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Primary English Composition Writing : 3 Tips to add sensational vocabulary (WOW words)

Parents often lament how difficult it is for their primary school children to include good phrases when writing compositions. The issue often stems from these three problems:

1) Limited memory bank

2) No idea when and how to add

3) Lack of motivation

The three problems mentioned above can be easily addressed with the following tips:

1) Limited memory bank - Choose the vocabulary carefully

If you have ever bought a model composition guide book for your child from a Popular book store, you will notice that there will be a multitude of bombastic words in the essays. For example, "Tumultuous applause filled the concert hall." If you find "tumultuous" difficult to remember, so will your child. To worsen, the situation, forcing such phrases down your child's throat will only kill your child's interest. Therefore, the choice of words is paramount. Choose words that

- are easy for your child to remember and spell. Instead of "tumultuous", use "deafening".

- conjures strong visual images. Embarrassed, his face flushed. (Remind your child there is a double meaning for flushed, the action after you answered the call of nature or reddened.) His face turned lobster-red (Use wacky images to remember such as lobsters pinching his cheeks.)

- are idioms, similes or other figures of speech. Instead of "exultant" (happy), use " over the moon" or "like a dog with two tails".

2) No idea when and how to add - Target actions and feelings

One of the easiest ways for even Primary one students to sprinkle good phrases in their compositions is to replace commonly used verbs (action words).


said- exclaimed

walked- dragged his feet

ran- dashed

Teach your child to be opportunistic when it comes to adding sensational vocabulary. As human beings, we experience a plethora of emotions. Descriptions of feelings can help the reader to walk in the shoes of the character. Yet most students only focus on describing actions. Get your child to pause every time the character carries out a new action and ask himself, "How does the character feel?"

Example: He caught sight of the bully shoving his best friend to the ground. (Action) Thunderstruck, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped. His heart was pounding hard and fast as he stared in disbelief. (Feeling)

3) Lack of motivation : Highlight good phrases used

In order to be motivated, your child needs to be able to keep track of the number of good phrases used in his compositions. One way is to encourage your child to highlight and add up the total number used after completing each composition. Practise restrain and refrain from reprimanding him if his phrases were used inappropriately. Instead of delivering a tongue lashing, positively affirm his effort and help him understand his error. Being able to track the actual number of good phrases used will help him develop intrinsic motivation. You can also offer extrinsic rewards for reaching a target.

Alternatively, you can also send your child to Writers' Guild Learning Centre's creative writing classes so he will have an entire tool chest of writing techniques and sensational vocabulary to writing a gripping composition during PSLE!

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