to abide by the optimistic trends that keep such media ‘social’, make the act of oversharing not only inconsistent with honesty, but can also motivate people to be dishonest online.
Cogently written with clearly expressed arguments.
Good use of varied but concrete evidence to support writer’s assertions.
Passive sentences are sometimes used by students in their essays in an attempt to vary their sentence structure. However, this can often lead to rather confusing sentences where it is unclear what is actually happening in the statement. Hence, especially for younger writers, students should strive to simplify their statements by using active and direct constructions.
Avoid: The bag was stolen by the robber who was chased by the lady.
Instead, consider: The lady chased the robber who had stolen her bag.
This way, there is less ambiguity about the actions being done and to whom the actions were done to.
Try changing these sentences to active ones
1. The ice-cream was eaten by the monster
2. Many games were played by the girls, and many prizes were won by them.
Scroll down the page for the answers.
Therefore, students should be mindful when using the passive voice and, as far as possible. use the active voice in their writing . If you have not subscribed to our monthly newsletter chock full of English titbits and news discussion prompts, sign up at the bottom of the page today!
For those who are already subscribed, why not try your hand at rewriting the paragraph below, for a start?
Task: Convert the uninspired paragraph below and bring a sense of action using the active voice.
An objective survey of the scene before Sam necessitated the conclusion that escape was all but impossible. Sam’s gun was drawn closer to his chest, not that much relief was brought to him. Still, in moments of peril, one can only clutch at anything that conveys a sense of safety. Suddenly, shots were fired by the enemy. Sam thought instinctively that it was then or never.
· Passive sentence structures tend to place the object of the sentence at the beginning.
E.g. “The noodles were eaten by me” rather than “I ate the noodles”.
· In rewriting the paragraph, aim to put the subject and verb in the beginning of the sentences.
E.g. Daniel threw the paper away is preferable to “The paper was thrown away by Daniel.”
Sam surveyed the scene before him. He realised that there would be no escape, and drew the gun closer to his chest. It did not bring much relief, but in moments of peril, a false sense of security was better than none. Just then, the enemy fired shots and Sam instinctively ducked for cover.
Compare the original and the improved version. Did you notice that when you use the active voice, you convey a sense of action and movement? Conversely, when sentences are predominantly in the passive voice, did you feel like the story was hardly moving and that the paragraph felt more like an information dump?
Answers for Mini Exercise:
1. The monster ate the ice-cream.
2. The girls played many games and won many prizes.
I hope you've enjoyed trying the exercises!