I was catching up with my friend Lynn over lunch and our conversation naturally revolved around our children’s studies. Lynn told me that her Sec 2 daughter, Geraldine, had fared quite badly in her English Language (EL) subject. She was struggling to stay afloat as her grades were between D7 and C6.
I remembered Geraldine as a bright girl during Primary school as Lynn told me she was a straight “A” student during her PSLE year.
What happened to her?
Lynn explained that Secondary EL is nowhere like Primary school English. I was baffled, curious and worried, all at the same time.
After hearing Lynn’s elaboration and later researching with the help of an EL Specialist Centre, I found 3 critical reasons to why straight “A”s PSLE students like Geraldine can possibly fail in her Secondary school EL subject.
Well, sort of…
Primary school English has almost entirely to do with Creative Writing. For 6 years, your Primary school child is trained to unleash her imagination to write fictionally and without bounds.
Boy, when she graduates to Secondary school, all the 6 years of hard work that you and she had put into building her Creative Writing skill will almost entirely be wasted!
Secondary school EL is all about Argumentative Writing. In short, this involves your child giving her opinion on a fact.
An example is: “Teenagers nowadays are overly addicted to mobile devices. Do you agree?”
If she just answers “no”, she’ll fail. If she writes a story about "Peter and Jane, the teenagers who are glued to their phones", she’ll fail and get called to the Principal’s Office.
To do well in such writing, your child has to first agree (or not), pen down her own opinions on the topic, and then support her thinking with recent local news!
I don’t even read the news aside from those fed to me via my Facebook Timeline. I’m thinking how can my children survive this when it is their turn to step into Secondary school?
In Primary school Comprehension, your child’s answer can be lifted from the passage. At most, she will be asked to infer something from the passage.
Not anymore in Secondary school! Here, in Comprehension, your child not only has to read the mind of the author, she has to have a clairvoyant session with the author through his paper article! Ok, that’s a bit exaggerating, but it’s not entirely untrue!
A Secondary school Comprehension question can be like:
Explain what is effective with this given sentence – “The ants formed columns like tiny soldiers and their marched on”.
Your child has to first understand what the question is asking for, then break it down and finally second-guess the reasons to why the author wrote it this way!
I can’t imagine how many levels of thinking my children have to go through just to write out a 20-word answer to score that 2 marks for this type of questions. Whew!
Speaking of marks, do you know that half marks will go extinct for Secondary school EL?
In Primary school, you can still persuade your child to write out something… anything, so that there’s hope that 1 out of 2 marks will be awarded.
In Secondary school, the Cambridge markers are looking for precision in the answer. There are no half marks awarded for Secondary school Comprehension questions, even if your child really gets half the answer right. It’s all or nothing!
All the half marks awarded in PSLE might give your child a chance to remain in “A” band. Now when I think about this merciless approach in marking during the O-Level exams, I’m afraid a 1 or even 2 grades fall is inevitable!
My friend, Lynn had no answer other than sending her daughter for EL tuition next year. So, I turned to the EL Specialist Centre I approached earlier for advice.
Edwin Cheng, the Founder of EduEdge Learning Hub, a centre that specialises in teaching Secondary school EL using proprietary Formula-Style techniques, had these to say.
1. Read Right
To do well in Argumentative Writing, children cannot get away from reading. But they can’t just read anything such as The Hunger Games novels or The Avengers comics; they have to read the right materials.
News articles are best, but they are often regarded as highly-boring to Secondary school teenagers. This is an arduous task to overcome. As such, it’s no surprise that Edwin revealed that 9 out of 10 parents said that their children are reluctant readers or reading the wrong materials.
Parents must find a way to nurture the passion or need for their children to read right as early as possible, ideally before starting Sec 1. Edwin added that if that window is missed, starting in Sec 1 is better than never. That’s because firstly, Secondary schools would not have fully immersed into Argumentative Writing in the first year, and secondly, streaming only happens in Sec 2.
2. Learn the Right Techniques
To be able to effectively answer complex Comprehension question, it’s not about mindless practicing and doing more of the same thing many parents and students practice for their Primary school exams. It’s all about getting the right approach or technique, such as the Formula-Style techniques provided by EduEdge, to distill the complex question into manageable bite-sized chunks.
Edwin revealed that it is not impossible to find such techniques in local forums or interest groups though. However, unlike forums and groups catered to Primary school parents, Secondary school forums and groups tend to have a lot less participation. So, obtaining such techniques can all boil down to knowing the right person or going to the right group.
I hope he is referring to me and LearnSuperMart. Lol.
3. Know the Marking Guidelines
To know how a Cambridge marker awards his marks, Edwin explains the students have to know their marking guidelines, or what exactly they are looking for.
So far, I haven’t been able to find this “secret” revealed in any books, documents or websites. Edwin thinks it will be best if the students can grill their teachers or tutors into telling them whatever they know through experience. Of course, that means the teacher or tutor your child approaches has to be experienced and specialized in EL in the first place.
