In the previous article “A Writing Overview – The Role of Grammar in Writing”, we reviewed the importance of writing in a student’s academic life and how learning grammar in context to the various text types can make one’s writing more concise and effective.
In this sequel, we will be focusing on the situational writing component and how we can successfully bag all 15 marks in this section – 6 marks for Task Fulfilment and 9 marks for Language and Organisation. Rather than addressing these two components as separate entities, we will be looking at how dissecting the task can help students integrate good grammar to show clarity and structure and thus make the piece of writing an easy read for the examiner to liberally give full marks.
Understanding the Task
Acronyms can help students remember the pointers to ace this section and from the many variations top schools come up with, we have concluded the main and crucial ones to include: Purpose, Audience and Context. In the sample task below, we will explore what each pointer entails with some questions a student should ask himself/herself and some actions to consider in response.
Imagine you are Alex, the prefect on duty.
Write an email to the Discipline Master of your school, Mr Raye, to inform him about the incident that happened at the school field.
You are to refer to the pictures and information on Page 2 for your email.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What is the reason for the email?
Find the purpose from the task box:
i.e. Give information about the incident at the school field.
- Who is the recipient?
- What is the writer’s identity?
- Is this a formal or informal email?
Identify characters from the task box:
i.e. The recipient is Mr Raye, the discipline master of the school.
i.e. The writer is the prefect on duty, Alex.
i.e. This is a formal email since the recipient is one of authority.
- Why would the recipient need this information?
- What ‘other information’ do I need to include so that there is sufficient background given to understand the report?
- What do you hope will happen after the recipient reads this letter?
- What do you hope will happen after the recipient reads this letter?
Refer to the information provided and come to some conclusion:
i.e. The discipline master needs the information to mete out punishment or reward.
i.e. On my way back to class after recess, I noticed two schoolmates rolling on the field…
i.e. With this piece of information, I hope that you can solve this conflict between both parties.
Identifying Suitable Grammatical Features (adapted from Grammar Rules! Book 5 & 6 based on an award-winning series by Tanya Gibb)
Did the writer experience the situation himself? To write a good piece of first-hand personal recount, a writer needs to be well versed in his/her usage of:
- Simple past tense for regular and irregular verbs with some descriptive language
i.e. ‘I witnessed/noticed…’, ‘He fell to the ground with great force.’
- Present and past perfect tense for switching between direct and indirect speech
i.e. ‘Jerry said that he had been playing well with the others until…’
- Adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositional phrases to clearly reiterate the series of events in a chronological order
- Does the writer need to persuade the recipient to do something? To convince recipients to buy into an idea or a point of view expressed, a writer can consider using the following grammatical items:
- Connectors to link arguments or reasons for point of view
i.e. ‘Firstly, I wish to remind that…’, ‘Secondly, without this…’
- Adverbs and verb groups that express high modality to persuade
i.e. ‘We must stand for…’, ‘It would definitely benefit…’
- Low modality for more negotiation and compromise with elements of persuasion
i.e. ‘Do you think, perhaps you can consider…’
Writing the Email
Select the right vocative to represent the relationship you have with the recipient and make sure not to sound too formal/informal. In cases where names are not provided, vocatives such as ‘Manager of XYZ Café’ or ‘Principal of ABC school’ may be used.
Introduce the writer (yourself) with as much information as is provided, then state the purpose of the email. By mentioning the date of the incident together with the purpose of the email may also be useful to help the recipient quickly identify the objective of the text and understand the point of view of the writer, especially in consideration that the recipient may receive many such similar emails.
Establish time frame by presenting series of events while answering key information pointers in either one or a few short paragraphs. Depending on the information provided, choose the appropriate grammatical features (as mentioned above) to write the report.
Before you rush to pen down the standard sign-off, remember to secure a good conclusion to end off your email. Rather than simply ending off with ‘Thank you for your time.’, consider the context (as mentioned above) of the email and what the writer hopes to convey by reporting the incident. As such, ‘I hope my account of the event will be useful for your investigation. Thank you for your kind consideration.’ would be a less abrupt way to end the email.
Proofread what you have written and check for errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Consider splitting a long complex sentence you are grammatically uncertain of into shorter simple or compound sentences to avoid heavy language penalisation and promote better readability.
With the rampant use of abbreviations and fragmented language structure in the “texting culture” today, there is a decline in the use of proper syntax on all fronts – personal, educational, and professional (Frederick, 2015). As such, there is a greater need to imbue clarity and purpose when imparting grammar knowledge to the next generation so that they can become more confident and competent in responding to and creating different types of texts.
In the next and final article, we will continue to explore “Grammar Rules!”, a context-based approach to learning grammar, written by Tanya Gibb based on the award-winning series Grammar Rules! 2nd Edition by Macmillan Science and Education Australia Pty Ltd and discover how the series presents grammar in the real world using an interactive and engaging approach. Stay tuned!
· Gibb, T. (2019). Grammar Rules! (1st ed.). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Education Pte Ltd.
· Chin, B. A. (2000). The Role Of Grammar In Improving Student's Writing. Retrieved January 20, 2020, from https://people.uwplatt.edu/~ciesield/graminwriting.htm
· Frederick, N. (2015). The Professional Importance of Grammar and How it Should be Taught. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://pitjournal.unc.edu/article/professional-importance-grammar-and-how-it-should-be-taught
· Lynch, T., Anderson, K., & Elloway, A. (2013). Grammar for Academic Writing. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/grammar_for_academic_writing_ism.pdf
· Siow, D. (n.d.). Five Essentials to Score for Formal Situational Writing. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://www.lilbutmightyenglish.com/blog/five-essentials-to-score-for-formal-situational-writing
· 2018 PSLE English Situational Writing Question. (2019, February 15). Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://www.joyouslearning.com.sg/post/2018-psle-english-situational-writing-question
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