Let's Make a Change: Promoting Quality Ideas and Details in Continuous Writing
Most ESL teachers would come to an agreement that the Continuous Writing questions for SPM 1119/1 are getting tougher and more challenging. Besides displaying language problems, many learners also exhibit three critical issues in term of the content; their inability to fulfil all the content requirements, presentation of immature and unconvincing ideas, and incompetence to develop ideas well. How can ESL teachers assist and guide their learners to overcome the three learning issues mentioned above? Personally, one way out is to have sufficient and ongoing writing practices which focus on ideas or content as well as details using questions that cover numerous genres of Continuous Writing.
Another crucial tip to bear in mind is that the practices which focus on ideas and details should use QUALITY CONTINUOUS WRITING QUESTIONS which not many reference or exercise books in the market can offer. The questions given to learners for each practice should be of real SPM standard Continuous Writing questions. Here are the Continuous Writing questions which I personally formulated and used with my learners. Do take what you favour and suit your learners. Reject the questions as you wish if they do not meet your expectation.
Describe your most favourite activity with your siblings on a public holiday. Explain about the activity and convince others to do what you do.
Describe a cartoon television show that you like. Explain the reasons why you like the show and a lesson children can learn from the main cartoon character in the show.
Some teenagers lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Discuss the reasons why this is happening and suggest how to promote a better lifestyle among them.
Examinations should be abolished in schools. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.
Write a story about a neighbour who is very popular in your neighbourhood. Discuss the reasons that make the neighbour popular and what other residents think of the popular neighbour.
Describe what do you think it is like to be the eldest sibling? Explain about the biggest challenge that the eldest sibling has to face and how the challenge can be overcome.
Imagine you are a seven-year-old child. What kind of toys do you wish to have and with who do you want to play them? Explain your choices.
There should be a night curfew for teenagers. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.
Write a story about someone was very workaholic and the effects of working too hard. Begin your story with: “It was already 10 p.m. All the other employers had gone home hours ago. …”
What would be the first and last thing that you would do if you found a magical wand? Explain your choices.
What is the birthday gift that you really wish to get? Describe the gift, explain the reasons for wanting it and your plans after getting the birthday gift.
Every teenage child deserves a monthly allowance of RM200 from their parents. How far do you agree with the opinion? Explain why.
Write a story about a young successful farmer who is very generous. End your story with: “My friends and I learnt a lot especially the meaning of generosity.”
Last night you had a dream visiting a very lovely place which was like a paradise. Describe the place and explain what you saw, did and felt.
How can we make mothers feel that they are always appreciated? Give some suggestions and highlight your best suggested idea.
Do you prefer to have a vacation with your friends or family members? Give reasons for your response.
Imagine you spent the last school holiday staying with a foster family. Describe the activities and what you felt throughout the stay.
Write about your personal weaknesses and what you plan to do to overcome those weaknesses.
Which motivational book would you strongly recommend your peers to read? Describe what the book is all about and explain your reasons.
Write a story about a retired government servant who is active doing charity work. Begin your story with: “The sun began rising in the east, promising a brand new day. …”
Describe your perfect school day. Explain what and who made it perfect and how you felt.
How can unity be promoted in your neighbourhood? Give suggestions and highlight a highly recommended activity to enhance unity.
Students should be allowed to choose their own subject teachers. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.
Write a story about Sam, an uneducated and a poor man who enjoyed his life to the fullest. Begin your story with: “Sam smiled calmly as if he had nothing to worry. …”
Imagine your father opens a new café in town. Describe a very special attraction at the café and your strategies to promote the café to the public.
HOW TO HELP ESL LEARNERS ADDRESS THESE THREE ISSUES:
i) inability fulfil all the requirements
Refer to KC – a tool shared in this blog on 24 March 2019.
ii) presentation of immature and unconvincing ideas
Brainstorming process is a must. Learners must brainstorm on several ideas and then examine each idea. Later, they should select 3-4 main ideas; the strongest or most convincing ideas.
iii) incompetence to develop ideas well
Learners must be taught to develop ideas either by using a simple mind map or any suitable i-THINK map. Another option is to use a tool called S-CODE which was shared in this blog on 15 February 2018.
Practice makes perfect – obviously it is a cliché but we cannot deny its truth. Similarly, when learners are given sufficient practices to improve and sharpen their ideas and details, there will be progress. It is something impossible and illogical if their ideas get worse when they seriously do more practices.
Personally, I have seen growths and improvements in terms of ideas and details among my own learners when more and more practices are done. No doubt, some show little or slow progress, however, in general, the ongoing practices to think seriously about the content of their essay do help my learners. Hopefully, the questions and some tips shared here will also help your learners to present better ideas and details when they write. Let's make a change in the way we coach our learners to write better essays. Trust me, in line with our efforts, our learners will also change for betterment, in shaa Allah.