Even though Lynn is a dear friend, I think she could have done more for her daughter. That’s what I told her. Although Geraldine had achieved excellent grades for her PSLE, Secondary school was a whole new ballgame for her. As much as some argue that children should fend for their own when they reach teen-hood, I think as parents, we should continue to do all that we can to help our children.
Here are 3 advice I'm giving myself when my son graduates to Secondary school next year.
Never assume that your child will do well in her Secondary school EL. Lynn made this mistake. I’m sure many parents will do the same too. Secondary school EL is an entirely different monster. Reading is important. But you will know that time is very limited for Secondary school students. So, reading the right materials becomes more crucial!
Together with your child, read one article every day. Cultivate a schedule and habit to do this. If you and your spouse can’t or don’t know how to, get someone else, such as an EL Specialist Centre like EduEdge, to be involved.
EduEdge has a programme where they hand-pick and curate trending and appropriate local or international news or topic for their students to read on a weekly basis. They will then reinforce their teaching with that topic as the theme.
Don’t for a moment stop helping your child just because you think you can’t anymore. Yes, Secondary English is difficult. But it is also an extremely important subject, if not the most. It is compulsory to be calculated into the scores needed to enter into JC and Polys. Some JCs and Poly courses even have a cut-off grade for EL. So if your child achieves a D7, she will have very limited options.
In Singapore, parents place a lot of emphasis on helping their children during their Primary school years. They send their Pri 1 to 6 children to enrichment classes, holiday camps and holistic programmes. However, when their children graduate to Secondary school, all these stop.
I’m not sure if it’s because they think their children are ready to be left alone, or it’s beyond their capability to coach them anymore. Whatever the reason, I don’t think parents should stop helping their children altogether at this stage.
In my case, my English is not really that good; many of the articles you read are edited with help from my husband. So, when I know I can’t help my children in their EL anymore, regardless if it’s due to lack of ability or time, I believe in getting professional help. Since EL is such an important subject, I don’t think parents should sacrifice EL tuition to prioritise time for Maths or Science. If anything, it should be the reversed.
And if the reason is that a good EL tutor or centre is hard to find, while I don’t disagree, there’s absolutely no excuse because you already know one – EduEdge!
Don’t give yourself the excuse to wait until your child fares badly before getting help. Most importantly for parents who are thinking of helping their children in the EL subject, is not to procrastinate. Your child has to “unlearn” 6 years of Creative Writing and re-master a totally new approach of writing argumentatively in 4 years… less than 2 if you consider the crucial streaming year in Sec 2.
There’s really no time to waste. I recommend that 2016 Sec 1 parents to start evaluating their options for EL tuition now. It’s less than a month to school re-opening, and places in good centres are filling up. In case you are wondering if it’s better to engage a private tutor, unlike Maths and Science which can be taught 1-to-1, EL is best learnt in a group setting, especially when opinions are so important in Secondary school.
To sum it all up, you and I are now aware of how different and difficult Secondary school EL will be to our children. We can choose to ignore this, or do something about it.
If you are a concerned parent who opts to do something to help your child, you can start with scheduling a diagnostic consultation session with EduEdge to learn more about what your child needs to be prepared for.
I was fortunate to be invited by Edwin to be given a taste of EduEdge’s proprietary Formula-Style teaching techniques, which train their students to attempt complex EL questions step-by-step, like how they answer Maths questions! It was an absolute eye-opener!
A little more about EduEdge if you don’t mind my excitement about them… :)
EduEdge prides themselves as the EL Specialist Centre. Edwin and his partner tutor, Rowena, were both celebrated MOE EL teachers with more than 10 years of experience each. Edwin was even a Subject Head. Now, both Edwin and Rowena are star tutors fiercely-sought after by Secondary school students who followed them from all corners of our island, even by foreign students! I see potential that EduEdge will grow to a well-known EL Specialist Centre very shortly.
Beside their Formula-Style learning approach, Edwin also showed me his centre’s other unique prepositions, such as their very interesting 2-teacher-per-class policy, their WISE engagement peer-learning approach and GROW progress monitoring system for their students.
Unlike other centres where parents and students go to enquire about the syllabus, EduEdge’s “Quick English Mastery” diagnostic consultation sessions teach prospect students (those who aren’t enrolled in their centre) their valued Formula-Style techniques. I sat through a session before, and I tell you Edwin doesn’t hold back his sharing to the parents and children during their private consultation sessions.
However, because of the immense value, I was told EduEdge’s private consultation sessions don’t come cheap; they are priced at $158.
The good news is, Edwin has agreed to extend a 100% discount to all LearnSuperMart followers! Yes, you will be able to attend your very own “Quick English Mastery” diagnostic consultation with your child for free! But this is strictly only if you reserve your consultation session by 17 Apr.
You can schedule your session here -> eduedge.com.sg/appointment.
If you want to learn more about EduEdge or the Formula-Style techniques that are well-regarded for, visit here -> eduedgesecld2.instapage.com
At this point, I’m sure you know that the right thing for you to do. Take advantage of the promotion by schedule a complimentary private consultation appointment with EduEdge today. -> eduedge.com.sg/appointment
All the best to your child’s Secondary school education!
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