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In the SPM English Language 1119 Paper 1, candidates are given five essay questions in Section B. They are required to choose one of the five essay questions which could be based on these genres; narrative, descriptive, argumentative and reflective. Some candidates always prefer to write a narrative essay for each writing practice and in examinations. In fact, some teachers strongly encourage their learners to write a narrative essay for some reasons.

How many of the potential A (A-, A, A+) candidates can write an excellent narrative essay? Well, the answer is, not many. Only a handful of SPM candidates in each school can be regarded as excellent candidates who can easily score an A+. (But if you teach in a premier school, then it is a totally different scenario). How many of our SPM candidates can write a story using novel-like language? How many of them are able to hook readers from A to Z? Again, the answer is similar… not many, only a handful of them. Obviously, there are three issues here. Firstly, most potential A (A-, A or A+) do not have problems to write a narrative essay for Section B in Paper 1, however, the content of their narrative essay or the story line lacks “ummppphhh” or “wow” factor. Most of them fail to achieve successfully what the Malaysian Examination Syndicate describes as “Interest is aroused and sustained throughout the composition”. Secondly, teachers should be aware that not all potential A+, A or A- learners are capable storytellers. Not all are born writers. Not all can easily write engaging stories. Only certain individuals have the talent to compose stories that mesmerize readers. Thirdly, the second issue mentioned above can be addressed. Potential A candidates can be helped and coached to be more creative in their stories; to write engaging stories which can help them secure a high mark.

What can English teachers do to help those potential A SPM candidates impress examiners with their narrative essays? How can we, the English teachers coach them to be better in their narrative essays? Well, I did face this issue and to address it, I developed a strategy named “GS4GS” (Great Stories for a Great Score) in 2013. GS4GS offers my students a list of great and inspiring stories taken from the Internet. I admit, those interesting stories are not mine but I did edit here and there to reduce the length of the selected stories. I also try to formulate some SPM standard essay questions based on each story. Please click here for GS4GS.

Definitely, I could see improvements in term of my learners’ creativity and freshness of ideas in their narrative essays. Of course, seeing success is not an overnight process. I believe, after at least 3 – 5 months of exposure and sufficient practices, the potential A candidates can and will get better and better when they write narrative essays. I started with a collection of 7 stories. Then, I assigned my learners to get a short story (inspirational) each from the Internet. At the end of the day, all those stories were compiled by one of the learners and shared among themselves. The point is, our learners must be exposed as much as possible to great inspiring short stories.

Potential A learners are not asked to memorise any of the stories. However, they are encouraged to take the best ideas from here and there; from a few short stories and them create their own story to be written in examinations. In other words, those captivating ideas found in the stories which they have read are supposed to be adapted. Since most stories from the Internet are based on happenings and characters in foreign countries, one easy way of adaptation is to create local Malaysian characters and setting. They are also encouraged to include other local and personal elements in the newly created and adapted story. Moreover, learners can also merge ideas taken from 2-4 stories and create their personal version of a new story. Again, nothing is easy unless your learners are genius. If they are not, they must be given ample practices on smart ways to adapt great stories for their good essay mark. All the best to you and your learners!! Happy reading and adapting!!

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