Lessons from the Classroom –
Top 3 Common Mistakes for English Language
In 2019, we did a feature on the lessons we can learn from the students in our public speaking classes at the Public Speaking Academy (read: Lessons from the Classroom 3 Common Habits of Young Public Speakers). For us, powerful communicators can wield the art of written and verbal communication effortlessly, especially for young communicators like your child. This week, we will draw upon lessons from the students in our English Language programme thus far and share the top 3 common mistakes we have observed.
Before we venture into that, we emphasise that this is a learning journey for your child. This journey goes beyond a silver bullet that can turn your child into a competent communicator in one lesson or even one week! Instead, your child needs to develop the habit of learning from their past mistakes and growing from there. With that mindset, let us dive into the common mistakes most of our young students encounter in their quest to become powerful and charismatic communicators!
#1: Careless Mistakes – You Should Check More Than Once!
Careless mistakes are the bane of your child’s paper. We have all been there. Whether suffering from over-confidence or simply lacking the meticulousness to comb through the papers, careless mistakes are painful for your child, especially where it becomes the difference between a B or an A grade. One of the mistakes we commonly spot involves spelling errors or even grammar mistakes that could have been addressed if checked properly.
For example, we have seen in the ‘Editing’ section, some students are able to formulate the correct answer in their minds; for instance they know that the answer to the spelling error [unfawchunate] is [unfortunate]. However, because of nerves and carelessness, they write down the exact same spelling error [unfawchunate]! This is a true story…unfortunately.
How can you help your child to combat these careless mistakes? Adopt a structured checking process! Most students think that checking their work or examination answers simply means reading and re-reading their answers. The key is not in quantity but the quality of the reading process. Instead of just repeating the reading process, encourage your child to read purposefully. For example, in checking their written essays, they can read in stages and look out for (i) general logical flow, (ii) specific language choices, and (iii) general mistakes. This will allow your child to focus systematically each time they run through their answers again.
#2: Incomplete Answers – Write Your Answers in Full
The second common mistake we often spot is the tendency to write their answers in incomplete sentences. We term this the conversational answer, i.e. how your child would respond if this were an informal, conversational setting. For example, in answering a True/False Comprehension question, your child may adopt the following format:
False. Because of the way Anne described the condition of the house showed she was happy.
Instead, encourage your child to adopt complete sentences (e.g. This phrase is false because Anne had …). By instilling this habit, your child will appreciate the different answering styles that are needed, especially for formal assignments or examinations. This keen awareness of answering styles will also facilitate their ability to write with purpose, that is, learning to identify specific objectives for their writing assignments and matching them accurately and competently.
#3: Writing Coherence – Think of the Broad Flow
Finally, another common mistake we have observed in our students involves their interaction with their writing assignments such as situational or continuous writing. For an unstructured assignment like this, students tend to neglect the broad logical flow of their written work, choosing instead to build each sentence in isolation. This is better referred to as writing in a stream of consciousness without having a keen sense of the broad flow. In fact, we rarely observe the habit of planning the broad structure before diving into the assignment in young students!
You can encourage your child to think of the big picture and the broad logical flow by guiding them through a planned planning process. This involves actively setting aside time and using a separate piece of paper to brainstorm and set out the broad skeleton of their ideas. They should only start on their writing process after they have crystallised the main ideas in their written task. More importantly, this skeleton acts as a check-in point for your child during the writing process, and after he/she is done and checking through their answers!
Understand the Theory Before Practising
We have shared the common mistakes above not as a ‘scolding session’ for your child but a fantastic learning opportunity to pick up positive habits. This is especially important when your child is at the foundational stage of learning the English Language (such as Primary 5 or 6). At this point, having a clear grasp of the theory is just one aspect; practising the theory is another. Through the tips and techniques above, your child can grow to become that powerful communicator!