How to write an engaging story?

Pupils often struggle to write an interesting narrative.

  • They can’t develop a good plot.
  • Their plot is too simple.
  • They don’t adhere to the theme given.
  • They don’t produce an intriguing introduction.
  • They don’t provide enough details to engage the reader.
  • They don’t know how to create suspense and tension in their stories.
  • They don’t know how to describe the emotions felt by the characters in the story.
  • They don’t include vivid descriptive details or dialogues.

I equip my pupils with the various narrative skills to write well.

They will learn how to

  • write intriguing introductions
  • plan a pleasing plot
  • show don’t tell
  • create suspense in their stories
  • create a protagonist that the reader can relate to and empathise with.
  • use vivid vocabulary and a variety of sentence structures.
  • use dialogues to advance their stories and enliven their compositions.
  • edit their work with a checklist.

In addition, pupils are often exposed to good models of writing and interesting phrases to enliven their compositions.

Why does your child fare badly for reading comprehension exercises?


There are several reasons.

Let me break it down for you.

  • Reason 1- Your children may not understand the passage. There are too many difficult words and complex sentences which impede their understanding of the text. In addition, they lack prior knowledge of the subject matter in the text so everything looks alien to them. A child who does not have any prior or background knowledge of the subject matter will not be able to make accurate inferences and  answer the questions well.
  • Solution – Expose your child to different texts and genres. Work on expanding their vocabulary bank. Here at Mckaylan, we activate the pupils’ prior knowledge by  providing materials that complement  and activate the pupils’ prior knowledge of the subject matter in the  comprehension exercises. For example, before the pupils work on a comprehension exercise on football hooliganism, I will ask if the pupils know what the subject is about.  Some can guess what it is as they know what a hooligan is. However, many don’t. I will then show them a video where they not only get to watch it but also have to listen for details and complete a listening exercise. Next, they work on editing a short passage on what football hooliganism is about. After they have had an understanding of the subject, I will introduce the comprehension exercise, explain difficult words to them, analyse text structure and check if they have read actively (reading actively is another  useful skill which I will share later.)  As the pupils work on the comprehension exercise, I will walk around and guide them individually to improve on their answering techniques.

Here is a link which emphasises on the importance of background and prior knowledge in understand a passage.

  • Reason 2- Your child doesn’t know how to go about answering the questions.
  • Solution- Pupils need to know what techniques to use when answering the different types of questions. At Mckaylan, we actively and explicitly teach the skills by using Powerpoint slides, interesting videos and worksheets which focus on a particular skill.
  • Solution- PSLE questions: literal, inferential, language use, referencing, True/ false, sequencing, cause/ effect
  • For example, to teach referencing skills,  I use Powerpoint slides to teach them what to do when they encounter such questions and pupils practise the skills by writing their answers down on mini whiteboards. The pupils enjoy this activity as they practise their skills and engage in some friendly competition. Peer pressure works and the pupils try their best to practise the skills taught to gain points. The winner gets a prize from my gift basket comprising  cute stationery, files, notebooks, titbits etc. To reinforce learning, the pupils will work on a set of referencing questions.
  • Solution- ‘O’ level: direct, inferential, use your own words, language use, test of understanding of figurative language, summary
  • For example, to teach use your own words questions,  I will use Powerpoint slides to teach them the steps to take to answer such questions. They have to locate the key words of the questions, find the answer in the passage and paraphrase the answer in their own words. Sounds easy? It isn’t when the pupils do not have a wide vocabulary  because they will not be able to paraphrase the words correctly. Here at Mckaylan, the pupils work on a vocabulary list of 10 words every week and get tested after 4 lists. These words are woven into their writing,  comprehension exercises, reading activities and even games. Research has shown that pupils need to be exposed and use a new word at least 12 times before they know what it means and use it correctly. Do you know words like ‘beautiful’, ‘happy’, and ‘depressed’? This is because you have seen these words countless times and even used them in your speech or writing.  Do you know words like ‘susceptible’, ‘detrimental’ or ‘ubiquitous’? These are words a secondary 4 pupil should know. Maybe you have only encountered them once in your reading, so you may not recall their meanings. Thus, pupils need to constantly review the words they have learnt or they will forget them.
  • Reason 3 -Your child doesn’t know what the question is asking or has misread the question.
  • Solution- Your child needs to underline key words in the question. Locate the key words in the text and and read carefullly that segment of the text for answers. Very often, our children are careless and often misinterpret the questions. They have to be reminded over and over again to READ CAREFULLY.