Teaching Composition Writing
Most children take composition writing as a piece of academic work that requires them to write 120 -180 words on paper. There are a few types of ‘composition writers’ that I have come across. Here are a few /
The word counter
This writer sees writing compositions as a chore. He repeats the same ideas again and uses the same type of sentence structures, often repeating the same ideas in different ways. This is done so that he can fulfill the required number of words and be free of this task. This is evident when you see the student counting words after writing a simple sentence and ending his composition abruptly.
The grammar offender
This writer has a higher liking for the language and may write with many good ideas. However, his tenses are all over the place and his punctuation a shame.
The no-flow writer
This writer has many ideas, so many in fact that they are thrust into the composition with ‘no head or tail’. Story plot and structure have no flow and characters are touched on lightly. Composition tends to be long and over-complicated.
When I identify the type of writer sitting before me, I usually begin by discussing about his favourite books. Even if his favourites are comic books, every story has a plot and characters. We discuss the plots and characters that he loves and then we try to map out a composition question by using a story template.
We use this discussion method at every lesson so that the writer develops the habit of ‘thinking’ and ‘planning’ before jumping into writing. This also reduces over-complicated plots and characters.
Writing techniques come next and this is a vast area. I never force my students to choose writing techniques but help them develop a style that they like. For the older writers who have already developed their style, we refine it by adding new techniques.
The opening and closing of a story is essential in attracting the reader’s (examiner’s) interest. Direct speech or a dramatic opening can set the pace for a story.
I woke up in the morning. I went to eat breakfast with my sister and then went to my aunt’s house.
Could be re-worked to :
“Wake up sis! The day has finally arrived!” I opened my eyes dreamily to my younger sister jumping up and down in front of me. Her eyes were lit with joy as she clapped her hands gleefully. I smiled as I realised today was the day we were going to visit my aunt and my cousins.
The use of proverbs, similes and idioms can give a story edge and a good closing (especially if its a moral one) .
The police told John never to do that again. His mother punished him and he cried.
Could be re-worked to :
John stood before the police officer, shaking like a leaf. He listened intently to the police officer’s advice and promised never to do that again. After all, once bitten twice shy! John’s mother took him aside and told him that he would not be allowed to play in the soccer team for the next important tournament. John was crushed and started weeping. His mother looked him in the eye and told him that he he had made his bed, now he must lie in it.
One of the books available at Popular Bookstore that I like is Jazz Up Your Writing by teachers@work. You can find idioms, proverbs and similes etc and examples on how to use them in stories. There are also short exercises for children to complete.
The love of writing comes with the love of the language. Writers should not be boxed up and forced to memorise other students’ compositions. They should be nurtured to develop their own style of writing with good writing habits.