Q-SCOPE: A WRITING STRATEGY FOR WEAK ESL LEARNERS
WHAT IS Q-SCOPE?
Q-SCOPE is an acronym which refers to a writing strategy for weak ESL learners. These are the details:
Q refers to a few sets of past SPM questions for Continuous Writing. Specifically, it refers to the analysis of Continuous Writing questions from 2014 to 2017. I have my findings but I do not want to detail the findings here as preferably, I wish to focus on the strategy in this write-up. SCOPE is derived from SPM COntinuous Writing Past Examination Questions. The word SCOPE is chosen as ‘scope’ also means ‘the extent of area or subject matter that something deals with or to which it is relevant’. In short, the writing strategy which I develop for my weak learners is about preparing focused paragraphs to help them improve their writing in terms of three aspects; idea, grammar and time taken to write their Continuous Writing.
Before I go deeper into Q-SCOPE, I must highlight some explanations about why I develop this strategy. Allow me to share what happened before Q-SCOPE was implemented among my weak learners.
KONA; a strategy to develop their confidence and ability to construct sentences was already introduced and implemented. For more details on KONA, please read my posting dated 20th December 2017 in this blog.
GORENG; a strategy to address the issue of not knowing what to write was also exposed and implemented in the class. Please read my write-up dated 20th December 2017 if you are keen to know more about GORENG.
In general, after the implementations of KONA and GORENG, most of my weak learners have been showing improvements in term of their writing ability. They have better confidence, hence, they write more. It is evident most of them put some efforts to write when their essays written in the Form 4 Final Examination 2017 are examined. However, based on the continuous essays written in the First Examination 2018 (Peperiksaan Awal Tahun 2018), I can see many of my weak learners have problems to finish writing the continuous essay within the stipulated time (Directed Writing in 45 minutes – most of them have no problem with DW; Continuous Writing in 60 minutes). Why does this happen? It is simple, being weak, they just need more time even to construct a short paragraph.
My belief was confirmed correct when I talked to them. Therefore, I thought seriously what else I could do to assist them so that they could write the 350-word Continuous Writing in about one hour. I examined past SPM questions and decided my weak learners must be equipped with some focused paragraphs to be applied in the Mid-Semester Examination 2018. Then, I was hoping, with the prepared paragraphs, their time to complete the 350-word Continuous Writing would not exceed one hour.
HOW MANY FOCUSED PREPARED PARAGRAPHS FOR Q-SCOPE?
Based on the analysis of the past questions for continuous writing, I decided to focus on the genre of descriptive narrative for my weak learners. Please refer to my write-up dated 31 May 2018 for more details on this matter. Therefore, in line with my decision, I strongly encouraged my learners to prepare a short paragraph (15-30 words) based on each of the following sub-topics:
WHY EQUIPPING WEAK LEARNERS WITH FOCUSED PREPARED PARAGRAPHS?
Definitely, I have my reasons for the question above. If weak learners prepare and memorise well the 22 focused paragraphs listed above, I strongly believe they will be able to write most of the essays under this descriptive narrative genre. Why do I say so? If you examine critically the past SPM questions for Continuous Questions since 1997, you will see that whatever essay questions given by the Malaysian Examination Syndicate, each of the essay questions requires SPM candidates to write about events or activities, people and places. Foods and feelings can also always fit in easily in most of the descriptive narrative essays. Therefore, as one of the alternatives, I decide to equip my weak learners with those focused paragraphs with the hope at least they write a bit more in examination. It is my ultimate hope too, the focused prepared paragraphs can help them reduce their thinking time in constructing sentences, thus, enable them to reach the required length within sixty minutes. Moreover, their MWEs can be reduced as the prepared paragraphs contain simple sentences which are checked and approved by the teacher.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS TAKEN TO IMPLEMENT Q-SCOPE?
By right, each learner must write 22 different paragraphs on their own (no. 1-22 above). [Due to time constraint, each of my weak learners had to write one paragraph (no. 1-22 above).Then, they shared their paragraphs. Each short paragraph should be 15-30 words. However, they were encouraged to write a bit longer if they could.]
Teacher checks each paragraph on the content and grammar. Grammar here does not refer to perfect language but it only refers to the reduction of multiple-word errors in the paragraph.
