Going Out of Topic

How to Avoid Going Out of Topic in Your Composition!

Hello, everyone! I’m Miss Genevieve, an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. In this video, I’ll be sharing a simple checklist that you can use to help you ensure that you meet the content requirements of the Continuous Writing section of Paper 1. I hope this checklist will help you stay relevant to the topic and address it well.

When writing a composition, it’s important not to neglect any of the elements in the question. Since you are expected to consider different interpretations of the given theme, breaking down the topic clearly for yourself is essential.

I often encourage students to look at the theme first before proceeding to brainstorm ideas based on the pictures in the question. In case you’re wondering why, this ensures that their ideas are built on explaining the topic clearly. Plus, if they are thinking of repurposing a storyline they have written before, they will strive to include the right details to help explain the topic.

Here’s another point to note. Some topics can be tricky – especially if they come with an adjective. It’s easy to deviate from the topic with a story that is not fully relevant. Take for example, the topic is “a new experience.” If a student writes about going on a camping trip with his family but fails to explain how this was a novel event for him, it is not fully relevant.

To ensure that you never let your ideas wander away from the theme, you should include at least 3 topic related phrases (TRPs) in your story too. TRPs are words or phrases that address the topic of the composition and these include synonyms, phrases related to the topic, or even using the exact words found in the question. For instance, the phrase “something … had never experienced before” is an example of an appropriate TRP for the topic “a new experience”.

To prevent making a grave error of misinterpreting the theme, I’d like to encourage you to be detailed in answering the question prompts. In fact, you can think of the question prompts as what the reader (or examiner) expects to learn about in your story.

The story that you plan to write should cover a sequence of events that answer the question prompts.

Let’s go back to the example of “a new experience”. If you are planning to write about a camping trip, the plan that you have developed should help to explain the following:

  1. What was the new experience?
    Answer: Camping in the wilderness with my family for the first time.
  2. How was the experience new?
    Answer: #1 was never an adventurer and hated the great outdoors. His father wanted him to try this novel experience with his family.

Last but not least, the picture needs to be used meaningfully in your story.

An effective way to achieve this is to consider the following:

  • Have I used the picture to create a conflict in the story?
  • Did I use the picture to solve #1’s problem in the story?

If that’s not evident due to the nature of the topic, you can think about how the picture caused a change in #1’s impression, attitude, or feeling towards the situation he experienced in the story.

Here are three suggestions on how to use the picture of the tent meaningfully to bring out the topic, “a new experience”. It shows that the picture is integral to the story you are telling.

  1. Suggestion #1
    Picture is used in the Problem
    While camping overnight in the tent, #1 encountered a brewing storm and had to take cover in the flimsy tent.
  2. Suggestion #2
    Picture is used in the Solution
    #1’s father offered to teach him how to pitch a tent when he was frustrated and wanted to give up.
  3. Suggestion #3
    Picture explains character change
    After spending a night in the stuffy tent for the first time, #1 learned to appreciate the comforts of his home.

Of course, the selected event should be supported with 3 picture related phrases (PRPs) that describe the chosen picture in detail to help to show how the picture serves as an inspiration for your story. To form PRPs, you should consider using adjectives, adverbs and even the 5-senses to flesh out the details in the picture. “The dark green canvas sheet attached to a frame of steel poles” is an example of a PRP for the tent picture.

Before I end this video, I’d like to share that this checklist should be used after you have planned your composition and before you commence writing. It is a way for you to check that you have stayed relevant to the topic and have a clear idea of what details you should prioritise in your story.

Since you are only given 1hour and 10 minutes to complete a situational writing task and composition, time is indeed precious! It would be difficult to revise your draft midway through your plot, so remember to keep to the plan!

That’s all for today! If you’ll like to find out more about how to break down a composition question, generate TRPS, or PRPS, please check out the links in the description below. See you soon and take care!

The Write Recipe

The Write Recipe – Lil’ but Mighty’s Composition Writing (Planning and Brainstorming) Self-Paced Online Course for P4-6!

Video lessons, worksheets, quizzes & even games. Everything in this course will guide your child on how to brainstorm and come up with jaw-dropping stories! Readers won’t be able to take their eyes off the stories! Sign up today!

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Ms. Genevieve

Ms. Genevieve has been teaching at tuition centres for six years, specialising in creative writing. She continues to mine fascinating insights from advertising, pop culture, and music to liven up her classrooms. A firm believer that small steps can lead to remarkable results, she is excited to ignite a love for learning with her novel teaching approaches at Lil’ but Mighty.

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