Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

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Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby coast » Wed May 16, 2012 6:24 am

http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC12 ... hildren-be

Let the children be
by Amanda Tan Pheck Choo
04:46 AM May 16, 2012


As a former teacher, I was berated by senior teachers for not using "flowery, pretentious sentences", as described in the letter "It's a strong foundation that counts" (May 9), in creative writing.

I was accused of wanting my pupils to fail their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Recently, my eight-year-old came home with a "creative" writing assignment. She produced a list of "useful words and phrases that her teacher copied from a creative writing book" for the pupils to transfer onto the whiteboard.

The instructions were to write these down in complete sentences. I paused for a second, then asked: "Which of these words are yours?" "None," came the innocent reply. After doing what the teacher ordered, my little girl asked: "Now, can I write my story?"

In writing, we are told what to write, what title to give it, what words to use and avoid, to discard the unbelievable and play safe.

We are given picture compositions about a day at the beach, a bad fall, an incident on a bus - hardly fodder for interesting discussion.

My spouse, a college teacher, laments the lack of disciplined training in clear, logical thinking and the lack of ideas, persuasive argument and communication skills in his pre-university students. I wonder where we went wrong, when all this started.

When children are in primary school, why are they not asked for solutions to train disruptions, how to get women to have more babies, how to stop people from smoking? These are just as relatable, if not more fascinating, topics for discussion.

In learning, we are made to learn what the system deems important at this period, for how long, how much, how deep. Mathematics and science are in; free reading, non-examinable topics are out.

But boundaries have to change, to adapt, to involve the child. This is his education, not ours.

This obsession with what to learn and how to present acceptable answers is ultimately a fear of not doing well in the PSLE. Ex-Nominated Member of Parliament Paulin Straughan's proposal to abolish it is a step in the right direction.

Do we need to "accredit" 12-year-olds? Granted, there will always be parents who want their children to stay ahead of the competition and, hence, send them to tuition centres.

There will be those, free of the shackles of exam stress, who would give their children the time and freedom to explore, dream and love learning.

The hope is that schools would then have the courage to ditch homework, to give pupils more curriculum time to read and explore the world around them.

If they do not read, they cannot write. If they cannot write, those famous "flowery, pretentious sentences" will present themselves year after year in PSLE exam scripts.


The writer is a former primary school teacher and a homeschooling mother.

coast
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby pinky » Wed May 16, 2012 9:55 am

agree with her comments
no wonder she is a homeschool mum

pinky
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby Chenonceau » Wed May 16, 2012 11:26 am

coast wrote:http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC12 ... hildren-be

Let the children be
by Amanda Tan Pheck Choo
04:46 AM May 16, 2012


As a former teacher, I was berated by senior teachers for not using "flowery, pretentious sentences", as described in the letter "It's a strong foundation that counts" (May 9), in creative writing.

I was accused of wanting my pupils to fail their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Recently, my eight-year-old came home with a "creative" writing assignment. She produced a list of "useful words and phrases that her teacher copied from a creative writing book" for the pupils to transfer onto the whiteboard.


I completely agree. The PSLE is highly difficult because it truly tests for competence in the domain. This means that subconscious learning needs to play a part. You need to know the language so well that you develop a FEEL for it.

Schools, however, insist on CONSCIOUS and EFFORTFUL learning. They think that this is a short cut to competence. It is not. Lower Primary children should focus on reading. If you don't read and absorb language, you cannot write language and you can't handle the PSLE MCQ which tests obscure language use that comes from REALLY having read a lot.

In Lower Primary, I read a lot with DS in English. I moved him fast up the reading levels. We did it for fun and because I love to read. I never expected that PSLE would test to that level. To do well in PSLE, the child has to be reading adult literature (P.G. Wodehouse, Isaac Asimov, Newsweek magazine by P5).

We didn't read in lower primary for Chinese. My DS relied only on the CONSCIOUS and EFFORTFUL learning under the guidance of his school. When his grades plummetted in end-P4, I had to devise Potato Chinese to force him to read a high volume of adult level Chinese language. The texts I gave him for Potato Chinese were so difficult that Grandma, an ex Chinese Teacher, needed a dictionary.

Nowadays, 1.5 years after we started Potato Chinese, Little Boy knows enough Chinese to read Singaporean Sec 3 level textbooks. He can now easily read the Chinese compos written by PRC 12 year olds. I've stopped asking him to memorize and recite because he now needs only 20 minutes to prepare one of these compos and read it to me . He used to require a WHOLE day of memorizing to be able to read 1 compo of the same difficulty.

This is barely enough to do well in PSLE Chinese. He is now only average in class. But it already is a great deal better than when he was at the bottom of the class.

Chenonceau
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby mummyv » Wed May 16, 2012 1:45 pm

Amanda's headline "Let the children be" sums up my sentiments perfectly.

