Writing with Purpose – How to Excel in Situational Writing
Situational writing is one of the main components of your child’s English Language examination papers. It carries a total of 15 marks and challenges your child to draft a short, functional writing piece based on a given set of instructions. In particular, students need to ensure that the writing piece suits the purpose, audience and context of a given situation, which is typically presented as a picture or comic, accompanied by supporting information. Together with the continuous writing segment, the entire Paper 1 (total of 55 marks) carries a weight of 27.5% – more than 1/5 of the entire score!
For us, situational writing is a unique challenge, especially because of the goal-directed nature of the writing task. This task requires your child to balance his/her attention not just on language, but on the content, tone and the objective of the writing piece. This is definitely no easy feat! For us, the situational writing component holds a special place. The component offers an opportunity for students to test their ability to extract information and use the same information to tailor to the task. This involves a fine balance between creative and critical thinking to test your child.
We understand that it is not easy to ace the situational writing component, especially with the different possible types of tasks and objectives. However, we have pulled together some quick tips your child can use to score well in the situational writing component.
Tip #1: Your Objective is Your Guide
The objective or purpose of the writing task is the key to your child’s success. While an obvious point, some students may get carried away by diving straight into the language instead of charting the general direction first. Your child needs to understand the objective of the writing task and have a precise understanding of what is expected of him/her for the task. With this starting point, your child can then systematically plan the structure of their writing piece before fleshing them out.
A good starting point for you to help your child out is by having a guided practice run for situational writing. Instead of postponing the discussion of the paper to after your child has completed the assessment, start the discussion before he/she begins writing. Use interrogative pronouns (such as your 5Ws, 1H – Who, What, When, Where, Why, How) to ensure that your child has an accurate understanding of the writing task. Ensure that your child has a clear idea of what his/her objective is before plunging into the writing process.
Tip #2: Adopt a 360-degree Approach
As the name “situational” suggests, your child needs to be aware and be immersed in the situation they are in before writing. Beyond diving into the purpose of the writing piece, it is important to be aware of the perspective of the reader or recipient. This is what we term the 360-degree Approach. Writing is not a self-centred process – the context and other stakeholders are also key.
Even after you have discussed with your child about the intended goal of the task, help your child to step into the shoes of the reader or the recipient to decide if the angle of the writing piece is appropriate. For example, if your child is tasked to write an email to a teacher, the final draft should also be read from the perspective of the reader/recipient. In doing so, have a further conversation with your child over how the reader/recipient may interpret certain words or phrases. Dive deep into specific components such as tone or even the emotive value of the writing piece in ensuring that your child’s final draft covers all angles.
Tip #3: Tailor Your Language, Tone and Vocabulary
One of the golden rules for public speaking – content is king, delivery is queen – applies equally to writing as well. The language, tone and vocabulary must be appropriate to ensure that the content is delivered effectively. In particular, choosing between a formal or informal tone is key for your child. The tone distinction is one that most of our students’ neglect – focussing instead on using ‘bombastic’ words.
Instead, help your child appreciate the finer distinctions in writing tone from an early age by walking them through their language choices. For example, verbalising their draft will help them determine if their language choices sound natural or artificial. Aside from just addressing their written draft, encourage your child to practise presenting their draft to you. This can be followed up with an in-depth review of the draft’s effectiveness in conveying its main message. Learning how to discern writing tone is definitely a future-ready skill worth exploring for your child!
Situate Yourself and All the Best!
Aside from its importance in the examination syllabus, situational writing brings your child close to real-world and practical writing scenarios. You are more likely to write an email than to draft a vivid composition in your future workplace! The guiding process is key to ensure that your child grows to love and appreciate the importance of situational writing. We hope with the three tips above, your child will be able to situate themselves and deliver a winning written piece!