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 Post subject: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:05 pm 
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Posts: 316
I was reading an article in Saturday Times about how to give your child a private school education without paying a penny :shock:

Anyway, much of what they were saying was common sense (e.g. talk to your children, read to them etc) but one thing did make me stop and think. The article was going through the list of things you should be doing for year 6 entrance exams and the one that interested me related to english compositions in an entrance exam.

The article said, " when asked to write a composition in the English exam, never write a story. Never use direct speech. Make your piece almost entirely descriptive. Don't finish with "and it was all a dream.""

Now, I agree with the dream ending. But should you really never write a story and never use direct speech :? My poor child doesn't have the benefit of private education and is entirely reliant on me to advise him on how to glean a few extra marks come exams in September and this article has frightened me somewhat.

Could anyone who has more experience of this please tell me whether the article contained good advice?


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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:23 pm 
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I haven't read the article. For preparation I used English ISEB revision guide, by Susan Elkin. There is indeed "avoid the following: the narrator waking up at the end and revealing it was all a dream. it has been done far too often before and will make the examiner sigh in exasperation."
But " Use dialogue to show what characters are like too. Let them introduce themselves to your reader through what they say. This is much more like real life and works well in stories."


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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:10 pm 
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There is a tendency for children to use far to much speech, but a little, with correct use of speech marks, should be OK. The genre of writing will depend on the question (I'm thinking of SATs specifically).


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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:57 pm 
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I recall looking back at DS2's school books and seeing this sort of thing: I said "You must be joking!", and he replied, "No, I am completely serious", to which I said: "Oh, no! It has to be a dream!"

All with lousy punctuation, because that volume of direct speech will challenge any 10 year old's punctuation (and possibly mine as well. :oops:)

So much better, and far easier, to write: I assumed he was joking, but he assured me that he was completely serious. I decided that it had to be a dream!

And I agree on the "dream" ending. Never. Ever. When DS1 once ran out of steam and time on a story I persuaded him to finish with: "At that moment a Yeti appeared. What happened to Herbert may never be known." (Or words to that effect.)

The teacher spotted my work, but she didn't feel it was a bad way to conclude the story if you were in a hurry! :D


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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:42 am 
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Thanks for responses.

What do you think of the suggestion that you should never write a story (presumably if given the choice) and just try to keep it descriptive. Of course, if you're told to write a pursuasive piece or a letter of some sort then this is irrelevant, but if you have to write a fictional piece, would it really be better not to write a traditional beginning, middle and end "story" but to keep it to a descriptive narrative :o


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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:21 am 
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This is a really interesting discussion. I suppose that coming up with ideas for stories is one of the most challenging bits for writing stories, so harder to win many marks, whereas something like persuasive writing is more formulaic and so easier to tick the boxes?

I don't know; just speculating.

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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:37 am 
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Yes, it is interesting FB. I think you need to be careful about the brief. You can still be imaginative with a conventional structure. Alternatively you could use flashbacks, a prologue etc if you wanted to be more ambitious, although personally I don't think this is necessary. I'd read lots of short stories together and look at how they avoid being predictable.


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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:42 am 
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Location: Torbay
This advice seems totally over the top for an 11+ exam! The use of "never" in the article is ill-advised and could have been replaced by "try not to.."
In an 11+ exam there would be no reason not to use direct speech - if a child uses it correctly this will go in their favour.
In Torbay, where I tutor for the 11+, the child has to get at least 50% in the eleven plus examination in order to pass. The same is true for Maths. Verbal reasoning is the exam in which every mark counts.
It may be that the article is more applicable to a higher level of examination than the eleven plus. Don't forget our children are only 10 or 11 when they take the 11+ - they cannot be expected to write like a poet laureate! :D


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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:02 am 
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That's a very good suggestion Ourmam. I shall bring that in this evening when we're reading! :)

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 Post subject: Re: Is this really true?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:18 am 
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I remember a teacher suggesting that if there's a choice between non-fiction and fiction then a child who writes non-fiction normally stands out, especially if he or she can put both sides of an argument. She suggested it's unusual for a child of that age to be able to do so.


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