Chinese composition is 20% of the total grade for PSLE. Unlike Comprehension, this component relies entirely on the primary school child’s ability to write what they’re thinking…without prompts! Though it may seem overwhelming, you can score more easily when you know what examiners look out for. We’ve compiled the following 8 tips to help improve marks.

1. Memorise great Chinese composition startings and endings (开头, 结尾)

First impressions matter. Instead of taking time to craft a killer introduction, memorise choicy Chinese composition startings (开头) instead. These should only be a couple of lines long but make a big impact! Here are some Connected Learning Teachers’ favourite easy startings (开头):

  • 回忆开头法: 在我生活的长河里,经历了不少事情,它们像夜空中的繁星一般多,其中有一件事让我万分羞愧,至今难忘。
  • 人物开头法: 小文是出了名的捣蛋鬼,胆子特别大,满肚子的坏主意。可自从发生了一件事后,他有了一百八十度的转变。
  • 点题开头法: 如果你问我谁是我们班上最调皮捣蛋的同学,我会毫不犹豫地告诉你,那就是小文。
  • 天气开头法: 今天天气晴朗,几缕白云在蓝天中慢慢地飘荡,微风轻轻地吹拂,让人心情格外舒畅。

And here are some great conclusions (结尾):

  • 所谓“吃一堑,长一智”,经过这次的教训,小文暗自下定决心要改过自新。再也不敢顽皮了。
  • 从这次考试的经历,我深深体会到“天下无难事,只怕有心人”,只要勇于挑战自己,发愤图强,世上就没有任何能难倒我们的事。
  • “前事不忘,后事之师”,经过这件事后,我学会了要尊重他人,做事要考虑后果,不要鲁莽行事。
  • 快乐的时光总是过得特别快,不知不觉已经是傍晚时分。我们虽然都很累,但是都很开心。大家度过了愉快的一天,希望下次能旧地重游。
  • 妈妈听了,竖起大拇指称赞她是一个懂事的好孩子。小丽满心欢喜,不禁眉开眼笑。

We recommend asking your child to sit with their tutor or school teacher to craft original ones together. That way, your child is more involved in the process and they will remember it better and feel less stressed in the exam hall.

2. Talk about their compo (联想力)

Practice makes perfect, but children often detest writing Chinese compositions. That stops them from getting enough practice in quickly crafting a good essay from scratch. To get those precious minutes of practice done, why not think out loud? Find some questions, get your child to pick one, and then let them tell you the compo verbally. (You can choose to record it.) This allows them to work through the process of structuring the story in a short time limit, which is crucial in exam conditions. It’s the equivalent of writing essay plans!

With this practice, they will develop the habit of spending the first few minutes coming up with a plan before putting pen on paper. This preparation is crucial in writing good, consistent compositions under pressure.

3. Keep up-to-date with trending words

Reading news is very important, but if your child can’t (or won’t) do that, they should at least understand trending words. For example, if the school chooses to test on “Zika virus”, or “Donald Trump”, students have to know what these are in Chinese to write about them. So, you or their Chinese tutor should compile a list of important phrases and words. Then, use pictures or videos whilst explaining so your child will remember them…forever!

4. Have handy catchphrases (成语)

When I was in Primary School, my Chinese composition catchphrase was “风和日丽”. It helps to have a few stellar idioms (成语) that are versatile and add to vocabulary marks effortlessly. You can use popular ones such as these:

  1. 兴高采烈
  2. 满头大汗
  3. 脸青唇白
  4. 鬼鬼祟祟
  5. 火冒三丈
  6. 一五一十
  7. 改过自新

However, we find it better to get your child’s Chinese tutor, school teacher, or yourself to look through past compositions and identify which idioms the child is comfortable with. Going from their knowledge, expand to other areas whilst involving them in the process. Then, help children incorporate more into their compositions naturally.

While you’re at it, memorise some good phrases to beef up the compo’s body as well! For example:

  1. Scared – 我着急,害怕。我的心扑扑直跳,手心里都出汗了。
  2. Ashamed – 他的话像打了我几个耳光,我感到脸上火辣辣的,羞愧的泪水不禁顺着眼角淌了下来。

5. Make sure key points are included

After hearing your child’s train of thought or reading their past essays, you can identify what their weaknesses are. A common problem is a lack of consistency; stories often have confusing sequences, or lack development. To prevent this, students should remember to always address Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How (5Ws and 1H). There are great reference books for this, such as 阶梯作文.

With these key points, make sure they explain what the key message/lesson is.

6. Write succinctly

Less is more. Writing succinctly ensures the student can finish on time. It’s also good practice for weak students, as more wrong words = minus marks. Keeping essays short means less room for error! We recommend sticking to 2.5 pages maximum. Adding conversations help reveal things about the characters, and/or their habits, thoughts, and interesting details.

7. Read

Many parents swear by this method. If children love reading, they will naturally know how to write well and use appropriate sentence structure, grammar, and idioms. Check out 杨红樱 books; they are very popular! If your child hates reading Chinese, start with comics such as 哥妹俩 as a start. They will grow more interested in Mandarin and eventually become open to reading Chinese books. Even if this doesn’t make your child an avid writer, it will definitely make it easier for them to memorise and use good phrases.

8. Affirm their progress

When I was in Primary School, I was so proud when my tutor praised my essay and even passed it to other students to read. It made me feel very encouraged and I liked writing compos even more after that. It’s important for you and teachers to praise notable improvements and guide students in the right direction. For example, in Connected Learning, we provide monthly progress reports and use enquiry-based learning to help our students develop passion for the language. However, it’s not always easy to find a good teacher who understands and works well with motivating children instead of using old-school route learning. See how Connected Learning’s tutors guide students in our free, online sample lesson.

Chinese compositions shouldn’t feel like a chore. We hope these 8 easy tips on Chinese compositions help, especially for children in Primary School! Like us on Facebook to keep updated with more great tips from our expert teachers.  

Also read: How to help your child learn Chinese Characters

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