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Even though writing is always described as a complex skill, majority of the SPM or upper form students are able to write the continuous compositions assigned to them fairly well. However, their essays are still lacking in one aspect that is wide and apt vocabulary. Most of them are only able to use common adjectives throughout their compositions. Therefore, to address this phenomenon, VENESSA or Vocabulary Enrichment in Narrative Essays, was developed and implemented in the writing classes in 2008.

This vocabulary enrichment programme was introduced as back then I realised my students of SMK Kulim needed help and could be facilitated in term of using better or more sophisticated words in their continuous compositions, especially the narrative essays. Planning was made and I decided to focus on the use of adjectives.

The words in VENESSA are divided into several categories such as describing people, places and feelings. These categories are chosen because for any narrative essays in SPM or PMR (back then)/ PT3, there will always be people, feelings and places to be described. VENESSA coaches potential A and B candidates to use 'radiant' rather than 'happy', 'indolent' not 'lazy' and 'serene' instead of 'peaceful'. Of course, when these low frequency words or sophisticated adjectives are used aptly in their narrative essays, they will be awarded with merit ticks. The more merits gained throughout their narrative essays, the better it is as it clearly indicates the candidates do have wide and apt vocabulary.

How do I implement VENESSA? It is quite simple. Phase 1 will be the introduction stage. The words in the list are introduced to the learners and of course the rationale for using VENESSA is made clear to them. The second phase will be selecting one of the three synonyms (for each common adjective) offered in the list and memorising them as many as they can. Phase 3 involves applying the sophisticated adjectives in complete sentences and short paragraphs. Initially, construction of sentences and paragraphs using VENESSA can be in groups and pairs. However, as time passes by and learners are more and more familiar with the sophisticated adjectives, they must be encouraged to apply VENESSA individually in their narrative essays.

Sometimes I would inform my learners a week earlier that I would carry out a test on VENESSA - they had to list down as many words as possible in 10-15 minutes. The person with the highest number of sophisticated words would be given a gift. Well, it worked! If you are keen to try out VENESSA, please kindly click here.

[I presented my 5th paper with the title "SLOW OR SLUGGISH? ENRICHING ADJECTIVES IN NARRATIVE ESSAYS THROUGH VENESSA" at the UPALS ICL: An International Conference on Languages 2009 at Bayview Hotel, Georgetown, Penang]

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