Chenonceau's insight into "CONSCIOUS and EFFORTFUL" learning vs domain knowledge is powerful.

I never realised the extent of the problems of the current testing system until my DD reached P5 this year. The strategy that I have used so far with her is of the "CONSCIOUS and EFFORTFUL" variety ... because I was taught this way and to me hard work and constant practice should provide competency.

However the rules of game have changed and learning strategies need to change with it... but ... higher level thinking and domain proficiency at primary school is absurd. I think many of us ONLY learnt these at university. Unfortunately, the reality is such. So, if MOE does not vocalise that domain proficiency and active, in-depth self-directed learning is key EVEN at primary school level, parents and kids will continue to suffer.

Now looking at DD's plumetting SA1 marks, I have to figure out WHAT next WITHOUT killing ALL her leisure time and love of learning.

mummyv
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby psle2011mum » Wed May 16, 2012 2:02 pm

[quote="coast"]http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC120516-0000073/Let-the-children-be

Let the children be
by Amanda Tan Pheck Choo
04:46 AM May 16, 2012


As a former teacher, I was berated by senior teachers for not using "flowery, pretentious sentences", as described in the letter "It's a strong foundation that counts" (May 9), in creative writing.


The hope is that schools would then have the courage to ditch homework, to give pupils more curriculum time to read and explore the world around them.

If they do not read, they cannot write.
******************************

One of the best gifts any parent can give their child is the love of reading. It is the key to acquiring knowledge but far more than that -- books are minds alive on shelves.

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice... and just as the touch of a button on our set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart. ~Gilbert Highet

I credit reading as one of the key factors for DD's better results at the PSLE. Reading well meant better performance for English naturally, but also Math and Science.

Read anything -- doesn't matter particularly- so long as they do read.

A complete list of Newberry Honour books for children can be easily downloaded [list starts from 1922 and they give out the award every year] and relatively cheaply reserved online at NLB ( $1.55 per book). Very easy to borrow, hardly a wait list for them...

This list helps those parents who themselves aren't readers and/or don't know where to start. At Kinokuniya & Bookabura, these books are stocked all together.

"What can I do to help prepare by young child even though the PSLE is some years away?"

My answer : Let your child read :smile:


Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. ~Author Unknown

psle2011mum
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby Joule » Wed May 16, 2012 2:11 pm

/mockery

wow

psle student are so smart

I'm sure when they are in college / uni

they would be finding the cure for cancer

mockery/

Joule
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby slmkhoo » Wed May 16, 2012 2:13 pm

Chenonceau wrote:I completely agree. The PSLE is highly difficult because it truly tests for competence in the domain. This means that subconscious learning needs to play a part. You need to know the language so well that you develop a FEEL for it.

Schools, however, insist on CONSCIOUS and EFFORTFUL learning. They think that this is a short cut to competence. It is not. Lower Primary children should focus on reading. If you don't read and absorb language, you cannot write language and you can't handle the PSLE MCQ which tests obscure language use that comes from REALLY having read a lot.

In Lower Primary, I read a lot with DS in English. I moved him fast up the reading levels. We did it for fun and because I love to read. I never expected that PSLE would test to that level. To do well in PSLE, the child has to be reading adult literature (P.G. Wodehouse, Isaac Asimov, Newsweek magazine by P5).

I totally agree with the need to read a lot and widely early on for kids to get a good grasp and feel for language. I also read a great deal with my kids from early on and I believe that they have a good foundation. But I don't think that it's necessary for a child to read adult-level literature in Pr school to do well at PSLE. I think this statement may frighten too many parents! My daughter who did PSLE last year was reading mostly in the range recommended for 9-12 and teen levels - like the Percy Jackson and Gallagher Girls series, and books by authors such as Sharon Dessen and Brian Jacques. The only adult-level books she read, as far as I recall, was Lord of the Rings. She doesn't read much adult-level material even now, just gradually increasing, because the subject matter is not meaningful to her yet, although her English language is probably good enough to deal with it. Unlike 30 yrs ago, there is now available a wealth of good reading material for young people, and which use wide and varied vocabulary.

slmkhoo
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby Chenonceau » Wed May 16, 2012 2:25 pm

slmkhoo wrote:
Chenonceau wrote:I completely agree. The PSLE is highly difficult because it truly tests for competence in the domain. This means that subconscious learning needs to play a part. You need to know the language so well that you develop a FEEL for it.

Schools, however, insist on CONSCIOUS and EFFORTFUL learning. They think that this is a short cut to competence. It is not. Lower Primary children should focus on reading. If you don't read and absorb language, you cannot write language and you can't handle the PSLE MCQ which tests obscure language use that comes from REALLY having read a lot.

In Lower Primary, I read a lot with DS in English. I moved him fast up the reading levels. We did it for fun and because I love to read. I never expected that PSLE would test to that level. To do well in PSLE, the child has to be reading adult literature (P.G. Wodehouse, Isaac Asimov, Newsweek magazine by P5).