Learners read and understand sample outlines given by the teacher to show how the prepared paragraphs can be applied when they write Continuous Writing in examination.
Learners read and understand some sample essays prepared by the teacher. Teacher highlights the application of the prepared paragraphs in the essay.
Practice makes perfect so weak learners should be given ample practices to apply the prepared paragraphs in their essays.
If time permits, please test your weak learners on the application of the prepared paragraphs before the actual examination.
WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES OF Q-SCOPE SO FAR?
Frankly speaking, I am still exploring Q-SCOPE; reflecting on its weaknesses and strengths and improvising here and there. So far, based on what I have done with my weak learners, I am proud to say I have no more ‘Non-Attempt’ script for Continuous Writing. These two boys (Naim and Faiz) only submitted a blank paper in the first examination in March 2018, however, they have changed! These are their essays written in the recent Mid-Year Examination 2018:
Some people celebrate wedding anniversary. If you are given a chance to plan for your parents' wedding anniversary, what would you do to make the event very special for your parents?
The essay written by Mohamad Faizuddin (previously submitted a blank paper for CW)
The essay written by Mohd Khairul Naim (previously submitted a blank paper for CW. In fact, this is his first time writing for CW in examination since Form 4)
I would also like to share some other essays which are more than 400 words. These girls claimed the paragraphs they prepared for Q-SCOPE did help them to write more. Before the implementation of Q-SCOPE, they had to struggle to write the 350-word essay in examination.
Describe a memorable picnic you had with your loved ones. You should write about the activities done there and how you felt about the experience.
The essay written by Nurmaya Anissa:
The essay written by Nur Aliya (wedding anniversary):
Perhaps, some ESL professors may argue what I have done is not really developing weak learners’ writing skills. It is not a surprise too if the Malaysian Examination Syndicate and examiners of Paper 1 are not in favour of Q-SCOPE. Well, what can I say? I develop Q-SCOPE not to satisfy others. I am positive, developing Q-SCOPE is not a crime! (he he he….). I am merely trying my best to ensure my very weak learners do not submit a blank paper for their Continuous Writing and of course I am trying to ensure my other weak learners are able to write the 350-word essay in one hour and reduce their MWEs.
I know Q-SCOPE is far from being perfect. I will continue making improvements from time to time. I have never stated and will never claim this Q-SCOPE is the best strategy and it fits all contexts well. As I mentioned before, Q-SCOPE is a product of my ongoing efforts to help my weak learners improve their writing. No doubt, just like others, I focus more on making sure they get some marks in examinations especially in the SPM 2018 examination. I hope my weak learners will achieve more in their SPM Trial Examination in August 2018. If you are keen to apply and implement Q-SCOPE, please do so; of course, you get my permission. This posting is meant for sharing with other ESL teachers who always want to explore new ways to help their learners improve writing. Please adopt and adapt if necessary to suit your weak learners. Happy “Q-SCOPEing”! All the best!
[Note: Of course, I share things in my blog because I want to and as a Muslim, I must be doing things “lillahi ta’ala”. However, due to the requirements set by the Ministry of Education, I humbly need your favour. If you apply Q-SCOPE in your school, can your school kindly prepare a Certificate of Appreciation for me? As you know, your certificate will be a piece of evidence on the effectiveness of my innovation. It is for my future applications such as Guru Cemerlang Gred Khas Jusa C, God willing. Please send the printed certificate to Mr Zanurin bin Mohamad Safar, SMK Taman Mutiara, 09700, Karangan, Kedah. Please attach your name, school and contact number together with the certificate. (I will get in touch with you for more materials on Q-SCOPE).
As a token of appreciation for your certificate, I will share with you personally the 22 sample focused prepared paragraphs and 10 sample complete continuous essays that apply Q-SCOPE. With these sample paragraphs and essays, your attempt to explain Q-SCOPE to your weak learners will be much easier. Frankly speaking, I hate to request for your certificate this way; as if I lack sincerity in my sharing. Nevertheless, I do not have a choice as I need proofs to show Q-SCOPE is implemented in other schools. Below are two samples of certificate for your reference. Please take note I am no longer a Guru Cemerlang. I was a GC when I was in DG48. Therefore, you may just write "Guru Bahasa Inggeris". Appreciate your willingness to send a certificate to me. May you always be blessed with the best in life. Thank you.]