My suggestions to parents (things that I usually do with my tutees):
Make them start a journal
If they are the type that do not know what to write, give them a topic a day. I usually start off with giving them pictures (can be anything under the sun!) with some questions as prompts. Then there’ll be a list of helping words/phrases related to the topic.
Depending on your child’s age, you can get them to start with 10 sentences per day (P1/2) and slowly get them to increase the number of sentences. It’s ok if their sentences seem very random & do not link at the beginning.
Start off with correcting basic grammar & spelling. Then if you spot a sentence that can be improved with better vocab or phrase, teach them & get them to jot it down in their journal.
You can also let your child take pictures whenever you go out & use those pictures as the topics. It’ll be easier for them this way as they have personally experienced what they saw in the picture. You can also use photos from family trips, childhood photos, etc.
Read out loud
Children who do not like to read usually have problems with the words, which makes them hate reading in the first place. Ask your child to read out loud to you. If they are shy, start off with you reading 1 sentence, then they will read the next and alternate.
They feel less self-conscious if you are also reading with them & once you note pauses (meaning they do not know the word), quickly help them before they start to feel frustrated. Praise them & assure them that they are doing a good job. Not only are you encouraging reading, you are also encouraging them to practice their oral skills! Where to find so many passages to read?
You can buy model composition books or buy comprehension books & read the passages (the latter is better as the topics are usually general knowledge topics & it will help them in cloze passages & comprehension). Discuss about the topic of the passage you read. Prompt them with questions like:
"Do you think ___ did the right thing?"
"Was he brave/courageous by doing that?", etc.
If you spot difficult words, search the dictionary with them. It’s a good skill to learn – searching the dictionary for meaning of words. It makes them curious & they are always amazed at how some words can have so many meanings!
Play a game
Play word games with your child. Start off with a word & the next person must give another word that has the same meaning or is related (e.g. butterfly -> wings -> colourful -> rainbow -> green -> leaves). Keep going till someone is stuck. It’s very fun & their competitive spirit will spur them to learn more words. It also trains their minds to link objects/descriptions.
You can also write down the words (encourage them to spell) & make use of the words to form a sentence or story! Although the sentences/stories may seem ‘crazy’, it’s really fun & gives them something to think about.
Self questioning technique
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Usually we will teach children to write 3 paragraphs – Introduction, Body & Conclusion. But do the kids understand what is expected in each paragraph?
This is what a typical story would be like:
Introduction -> Who is in the story? When/Where did it happen?
Body (can be more than 1 paragraph) -> What happened? Why did it happen?
Conclusion -> How was the matter resolved? Closing sentence.
Sample written by my P5 student [Topic – Describe what happened when you were late for a very important event.]:
Perspiration was trickling down the sides of my [WHO] face, every step causes a drop that was dangling at my chin to splatter on the tar road. It was the day of my PSLE examination [WHEN] & I was on my way to school [WHERE]. I was pushing myself to run as fast as my legs could take me as it was 10 minutes before my first paper was about to start. As I was running, I started to reflect. I knew it was entirely my fault that I’m late, but I could not help but hold resentment towards them. The two immature & spoilt children whom I have to call my siblings [WHO].
I woke up this morning thinking it was six in the morning. The room was dark, the air was fresh and most importantly, my trusty clock had it’s shorter hand pointing at six and its longer hand in the opposite direction. A quick check with the living room clock and my heart skipped a beat. It was actually 8am! I scurried back into my room, fantically changing my clothes, suddenly noticing my two younger brothers giggling at the bedroom door.
"What are you laughing it? I’m late for a major exam that determines the rest of my life and the two of you are giggling! You must have something to do with this!" I yelled in frustration. I guess my tone was nasty as my youngest brother started crying.
"We played with your clock last night after you feel asleep and we thought it would be fun to make you late for school since you slept so early," my youngest brother mumbled feebly with his knees shaking. [WHAT/WHY]
So it was them. I should have gotten my parents to wake me up. I should have gotten my friends to ring me in the morning. I cannot help but smack myself in the head, ignoring the fact that I’ll be killing some much-needed brain cells. It was my fault for not making back-up plans in case the clock fails, but why must they play with my clock of all days?
I made up my mind to grill my siblings on the barbeque or tie them up on a tree after my examinations. For now, I’ll have to run harder. The school gate was in sight! I dashed past security, past the school office & up into the school hall. 300 pairs of eyes suddenly suddenly looked up at me, all sweaty & disheveled. I had arrived in the nick of time, the teachers were just about to start the examination. I quickly took my seat and focused on the paper in front of me.
After the paper, I went straight home & called my parents. I was too tired with deal with my brothers physically. I told them everything over the phone and took a nap. When I woke up, I could hear screaming and crying. "Piak!" came the sound of the cane. I ran out of my room to take a look. My parents were caning my brothers for their mischief. My heart ached as I saw the cane land on their bottoms.
I quickly ran over to shield my brothers. My brothers clung to me like koala bears on a tree. Their faces were smeared with tears & mucus, their hands riddled with cane marks. Although they did cause me to be late for my examination, I still loved them. I begged my parents to stop as I’ve already forgiven them. After drying their tears & comforting them, I told them about the dire consequences if I had been a little later. They apologised and promised never to be mischevious again. [HOW] I also made a silent resolution to ensure that I have back up plans whenever I have something important [CLOSING SENTENCE].
May not be the best compo, but she managed to use some techniques I practised with her in which I’m pleased as this is a student who used to fail composition.