The tips which I am about to suggest may seem perfectly simple, even frivolous but it works.
For the Secondary 1 English paper, the paper is a major hurdle. It is a big break from Primary 6 writing. Those who are in Secondary 1 should be prepared to accept some changes.
Tip #1: Never use the primary composition style of writing
Make sure that you are prepared to revolutionize your writing style by 180 degrees.
What do I mean by that?
Well, it’s quite simple. When you write for a paper where the topics revolve around Reflective and Personal Recount writing which expects you to expound on a moral or value, you have to make sure that you have a good style to follow.
The first rule of thumb in writing is that you should write a template or a rough mind map before you start.
Most teachers or tutors would have taught you how to organise your composition into sections. Each section or paragraph should have a PEEL format. The acronym is Point, Evidence, Elaboration and Link back.
This keeps the composition on track and prevents you from being too simple in your writing. For narrative or reflective, it may be difficult to write the “evidence” portion so substitute that with an anecdote or two.
If you follow this rule of organising, your Secondary 1 composition will look really different from your primary school composition and there will be depth and sophistication. You will be off to a good start!
Tip #2: The use of anecdotes
I would like to stress that the composition part of the Secondary 1 paper may be quite intimidating to those who stuck to the bare essentials in their primary school composition.
All students need to remember that when you write a narrative/ reflective/ personal recount composition, you may not need evidence but you will need anecdotes which I mentioned at the end in tip number one.
How do I write an anecdote? You may wonder.
That’s not really that difficult but you will need to have some observation skills. Always write about examples of what happened to others which relate to what you are writing about in your Secondary 1 composition.
Eg. If you are writing about overcoming a fear, you may narrate how your fear grew to become oppressive. Then in another paragraph you may write about how a friend of yours overcame a similar fear because he tried really hard with some help.
The addition of an anecdote like this will breathe life into your composition and introduce another narrator’s point of view. It may also act as a balance in your composition as the reader will be able to compare your struggle with his even if it is for a brief moment.
Be sure to introduce the anecdote/ s from the second to the fifth paragraph. The sixth paragraph onwards will be the time to reflect on your outcome and reflection.
Tip #3: Work on your vocabulary skills
I have mentioned in my previous blogs that having good vocabulary skills will be a wonderful asset in writing. Well, I have to mention that again. When you are in Secondary 1, you will be induced to write in the same style as in Primary 6.
The first way to break away from that style is to inculcate some sophisticated words which may have almost the same meanings as the words you tend to use. Always aim for maturity and sophistication. You may learn about 20 such words at first. At Wizpals, we tend to teach vocabulary skills all the time.
Other tuition centres such as Eduscore which has a sound background in teaching Secondary 1 students also does a sound job of ensuring that students learn these much-needed new skills in vocabulary.
Make sure you get an early start. Do not wait till too late to start building your Word Bank. They don’t call it “bank” for nothing. It means that you are adding to the reserve so that you may grow your wealth of words for your exams.
Never neglect your vocabulary bank. It is the best way to ensure that you maintain a higher standard in Secondary 1 which will be expected of you.
Tip #4: Keep yourself updated with the daily news
This tip is meant for those who are naturally squeamish at doing their oral exams. In Secondary 1, you will be expected to speak on environmental or science topics. This will reflect on general knowledge skills.
My advice to you is that you stay afloat in these matters by skimming through the headlines at least of the daily news.
And why not? News can be gripping, exciting, shocking, earth-shattering, alarming but it can never be boring. Since you are already a teenager, isn’t it time for you to start taking an interest in what is going on in the world?
Of course you should. If you only were to take a peek into the goings on in CNN channels or CAN, you will stay riveted to what is going on.
News is current and it can change the dynamics of the world. One wrong move and it can set a ripple effect which can have a disastrous effect on the rest of the world.
And there is no better way to know about that than to get tuned in to one of the major news channels. My favourite ones are CNN, CNA and BBC. What are yours?
Tip #5: Be aware of what’s going on
The last tip which I will offer you today may seem surprising or even unconventional. You may think that I am going to talk about one of the sections in your Secondary 1 papers isn’t it? Well, I am not.
My last tip is a crucial tip but it will help you to get started on your journey to becoming a prolific writer in Secondary 1 if you really want to.
My advice is very simple. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for what is going on. Whether it is in the traditional media like the Straits Times or TV media like CNN, keep up with what is going on. There are many ways to know what is going on other than these 2 ways.
Look out for the way people behave on the streets. Are they more courteous? Do they ignore the rules or follow them during Covid-19 for example? What about social media?
Pay attention to blogs. Look out for YouTube videos which reflect a strong sentiment in our society. Just pay attention and be ‘in the know.’ Pay attention to what your neighbours are doing.
This type of knowledge is priceless. You will be able to use this to write your anecdotes or you may have a sound basis for your Secondary 1 expository writing which you may attempt later.
Knowledge is power! Keep up with what is going on and make sure that you are set to stream right into your Secondary 1 year with grace and ease.