FAQs for students


Q: How can I improve my written expression?

  1. It is important to constantly improve your written expression through wide reading.
  2. In our classes, we will work on a passage each week focussing on “good writing”. The passage may be from the newspaper (editorial or opinion text) or a novel. We will learn/analyse sophisticated words, expressions and key statements. Please write a concise summary of the author’s main ideas and key arguments.
  3. Please send me a paragraph on one of our tasks or a paragraph from a school task and I will analyse any awkward phrases/clauses. We will go over the typical/common grammatical errors in the class.  Please see: student-sample-expression-corrections

Q: How can I improve my reasoning and persuasive techniques and persuasive speeches/essays?

  1. Keep reading persuasive texts – editorials and opinion texts – in the newspaper.
  2. Please do an exercise each work from the Green Workbook: The Language of persuasion: become an expert. See this link for relevant exercises/now “turn to” exercises.
  3. You must also keep learning the “metalanguage” that is filtered throughout the workbook, especially the tone words, so that you have the words for a deeper analysis.
  4. You must use these techniques in your own persuasive speeches and essays.

Q: How can I improve my text-based essays?

  1. You must constantly work on key ideas and topic sentences. Once again, wide reading is the key. In our classes, we work on a variety of passages from your set texts, other texts and newspaper articles, and identify key ideas.  These topic sentences are critical for text response essays. They will also form the basis for a comparative essay. eg. guards and abuse of power; Example: pls see the analysis of key article and key ideas.
  2. Please see notes on Writing a Text Response essay
  3. Please see notes on Writing A Comparative paragraph/essay

Q: How can I improve my creative essays?

  1. Read novels; you can also improve by reading a variety of people stories from the newspaper such as “Two of Us”, Good Weekend.
  2. In our classes, we will develop our analysis of people/characters/themes (through a variety of people stories)
  3. We will study passages in texts and focus on the author’s creative strategies.

Q: I’m confused about the structure of a context essay. I learnt from my teacher that one has a lot of freedom when writing context essays, and there’s no fixed structure. Usually when I write a context essay, I write from the perspective of one of the characters in the book. What do you think?

A:  You can certainly write from the perspective of a character. These are great fun to write, so long as you piggy-back cleverly off the ideas in the text. However, in an exam, these essays can appear stereotypical and clichéd as assessors may have read similar ones before, especially if it is not a new text. Also, there is a tendency to get lost in the story, and if you lose sight of the prompt and your “big” ideas are not clear, your marks will suffer. In a SAC, when you have more time and your teacher is more familiar with your work, it is often easier to sustain the story/idea/purpose.

As the standard of (hybrid) expository essays increases, it can be hard to get the same mark. But if your creative essay is special and original then, give it a try.

But don’t forget. It’s not about the story. It’s about the quality and depth of your ideas and your level of sophistication.

With a hybrid expository style, you can capture a range of ideas in a mature and insightful way. You can include some deeper comments from well-known people; and you can also satisfy your creative urges, by using an interesting, credible, or humorous persona.

I see some excellent essays in this mould and it’s hard to get to the same standard with the creative ones.

Does this help??

Q: I keep getting B for my creative essay/context and it seems to lack depth and structure.

A: here’s some pointers for the creative:

    • There is a tendency to get lost in the story and not focus on the prompt;
    • And then, when you focus on the prompt, you often go against the creative rule: show don’t tell. The tendency to tell too much undermines the skill of a creative essay. You must be sophisticated and work out when to be explicit and when to be subtle.
    • Tendency of characters to be stereotypical – hard to be fresh
    • Often the whole “story” is worth only a half a page at the most – the rest is padding/ repetitious descriptions that do not value add; you must do more with less.
    • There is also a tendency to close in on the story; this makes it hard to include ideas relating to prompt
    • Tips: try to open up the story; (2 levels or ) open-ended narrator who thinks, reflects, evaluates and introduces ideas, or contrasting people stories or personal experience

Keep reading anecdotes, first-hand stories such as Two of Us, and then see how you can personalise them. These stories will give you a framework, depth, insights and you can mix and match. See Personal stories. And More Personal Stories


jenny 08

See Writing essays: in context