I recently had a chat with a friend who shared wisely reading and writing should not be seen as "work". How true that is. As one who is in the early childhood industry, I would love for children to have more time to acquire the love for the language naturally and by naturally, I mean to read to and read, many many times over, with them.
Alas, things are somewhat different when children enter mainstream school. Though tests are now called holistic assessments (which are basically tests broken down into bite size assessments and last over a span of 4 – 5 weeks!), end of the day, marks are still given and the papers are still graded. I have previously blogged about my thoughts on composition here.
Creative writing is a skill which needs to be wielded like a sword; to mesh different materials together using a variety of tools and techniques. With Primary 2 being an important year for her (the school will be streaming them into different classes), Dumpling has expressed an interest to learn more and hone her writing skill and we were blessed to have the opportunity to review a Composition Writing Made Easy eCourse by fellow mummy blogger - Hui Ing.
:: The eCourse
This eCourse spans over 8 lessons covering a range of techniques which includes:
- Writing a good introduction
- Describing events and problems
- Creating suspense, etc.
The eCourse is pre-recorded where you will need a working laptop / PC, internet connection and printed course notes. The page / materials are easily available with a simple log in where the each lesson focus is very clearly titled.
What it entails
Each lesson comes with 3 components
- A pre-recorded video clip (which lasts about an average of 8 mins elaborating on each of the topic)
- Comprehensive course notes as well as
- Weekly assignments
Hui Ing, in her videos, reminds the children weekly to print the course notes and have them ready before she starts. The files for the weekly course are all in PDF where it maps back to the videos and the students makes the connection with the video viewed and attempts the questions on the spot.
(The above are all discussed in the video and Dumpling would pause the video to fill in the blanks)
So basically, for each lesson, the children are to watch a video, complete the notes and then work on their weekly submissions and then submit the work. Submission can be via a scanned PDF file / good quality jpeg file. The turnaround time for Hui Ing is 3 working days.
:: Our assignment
Dumpling is not familiar with the new PSLE format though she is attempting 4-picture compositions in school. With the new PSLE format, the good thing is that it allows for more imagination and creativity but the concept can be a tad "abstract" for the younger children or for children who are not articulate as they may lack the vocabulary and skill set to elaborate on the essay.
The below is a portion of Dumpling's writing assignment from Lesson 3 and Hui Ing's comments. (Lessons 1 and 2 were focused on introductions so I am not sharing here.)
:: Our thoughts and experience
A busy mum's cheat sheet!
Being a FTWM, my worst enemy is time. It is hard to schedule my time and send Dumpling for classes in addition to her already busy schedule peppered with CCA, Art, Violin, etc. So this course is like a busy mum's cheat sheet as it works like a dream. It allows us to work on things anywhere and yes, the kiddo can even watch the video on my iPhone too! How's that for mobility?
(Print screens of the video clip from my iPhone!)
The kiddo went through the first two lessons like a tornado as she found it to be really useful. Hui Ing was able to bring the point across in a short and succinct manner for e.g. using acronyms such as "SAFE" to prompt the children to be more intentional in their attempts at writing direct speech (elaborated below).
The marked paper was also sent back within 3 working days promised where she requested for a final draft to be sent back to her. :)
:: What I like about it:
No memorising of fabricated phrases
In my opinion, Hui Ing made some simple but sharp suggestions on Dumpling's essay. In one of the holiday workshops that Dumpling has attended (and apparently at a rather "famous" writing enrichment centre), Dumpling shared that the teacher wrote some "power phrases" on the white board and the children were told to choose from the list to use it in the composition. She hated that.
With Hui Ing's comments, as you can see, there was none of those. Hui Ing basically worked with the children's essays and guided from there. In the weekly course notes, examples of good phrases / vocabulary are given but she also requests for children to add on to the list to build up their own phrases / vocabulary bank.
With Dumpling's compositions, the issue is not on grammar or on the vocabulary. As her stories tend to run a bit long, she sometimes does not elaborate enough on the "climax" / problem and Hui Ing was able to pick that out and zero in from there. Thereafter she gave a suggestion to guide Dumpling in her thought flow. In her email reply to Dumpling, Hui Ing was very encouraging too and I could see that was a confidence booster for the kiddo.
Systematic approach on framework
The eCourse outline is well thought through and well planned. The lessons are systematic and the content short yet crisp. It has a very strong focus on helping children to get the framework right.
For e.g. some of the courses which I have come across use the 5W and 1H approach. This I find, may be too generic for young children. In the children's writing, they could have all these 5W and 1H information but the story may not engage. In essence, the story does not draw the readers in.
With Hui Ing's suggested "introduction" approaches and using acronyms to guide the children, it gives a framework where it becomes more intentional. For e.g. SAFE stands for Speech Action and FEelings and with such a technique, it helps the children to focus better when they are using direct speech, where the writing and thought process take on a more intentional and systematic approach.
:: What Dumpling likes about it
"I like the lesson because there are lesson notes which are useful for me to refer to when I am writing. The videos are cool ~ I have never had e-lessons before. There are certain phrases and tips which I did not know and they were useful too."
:: What the eCourse is NOT
The eCourse is great for the working mums as you can view the lesson anytime, anywhere. Having said that, there is support needed from us parents. For Dumpling, I had to support her in guiding her initially on this format and of course, we will also need to ensure that the children do their assignments and then send it back for marking.
The process of writing intertwines with other aspects of English such as grammar and vocabulary. While some of these will surface in the writing, essentially, this is a composition writing course and may not be able to deal with root problems such as poor grammar where the kid may not understand some basic grammar rules.
Lastly, like all things, practice makes perfect. The student needs to work on this consistently to be able to see an improvement over time.
:: Extra, extras!
Keen to learn more? You can read some of Hui Ing's students' work here . You can also view a free video which I personally love on "how to create suspense" to have a "feel" of how the weekly videos are like.
Now that you have read about this eCourse, I am pleased to share that Hui Ing will be starting a new enrollment for July! And best of all, I have a give away for 2 readers worth a total of $400!
Just take part using "Rafflecopter" below!
:: Terms and conditions:
1) The prizes are not transferable and they cannot be exchanged for cash.
2) Only entries via Rafflecopter are valid.
3) Answers to the question via rafflecopter (What is the most challenging area in the coaching of your child's writing process?) MUST be listed in the comment box below to qualify. Please remember to leave:
- your child's age
- your name &
- your email address in the comment box too.
- your name &
- your email address in the comment box too.
5) Closing Date of Giveaway: 16 June 2016, 2359 hrs.
6) Winners must respond to my email within 48 hours otherwise, they will be given to another winner.
7) The giveaway is not endorsed, associated with administrated by Facebook.
Note: Hui Ing only accepts up to 10 students per eCourse intake. So if you cannot wait for the giveaway results, please add your name to the eCourse wait list here.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored giveaway. We were invited to review the eCourse so that we can give our opinions about it. We are not compensated for the post. All opinions expressed are entirely ours.
:: About Big Ideaz Education
Big Ideaz Education is the brainchild of former MOE English Teacher Hui Ing. Big Ideaz Education provides resources for Creative Writing & Composition, Writing Workshops & Online Writing Courses for primary school children.
The Composition Writing Made Simple eCourse is designed for Primary School students who are beginning to write compositions for examinations. It is targeted at Primary 3 and 4 students but is also suitable for more advanced Primary 2 students as well as Primary 5 students who are still struggling with the basics of composition writing. The course focuses on writing compositions based on the new (2015) PSLE format. You can subscribe to Big Ideaz Education's mailing list here to receive the latest tips and news!
This is an ongoing series on documenting my learning and Dumpling's Primary School journey.