I totally agree with the need to read a lot and widely early on for kids to get a good grasp and feel for language. I also read a great deal with my kids from early on and I believe that they have a good foundation. But I don't think that it's necessary for a child to read adult-level literature in Pr school to do well at PSLE. I think this statement may frighten too many parents! My daughter who did PSLE last year was reading mostly in the range recommended for 9-12 and teen levels - like the Percy Jackson and Gallagher Girls series, and books by authors such as Sharon Dessen and Brian Jacques. The only adult-level books she read, as far as I recall, was Lord of the Rings. She doesn't read much adult-level material even now, just gradually increasing, because the subject matter is not meaningful to her yet, although her English language is probably good enough to deal with it. Unlike 30 yrs ago, there is now available a wealth of good reading material for young people, and using which use wide and varied vocabulary.


I beg to differ.

She can handle Lord of the Rings at P6. This tells us something?

Lord of the Rings is not something my DS can engage with even now. My DS scores 28.5/40 for English compo regularly. Admittedly, this would be either the top mark or amongst the top 3 in class. I suppose you would need a PhD in English Literature to score above 35/40?

If the top school examinations' compre passages are anything to go by... 10-12 years reading level is not enough. Reading comprehension is also a matter of life experience. The inferential questions presuppose that a child interprets questions with life experience knowledge one commonly associates with adults. One memorable question assumed that my child understood that when a plane hits an air pocket and drops suddenly in altitude, passengers would fly up in the air and hit the cabin ceiling... and pass out. Children don't often engage in air travel.... at least not as often as adults. The only way to achieve an appreciation of that particular text was to have read widely enough to have lived several adult lives.

To handle the most challenging questions in the English Compre (for top schools), the child needs to be as widely read for content as for vocabulary. Of course, where English is concerned, my expectations of DS are high. If parents have lower expectations of performance at PSLE, then yes... 10-12 years reading level is enough.
Last edited by Chenonceau on Wed May 16, 2012 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Chenonceau
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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby welcome0 » Wed May 16, 2012 2:30 pm

think more important as well, to teach the child to be able to communicate effectively & coherently her thoughts & ideas across. it is not necessary via the use of flowery language or bombastic words.

this from my experience. we may need to do that for E Lit or GP, but ultimately in work or when you enter society interacting with people of different nationality or backgrounds, it does not always work.

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Re: Let the children be (from TODAY May 16)

Postby coast » Wed May 16, 2012 2:39 pm

coast wrote:http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC120516-0000073/Let-the-children-be

Let the children be
by Amanda Tan Pheck Choo
04:46 AM May 16, 2012


As a former teacher, I was berated by senior teachers for not using "flowery, pretentious sentences", as described in the letter "It's a strong foundation that counts" (May 9), in creative writing.

I was accused of wanting my pupils to fail their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Recently, my eight-year-old came home with a "creative" writing assignment. She produced a list of "useful words and phrases that her teacher copied from a creative writing book" for the pupils to transfer onto the whiteboard.

But boundaries have to change, to adapt, to involve the child. This is his education, not ours.

This obsession with what to learn and how to present acceptable answers is ultimately a fear of not doing well in the PSLE. Ex-Nominated Member of Parliament Paulin Straughan's proposal to abolish it is a step in the right direction.

If they do not read, they cannot write. If they cannot write, those famous "flowery, pretentious sentences" will present themselves year after year in PSLE exam scripts.


The writer is a former primary school teacher and a homeschooling mother.


I agree with Amanda Tan's views (incidentally, we have kids around the same age).

My P2 DS spends little time on academics outside school. He has so many regular non-academic activities outside school that some of his classmates' parents have been asking me since P1 :"Does he still have time for study?"

Despite the well-meaning advice by many parents that past years' top schools exams papers are very useful, he has only practised one paper (from his own school) so far, with another one given by his school as a mock test.

He knows his school work well and to me, it is more meaningful for him to engage in non-academic activities after he has spent so many hours in school. He has learnt a lot while enjoying his childhood. Where did he get his free time from? Among others, he does not have to spend hours practising past years papers and assesssments.

However, what will happen if more and more schools set killer papers (even at P3 level) with a high % of “higher ability” questions, especially if such questions are not taught adequately in schools?

40% failed
http://www.kiasuparents.com/kiasu/forum ... &start=120

Questions in exams not taught in school
http://www.kiasuparents.com/kiasu/forum ... &start=110

Let the children be - I think the following suggestions will help, do you?

"Let's rethink the scoring system" - banding admission system instead of the current PSLE T-scores.

http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC12 ... ing-system

"Having access to unabridged (complete) PSLE past years' papers"

http://www.kiasuparents.com/kiasu/forum ... 4&start=40

coast
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