Sep 9, 2017

Ash Levels Up his English Composition Skills with The Learning Lab



Less than 4 weeks to the start of the Primary School Leaving Examinations (or more fearfully known as PSLE) Papers.

That's right, exam fever is in the air and for Ash, the September School Holidays take on a slightly more different meaning than previous school holidays. It's revision time and whether I like it or not, the pressure is on for both parent and child.

But if you had read my previous post on Ash's PSLE journey, you will know the wifey and I have decided to change our mindset when it comes to approaching the big exam. Instead of just imploring Ash to try his best all the time, we have focused on something more tangible — putting in a reasonable amount of effort in his school work. So all this while, the wifey and I have been taking turns to sit down with Ash for 20 to 30 minutes every weeknight for revision.

And it is working pretty well so far.

Except for one problem.

How does one teach English Composition writing???

I am sure there is a method somewhere out there but for the wifey and I, we are both clueless when it comes to coaching him on essay writing. And it is an area of concern because for Ash, his main weakness in English has always been in Composition... which typically translates to a puking blood session for me whenever I try to coach him. Sigh.

Fortunately, for my health's (and sanity's) sake, The Learning Lab's P6 English Composition Excellence workshop came to the rescue!

The 10-week workshop covers Paper 1 of the English Paper — continuous writing and situational writing.

The former will impart techniques for different elements of writing, such as plot planning, scene setting, characterisation, development of gripping climaxes and compelling conclusions for the narrative; and brainstorming and organisation for the expository. Students will also learn about advanced sentence structures and punctuation to enrich their writing. As for situational writing, students will be exposed to different genres and focus on tone and register.

In one of the classes that I sat in briefly, the teacher used the 5 different emotion characters from the movie 'Inside Out' to let the students understand the importance of including emotions into one's essay. Very novel indeed!

I could tell that Ash was enjoying the classes, which is a huge surprise considering the fact he let out a loud groan when I first told him he was going to attend the workshop. I suppose the interesting nature of the classes played a part, and he remarked that he had picked up plenty of useful tips and phrases to use for his English Composition.

And I think the impressive library collection at The Learning Lab helps too. Students are free to borrow books on a weekly basis!

Mid-way through the workshop, Ash sat for his Prelim English Paper and his English Composition marks saw an improvement as compared to his earlier composition tests. I read through his essay and saw that he had made a genuine effort to incorporate some of the writing techniques and phrases he learnt at the workshop. Fingers crossed, but I think it can only get better!

And so, we have now come to the final lap... the final uphill trudge. Truth be told, the wifey and I often feel we are the ones dragging Ash up the hill. But we are also conscious not to overly subject him to extreme pressure. So if you have a child who is sitting for the PSLE this year, take heart that you are not alone.

Here are some tips to get your child into the right frame of mind:

1. More understanding and Less memorising

Our brains have a limited capacity to cram information in a short time. Rather than trying to spot questions, memorise and regurgitate, take the time to understand the concept of the study subject. In this way, the brain begins to form an internal mind map and revision becomes more effective.

2. Setting a revision rhythm

Take some time every day to do revision work in batches. For example, get your child to recall new topics he or she learnt the next day, then again a week after the first lesson. This ensures the information learnt is stored in his or her long-term memory.

3. Set realistic milestones

If your child has not been scoring A*, it may be a little far-fetched to expect him to do so for PSLE. For Ash, he has been consistently getting a 'B' for his English so for his Prelims and PSLE, I have set him the target of achieving a low 'A'. He came pretty close to achieving that for his English Prelim, missing the 'A' grade by an agonising 0.25 mark. Well, the good news is he now knows it is attainable.

Well, at least the end is in sight so all the best to Ash and every P6 student! Fight the good fight and be a good finisher!

P.S. I am sooooooo looking forward to the end... until it happens all over again next year with Ayd. but let's take things one step at a time ,shall we? :)

Find out more about The Learning Lab programmes at

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