Comics to help improve students' Chinese essay-writing skills

Ms Low Yen Ling (centre) with Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School pupils during their essay-writing lesson yesterday. Looking on are (from left) principal Teo Ching Ling, Dr Chua Chee Lay, Mr Ang Thiam Poh, programme instructor Tan Tiaw Gem, assist
Ms Low Yen Ling (centre) with Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School pupils during their essay-writing lesson yesterday. Looking on are (from left) principal Teo Ching Ling, Dr Chua Chee Lay, Mr Ang Thiam Poh, programme instructor Tan Tiaw Gem, assistant leader of the CPCLL Writing Group Chia Hwee Pheng and Madam Heng Boey Hong.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Comics will be used to help primary and secondary school students weaker in the Chinese language brush up on their essay-writing skills.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling yesterday launched the revamped Creative Comic Essay Writing Programme, an optional course which uses comics to evoke critical thinking among students.

Four two-hour classes, with 20 students each, will be held after curriculum time at participating schools for free. Students can buy learning materials at $10.

The Committee to Promote Chinese Language and Learning (CPCLL), which is behind the initiative, will also be training instructors for the programme.

"We hope students will be inspired and fired up in their imagination as they write their essays, and will gain a new love for the Chinese language," said Ms Low.

Learning materials include a compilation of comics by local cartoonist and head of department of special programme (Chinese culture) of Tao Nan School Ang Thiam Poh.

This is accompanied by a set of critical thinking questions developed by Dr Chua Chee Lay, leader of the CPCLL Writing Group.

"In order to write well, students need to think critically and plan their ideas carefully before putting them into words... Critical questioning will be very helpful to scaffold their writings," said Dr Chua.

This is the first time such questions are included in the programme since its previous iteration, the Chinese Comic Writing Programme, was launched in 2015. It had a heavier focus on dialogue writing.

Schools can register for the programme from today, with lessons beginning later this year. About 25 primary and secondary schools are expected to sign up, benefiting 500 Primary 3 to Secondary 2 students.

Schools can pick between two versions - elementary and regular - based on their students' language abilities.

If well received, the programme might be offered to students of other age groups or mother tongues, said the director of the Ministry of Education's Mother Tongue Language Branch, Madam Heng Boey Hong.

Initiatives by the CPCLL rolled out to Malay and Tamil language students include the Wow Wild Learn Programme, which aims to bring mother tongues to life for pre-school children through visits to the River Safari.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2018, with the headline 'Comics to help improve students' Chinese essay-writing skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe