Hot selling English books that fly off the shelves at bookstores are – guessed it right? – books of English Model Compositions! Dealing with a wide array of writing topics, these model compositions are packed with extensive impactful vocabulary, impressive sentence structures and creative story plots. Consequently, they are popular with students, especially primary school students, who wish to improve their English compositions.
Does this strategy boost writing skills and impart a lifelong love for writing in children? The answer to this cannot be in black and white simply because there are both pros and cons to this strategy.
Embrace the pros
Writing is an elaborate thinking processes consisting of the following steps:
(a) brainstorming and organising ideas
(b) translating these ideas into words, weaving them into sentences and paragraphs
(c) proofreading the content for errors
Each of these processes requires expertise in order to produce quality writing piece. Students are challenged by the writing processes, because they are forced to structure the language without letting go of the conventions of grammar such as spelling and punctuation. In such a scenario, young writers need instructions to guide them along.
Does reading model compositions offer guidance? It certainly appears so! How can students be good writers if they don’t know what good writing looks like? Reading and writing are interconnected on many levels. Students gain an important insight into the process of writing by reading and studying a variety of relevant types of text; English model compositions being one of them. They learn the know-how to infuse a myriad of language elements -figurative language, 5-senses description, Show-Not-Tell expressions, etc- into a writing piece to create the right impact, thus exposing the students to the quality of writing expected out of them.. While reading, students not only absorb the vocabulary and sentence structures, but they also emulate them in their own writing. Emulation offers necessary support to students until they produce their own ideas. From that perspective, reading model compositions is a useful strategy to input ideas into a student as well as being a prelude to independent writing.
Conquer the Cons
Is reading English model compositions to improve writing skills the only solution? What initially starts off as emulation of writing techniques for the benefit of building confidence, takes another shape along the way. Students memorise story plots of the written themes without the intention to come up with original out-of-the-box storylines; an undesirable habit that gets steeped into the students. Therein lies a worrying situation: how will students tackle any of the themes not found in the model compositions? If students do not acquire confidence to write independently, they are unlikely to write proficiently when the circumstance demands! Another matter of concern is about students who indiscriminately extract vocabulary phrases from model English compositions and misapply them in their independently conceived writing pieces. Thus, an over-reliance on model compositions for improving English compositions creates a two-pronged impact: stifled creativity and stilted writing skills.
Strike a Balance
Given the pros and cons of reading model compositions for improving English compositions, how do we ensure that students walk the fine balance between them?
A. Stretch the reading: Instead of stopping with reading the model compositions, let the students rewrite different portions of the model compositions. They can extract any particular segment in the narrative and recreate another segment from ideas living in their imagination and dipping into their knowledge on language elements. Voila! An independent writing piece with a stamp of ownership.
B. Build a vocabulary word bank: Classifying vocabulary in categories of metaphors, similes, Show-Not-Tell expressions, synonyms, and so on goes a long way into building an efficient and handy word bank. Model compositions offer extensive tips on how to create magic with words and sentences. When vocabulary is clear cut, students acquire the flair to absorb and put it to good use.
C. Acronyms to the rescue: Sequencing the scenes or breaking a scene to the last detail for a more vivid imagery are stumbling blocks for many of the primary students. How can that be overcome? Creating acronyms to follow a pattern is one of the convenient writing methods. Students have the freedom to coin their own acronyms for ease of understanding. For example, an acronym may look like this:
E- Emotions (related to the characters)
A-Actions (associated with emotions of characters)
R-Reactions (of main/secondary/other characters)
N- Next (What happens next)
Students who follow such acronyms may be able to elaborate on details without missing any links in the compositions because of their clarity of thought.
At Write Edge, reading model English compositions are inbuilt into the curriculum as part of guided writing strategy. This writing technique lets students explore and emulate the model English compositions by shaping and redrafting the texts. The teacher interacts with students individually as well as with the entire class on the same writing piece at different stages by guiding them with prompts. Creativity flows out better eventually. Most importantly, students make a transition to independent writing and discover their own abilities.
Undoubtedly, writing more and more is the only way to write well!
Start your child’s journey in learning English Creative Writing with Write Edge. Parents can reach out to us to arrange a trial class to find out more.