Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Teacher Talk (17): Continuous Writing

In the quest for professional development, please keep your questions coming. Here's an email I received today from an English teacher (published with permission). Your responses are most  welcome. Just leave a comment in the comment box. Who knows they may help this teacher. Remember, collaboration and talking about what we do are important for our professional growth. It's when we stop talking about our beliefs and practices that we become demotivated and helpless.

From: To:
Sent: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 11:42 AM
Subject: continuous writing

Salam, Puan Rahmah,
may i know for continuous writing (spm) eng paper, for quest no 5, let say the question ''SMILE"  , if  the student use it (smile)as a character in their story instead of using writing it as a fact,  can they get good marks?
2) if they write less than 350 words but it is  good essay , can they get 40 marks and above?

My Response:

thank you for your question.

1. For one-word essay or open-topic essay, the student is given the freedom to write in the form of a narrative, descriptive, factual etc. essay. therefore if the student makes it a character, it is perfectly acceptable. But of course you still use the descriptors in the bands to assess the essay.

2. If the essay is shorter than 350 words but written excellently (not just 'good'), the candidate can still be awarded above 40 marks. However, the essay cannot be too short as it's rare to find a good essay that covers all (the mechanics and nuances of writing) if it is short.

~the thinking teacher~


  1. yes.
    that was one of the ways we were taught to do when coming across such title.
    i could freely write any story based on my creativity.

  2. u still remember rozaidi!

  3. This is truly beyond me, cikgu. What has become of teaching how to write? Have teachers stopped teaching children the use of capital letters to begin a sentence, the capital I and you for first second person, the use of proper punctuations and use/abuse of ‘quest’, tqvm and such like?

    I thought problems of this nature happen in my rural environment only. Obviously it is more widespread than I could ever imgine. Only two months ago a form five pupil told Pakcik that her teacher had asked everyone to get ready a one-topic essay. She was asked to choose a pet animal like a cat which would be named after whatever one-word essay. She was to have the essay perfected and thoroughly studied to be reproduced during the coming SPM exam. That being the very first time I heard about such method of preparation for SPM, I was totally flabbergasted at that method of teaching English. Today I see this in your blog, an eye-opener indeed for me. And I thought all the while teachers have been attending seminars after seminars to improve teaching skills – and improved salary scales as well!

    No, I will continue to help my students the old method. Know your vocab and grammar and do enough practice to be ready for the unknown when you open the question paper.

    I am sorry for being overtly critical.

  4. salam pakcik,
    hmmm the ever critical pakcik :) Well, I can understand your anguish. Let me explain:

    1. Your first concern was punctuation. Well, this is how people communicate via email pakcik and it was cut and pasted from the email. we communicate faster without worrying too much about the mechanics of writing. Of course, this is NOT the standard when it comes to proper writing such as an essay. I believe they call this netiquette? You will not see this in standard writing I can assure you.

    2. I don't subscribe to memorising essays for exams too. But this could happen (the situation you described) because the teacher is worried about exam performance. A desperate measure when all else failed? Thanks for sharing your methods. Many will benefit from this exchange I'm sure.

    I'm not sure what you meant by
    'Today I see this in your blog, an eye-opener indeed for me.' So, I can't comment on this.

    Keep writing pakcik and to others too. It's good to have such discussions :)Have a nice day!

  5. A Concerned Educator9 June 2011 at 19:59

    I would have there. Respectfully of course. If a candidate writes an essay on a character named after the title, wouldn't that be a tad. ridiculous?

    Let's say the topic is 'Clothes' (one of the SPM topics), would you name your character, 'Clothes'? Perhaps if the candidate is able to justify this through creativity, then we can accept this. However, to regurgitate an essay based on a pet called 'Clothes'?

    No wonder our students are becoming cookie-cutter types instead of unique individuals. Look at what we are producing.

  6. thanks anonymous. yes, creatively will be more like it. there's so much more i would like to say about assessment but i'm not at liberty. ur comments are much appreciated.


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