The PSLE 2022 was a good year for many of TF’s students who scored extremely well on their English paper. At the end of every year, I like to review with the teachers what we did at TF and how we can further improve our curriculum, teaching methods, and classes. To help our students in the best way possible, we too need to grow and learn as teachers.

To start off 2023, I would like to write a series of blog posts about the different English components tested during PSLE 2022. After the PSLE Oral, my P6 2022 students and I discussed the questions asked and the answers that they gave. During the school holidays, my students who scored AL1 & AL2 shared their PSLE composition plots with me so that they in turn can help the P6 2023 students (Thank you!).

Let’s unpack the first component of the PSLE 2022 exam.

2022 PSLE Paper 1 Unpacking

The composition theme given was a surprise, to say the least. This was the only year when I received many phone calls and Whatsapp messages from my students after the PSLE English to check if their plots were out of point. I was initially surprised by the theme, but then soon realised that it actually was a very good theme. It allowed students to be creative with their ideas and plots. There was no cookie-cutter plot and if a creative student followed the paper 1 rules and techniques taught to him or her, he or she could score very well. For sure, no PSLE marker was ‘bored’ marking last year’s Paper 1!

Now, let’s take a look at the theme and pictures below.

psle 2022 paper 1 pictures

At TF, we always start off discussing the theme because going out of point is a fatal mistake that even good writers can make.

1. Theme ‘A long Wait’

The theme is definitely out of the normal ones that my P6 students were tested on during their SA1 and Preliminary exams. The student should firstly plan about waiting for a person, an event, or something to occur. Secondly, the length of time would depend on the plot. If the protagonist is queuing for something important then, the wait would be considered shorter than let’s say the wait to meet up with a best friend who has transferred to a new school during the school holidays. Thirdly, what happens at the end of the long wait is an important part of the plot. You will see with the examples that I will give later, that the fruition of the ‘long wait’ can be either negative or positive.

2. The pictures

The next step before the 5-minute Planning stage is analysing the pictures given.

If students choose to use Picture 1, they can write about the protagonist waiting for someone or something to happen. The protagonist in the picture is in a cafe, restaurant or food court and the expression on her face shows that she is feeling frustrated or impatient.

If students choose to use Picture 2, they can write about a special occasion or event that they have been waiting for. The word ‘Hurray’ would signify that it is something they have been eagerly waiting for and there is an expectation of a happy or good outcome.

If students choose Picture 3, they can write about queuing for a long time for something important to the protagonist, whether it is for a special movie, her favourite meal or a limited edition item.

3. The planning

Students should then move on to the Planning stage. At TF, developing the theme is paramount at this stage. It is more so in such an ‘open’ composition. Students can write about any plot they want but the thread that holds it together is the use of the theme. The examples from the students who scored AL1 and AL2 will show you that no student had the same plot. AT TF, students are given model compositions for every composition but we do not ask them to memorise these models unless they want to on their own. The students who scored well for the PSLE understood how to use theme development and used it to make sure that their different plots were in line with the theme. We often remind them to use the theme in as many paragraphs and teach them the correct techniques how to use the theme. In P5 and P6 if our students do not develop the theme enough, they are marked down and the teachers will explain to them how to improve on it.

4. Plots

Let us take a look at 6 plots from our P6 2022 students. These students scored AL1 & AL2 for their PSLE English 2022.

L : She used picture 2 and her long wait was about a protagonist whose best friend had transferred to a new school. They planned to meet up during the next school holiday and the protagonist had marked the date down in her calendar. During the long wait, she looked forward to meeting her best friend as she missed her dearly. However, on the day of the outing, the best friend cancelled. Frustrated and disappointed, the protagonist went to the mall alone, only to see her best friend having fun with a new group of friends. L concluded her story with a reflective ending, about the angry and sad outcome after waiting so long to meet up with her best friend.

RK : He used picture 3. His long wait was for the end-of-the-year examinations and going to watch The Avengers movie that he had been looking forward to because of the good reviews. However, the queue to get in to watch the movie was unexpectedly long and the protagonist became impatient. He was so impatient that he tried to cut the queue. His mother admonished him and then advised him on the importance of patience. The protagonist apologised to the person in front of him and learnt a lesson. Eventually, the queue started moving and the protagonist got to watch his movie. RK concluded with a reflective ending about the long wait and what it had taught him.

R: She used picture 2. Her long wait was going to the amusement park if she did well for the examinations. Her plot was about the challenges the protagonist went through in order to do well for the examinations just so she could go to the amusement park. R focused on how difficult it is to be patient and work towards a goal. R concluded with a reflective ending on what she had learnt during the long wait.

N : He used picture 3. His long wait was for a ride at water park. The protagonist had been eagerly waiting to go on that particular ride at the water park but the queue was very long. As he neared his turn, something happened around him. Someone needed help and after reflection, the protagonist left the queue to render assistance. The protagonist missed his chance to take the ride after the long wait but helped someone in need. N concluded with a reflective ending about his experience that day.

B : He used picture 1. B’s protagonist was a girl who had a difficult time dealing with her emotions. It was her birthday and her parents were never around because they were workaholics. The protagonist was angry and frustrated from the start of the story. She went to a cafe to meet her cousin for her birthday celebration but her cousin did not show up. The longer the protagonist waited the angrier she became. To quell her boredom and anger while she waited, she looked around and noticed the newest model of mobile phone left unattended beside her. Without thinking things through, she stole the mobile phone and left. Even though the protagonist was not caught for stealing the mobile phone she was racked with guilt. Her frustration at having no one to celebrate her birthday with was replaced by a deep regret. B ended his story with a reflective ending on how the protagonist learnt a painful lesson about managing her emotions due to the long wait.

ZH : He used picture 2. The protagonist in his story was a boy who was promised a mobile phone after he completed his PSLE. He had been eagerly waiting to own a mobile phone for a very long time and had even circled the end of the PSLE on his calendar. When the day finally arrived, he returned home to find a box with Iphone 14 on it. The protagonist was delighted beyond words when he saw the box but when he opened it, inside was an old Nokia phone. The protagonist was upset that it was all he got after his long wait but after reflection, he decided that it was better than nothing. ZH ended off with a reflective ending about his long wait and its outcome.

I hope that the above examples show you how being creative in your plots and holding ideas together with good writing techniques and theme development is a winning formula. Needless to say, the students who scored AL1 & 2 spent time to perfect their grammar in their writing. And remember, nothing beats a good reflective ending, especially when the protagonist uses the theme to show growth in the story.

And with that, the teachers at TF would like to wish a very happy ‘Back to school’ and a good start to the year!

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