DEAR MR KILMER: TIPS TO CRITICALLY EXAMINE THE NOVEL QUESTION
This write-up is based on the performances of my Form 5 pupils in the recent examination. They answered this question, “Write about a character who proves that determination helps to achieve his/her dream.”. Having only learnt the novel Dear Mr Kilmer in January 2020 and they only did a few guided practices and one test based on the novel, it is not surprising that some of them had a few issues in answering the question recently.
Generally, my pupils did their best but as a teacher, it is my responsibility to highlight certain weaknesses exhibited in their responses. The ways the question should be examined and answered must also be explained to them. It is my ultimate hope, the following comments, tips and guidelines will be helpful to my pupils (as well pupils of other schools who also study Dear Mr Kilmer).
TIPS ON TO HOW TO ANALYSE THE QUESTION CRITICALLY:
Read the question and underline the keywords. “Write about a character who proves that determination helps to achieve his/her dream.”
All pupils chose Richard as the character; a perfect choice. Most pupils were able to write about Richard’s determination. HOWEVER, MAJORITY OF THE PUPILS FAILED TO UNDERSTAND THE WORD “DREAM”.
When you examine the keyword which is a noun, determine whether the word is singular or plural. The word “DREAM” refers to Richard’s dream.
Then, ask yourself, “What does dream refer to?”. Dream in this context refers to Richard’s vision, wish, desire, hope, expectation, intention, aim or target.
Please understand that the question wants you to write about Richard who is determined and because of his determination he can achieve his ONE dream (vision, wish, desire, hope, expectation, intention, aim or target).
Therefore, if you include more than a dream in your response, it shows your failure to read, examine and understand the question.
Before you decide which ONE DREAM you want to write about, please list down Richard’s dreams (visions, wishes, desires, hopes, expectations, intentions, aims or targets) that you know. For examples:
Richard strongly wishes to always do the right thing in his life.
Richard dreams of holding firm to his principle in life.
Richard dreams of developing his talent to write poetry.
Richards dreams or aims to befriend Hannah without any prejudice.
Richard dreams or hopes to be determined in facing challenges in his life.
Richard has a strong desire to support his friend, Hannah no matter what happens.
8. Choose ONE of the above dreams and decide which incidents can be used as pieces of evidence to support it.
9. The chosen dream should be the focus of your response. Highlight the focus by repeating it whenever and wherever necessary.
10. Tie your content (point/idea), evidence and opinion to the focus of the question. Refer to the model answer below.
11. Plan well and write your response. Refer to the model answer below.
The novel Dear Mr Kilmer is worth reading. The novel highlights many crucial themes and determination is one of them. The main character, Richard proves that determination helps him to achieve his dream, hope or wish that is to do the right thing in life all the time.
Firstly, Richard’s determination helps him to save innocent wildlife. In Chapter 1, Richard goes hunting with his father and brother, Gus. His father expects Richard to get his first hunt with success. When they are near a creek, a buck appears to drink water. It is about 50 feet from Richard. Richard hesitantly raises his rifle and aims towards the buck. Richard believes in doing the right thing that is not to shoot the buck, thus he purposely delays in pulling the trigger and finally misses the shot. His determination to save the buck’s life helps him to achieve his dream. Richard’s brother scolds him and his father is disappointed for his failure to shoot the animal. In my opinion, we must always try to do the right thing even though our action may not be liked by others.
Secondly, we can see Richard’s success in doing the right thing that is to support Hannah when she is down. One day, the tavern which belongs to the Schermers is vandalised and Mrs Hansen asks her pupils to sign the sympathy card which will be sent to Hannah. The card is passed around in class but in the end nobody signs it except Richard. Richard’s determination is clearly seen here as he does not care what his classmates would say or do to him. All he cares is to do the right thing that is to sign the card and comfort Hannah. Once again Richard proves his determination when he offers to deliver the card personally to Hannah at her house. Richard has only one dream or hope that is to express his sympathy to Hannah and her family. In my opinion, it is important for us to be determined in doing the right thing even though we have to face challenges.
Finally, Richard’s determination has helped him to achieve his dream of doing the right thing when he rejects his role as a Doughboy. One day, Mrs Hansen organises a patriotic programme to raise fund for war. By winning the essay writing competition, both Richard and Hannah are the given the roles of Doughboy and Lady Liberty respectively. However, the other pupils, together with the members of the society are angry when Hannah is chosen for the role. Finally, Hannah rejects her roles as she does not want to create any more troubles. Richard is determined to defend Hannah up to the extent he is willing to reject his role as a Doughboy. Richard wants to do the right thing that is not to practise prejudice and support his friend Hannah no matter what happens. Obviously his determination helps him to achieve what he wants or dreams of. Personally, I believe, having strong determination is crucial in achieving our dream as it will give us inner strength to face all the obstacles.
In conclusion, no doubt Richard is a determined character and it is his determination helps him to achieve his dream or what he wishes to do in his life.
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