There is no time to lose! The weekend is coming and this is the perfect time to prepare for the oral examination that is coming really soon. Stimulus-based conversation is one of the changes in the new PSLE format in 2015 and many children are stumbled by it. Compared to the previous format of picture description, there is no fixed formula for scoring as you are not supposed to merely describe what you see (e.g. You may remember asking your older children to describe the picture in a clockwise/anti-clockwise direction!).
For the new format, the aim is for the children and the examiners to have a conversation, an exchange of words that is somewhat natural. Hence, description alone is not enough, it does not provide for a conversation. Instead, the ability to share your opinions, thoughts and experiences in relation to the picture (stimulus) and topic is valued. To some children, speaking to a stranger about his day or life is not a natural thing to do and hence this requires constant practice on their part.
To help my children handle this part of the examination, I have broken down some pointers into 5 parts: BLARE. To blare means to make a loud, harsh sound. Of course, we are not asking for the children to be rude but we definitely want them to capture the examiner’s attention and engage them. BLARE stands for Body Language, Language (Vocabulary and Structures), Accuracy, Response and Engagement. Here are some instructions again about using the checklist. Do note that the action required to use the checklist is different from the PEARS reading checklist. Sit tight and here we go:
How to use the conversation checklist
1. Read before reading the passage
Similar to the reading checklist, both the candidate (the child) and listener need to read through the checklist before using it. Once again, this is to aid them in being more mindful of what is good. However, as you read, you will notice that instead of “areas to improve on”, this checklist highlights the attributes (“During the conversation, I…”) that the candidate should display during a conversation.
The reason is, compared to reading, most children already have the ability to read and it is more helpful to help them fine-tune and avoid what should not be done. In comparison, due to the new format, I noticed that some children are not even sure of what they should do during a conversation. Hence, the points serve as a guide for candidates to know what is helpful to do instead.
2. Tick the points that have been displayed
Due to this checklist being one which highlights things that should be done, I encourage ticking the boxes instead of circling the points not yet displayed. However, if the listener prefers to circle what is not yet displayed, this can still be done as long as the candidate and listener have communicated clearly on how the checklist should be used. Feel free to customise how you wish to use the checklist (: