Q1. What are the text types that can be tested for situational writing?
Situational writing can test many text types such as letter, email, report, postcard, notice. Some of these genres are more commonly used with a certain tone (e.g. postcard is usually an informal piece of writing) while others may be used for both formal and informal tone. Based on the questions set in the past 10 years, letters and emails are the most commonly tested genres for situational writing although a report and a post card have been tested once each.
My advice: Most questions require pupils to write a letter or an email. Continue to practise these two text types but it will be good to let your children practise 1 or 2 exercises on other text types such as writing a report or postcard too. The differences are likely to be in the way the information needs to be phrased and organised and not so much in the format. (Look at Q5 for more.) E.g. A report may require children to explain their role clearly and to end off in a certain manner. Having at least one practice will let the children have a peace of mind and be prepared if such a genre really does appear in the examination.
Q2. Salutation: Do I start with Dear Mother or Dear mother?
Always start with uppercase to address the person you are writing to even if it is not a proper noun (a name). Other examples will be Dear Children, Dear Friends, Dear Grandma.
Q3. May I quote words from the picture or character? "..."
This is a common error for questions that are set in the form of a series of pictures. No! Your writing should not be a transfer of the character and their words. Compare the two:
Pupil A: When we asked for help, the waiter said, "Can you just wait?".
Pupil B: When we asked for help, the waiter used a very rude tone to ask us to wait.
The first one needs to be avoided as Pupil A needs to switch all direct speech to reported speech. Use Pupil B's response instead.
Q4. How do I know whether the tone is formal or informal?
It all depends on who you are writing to. If you are writing to an official authority or someone whom you are not familiar with (e.g. a principal of a school, a store manager, the operations manager of your school), the tone of the writing will need to be formal. If the writing is to a friend or a family member, it will most likely be informal.
Q5. Are there any differences in format between formal and informal writing? Or among the different text types?
Surprise number 1: The format is the same for all.
Surprise number 2: There is no need to write down a date, a title or an address for all.
Whether it is formal or informal; a letter, email, report or notice, the format is actually the same. Everything in the format (Salutation and sign-off, paragraphing) should all be positioned on the left-hand side.
So, there is no difference between formal and informal writing?
Yes, there are still differences:
- Tone: Formal writing does not require a greeting (e.g. How are you?) whereas informal writing does. This is important and demonstrates your understanding of whether you are using a formal or informal tone.
Take note: Despite the idea that informal writing can assume a friendlier tone, you should always use complete sentences and no slangs. ("What's up!" vs "How are you?" or "Take care!" vs "Please take care and I hope to hear from you soon.")
- Signing off:
"Yours sincerely" and "Yours faithfully" (depending on context. I will talk more about this in the next post) along with surname (Anna Tan) informal writing.
"Best regards" and without the use of surname (Anna) for informal writing.
To aid you in your revision, I am giving away a comparison chart that shows the main differences between formal and informal writing! Join our mailing list now to receive the chart and more free resources which are coming your way (: (For all our subscribers, simply type in your email address to open the file. We thank you for your support in this journey to grow in English!)
*Update on 02/09/2015 - Due to some updates I have received regarding PSLE marking's criteria this year, I have added a "Signing-off" component at the end of the comparison chart. The distinction between "Yours sincerely" and "Yours faithfully" for formal writing is an area which candidates need to be aware of so please take note!
Creative writing is an important developmental skill for kids. It stretches their imagination, helps them practice grammar, and is the perfect way to keep their minds active during the summer break!
Warm summer days and family vacations provide endless inspiration for journal entries. Have your child keep a daily journal throughout the summer, and not only will you keep their minds fresh and ready when school starts back up, but you will also create a summer keepsake full of memories and glimpses into your child’s heart and mind.
At the end of the school year, gift your child a blank diary to fill throughout the summer season. Ones like the Alex Toys Super Sweet Diary include stickers to personalize and a small lock with keys to keep prying little siblings at bay!
To help their writing skills sharp during the summer break, provide them with writing prompts. Writing prompts allows them to get practice writing about a variety of topics without hearing the dreaded, “I don’t know what to write about!”
Here’s a list of 20 questions and statements to prompt your child to write. Set aside writing time every day, weekly, or whenever you choose!
- What would happen if kids ruled the world?
- If you could be any animal you like (real or fantasy), which would you choose, and why?
- Everyone in your family has a super power. Which family member has which super power and how does each one work?
- I have never been more frightened than when…
- You’re going on a week-long camping trip but you can only take three items. What items would you take, and why?
- Invent and describe a new food.
- You’re stranded on a deserted island with one other person. Who would you hope it was and why?
- What would you do if you woke up one morning to find yourself invisible?
- Write a list of at least 20 things that make you feel good.
- What is your favorite kind of weather? Why?
- What do you consider your greatest accomplishment and why?
- If you could travel back in time to any moment, what would it be, and why? Would you change history or just observe?
- What if everyone lived in space? How would we travel from place to place? What sort of houses would we live in? What would we eat?
- Name one appliance in your home and tell me why you can’t live without it.
- Write about a difficult decision you had to make.
- Explain how bad situations can have a good side.
- The thing I wish other people would understand about me is…
- What do you fear the most and why?
- What is the best birthday present you ever received? What made it so special?
- What would happen if you woke up and you had grown to eight feet tall overnight? How would this change your life?
Has your little one filled their diary/journal with these writing prompts? Post a photo on our Facebook page and tell us about their favorite prompt!