Teaching Comprehension Question Types

We teach our graduating students systematically on how to ace comprehension exercises.

Our 5-step approach consists of teaching them (1) what makes up the structure of a comprehension passage, (2) how to annotate every paragraph in the passage, (3) how to match questions to answers in the passage, (4) what are the different question types and how to answer them, and (5) how to derive the meaning of selected vocabulary asked in the questions.

We share with you here resources we use teaching our graduating students the different question types for 5-mark comprehension questions. You’ll find our lesson recording above and the PowerPoint slides used in the lesson here useful. We hope you benefit from our sharing.

Happy 55th Birthday SINGAPORE!

We celebrate Singapore’s 55th birthday amid a global pandemic. Despite these challenging times, Singaporeans from all walks of life find ways to help one another cope and make Singapore safe for all.

We have put together a video to honour this Singapore Spirit for our school National Day Programme this Friday. This is our contribution to our beloved nation, albeit insignificant compared to what others have done thus far. Nevertheless, we feel we must contribute to whatever measure we can.

We hope that you enjoy the video. Feel free to use it for your school’s National Day Programme too. Do forward the video link to your NE Coordinator or CCE HOD. We wish you a restful long weekend ahead.

Recent Graduates Shared Their O Level Experiences (and More!)

We invited our most recent graduates to share with our graduating students their experiences preparing for their Malay Language O Level Examinations experiences. This sharing was part of the motivation segment that we conducted on the last day of our Intensive Mother Tongue Programme and has become a tradition that we have maintained for several years now. Following the sharing was the prize-giving ceremony that we have discussed extensively here to end our programme on a high.

The selected students whom we had invited scored distinctions for their Malay Language O Level Examinations and represented both the Secondary 4 Express and 5 Normal Academic streams. Their sharing was meant to inspire our graduating students to work hard specifically for Malay Language and generally for other subjects in the O Level Examinations, In addition, they had the opportunity to learn first-hand experiences from those who ‘have been there and done that’. This was facilitated by the Q&A session where our students could ask these graduates any questions at all.

From our experiences thus far, the questions our students put forth did not necessarily centre around Malay Language and other subjects alone but touched on a range of other topics like EAE application and interview, life in polytechnic and BGR. It was amazing to see our students being comfortable discussing openly and learn from their seniors (under our close watch of course, where we jumped in when we felt it was important to enlighten any possible misinformation *smile).

We conducted the session via Google Meet this year because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the session was still as engaging as when we did it face to face in the previous years. This year we had Adibah, Asyiqin, Nadhirah and Adam. They had been generous and also volunteered to share in our Pelajar Cemerlang Series sharing on this website. We have seen a lot of benefits from holding this sharing and we encourage you to consider having it during your yearly Intensive Mother Tongue Programme for your graduating students. All the best!

How to Ace Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is the last paper of the Malay Language N and O Level Examinations. It is the paper that students are expected to do well and gain back marks that they have lost in the earlier papers because of mistakes. However, listening comprehension may not be easy for students who are not careful. It is littered with distractions to trick students into choosing the wrong answers.

We present below 5 tips that we shared with our students on how to ace listening comprehension. Feel free to share with us other tips that you might have in the comment section so that we can help you share them with others on this website.

This is the most common and convenient trick that you often find in listening comprehension. The recording will throw at you all the wrong options early to falsely lead you into believing that one of them is the answer before quietly making a turn to the right answer.

Let us see if you can spot the Turn in this recording for the question below.

Nyatakan sebab Farah tidak dapat menemani Hakim untuk mendapatkan tiket konsert kumpulan Melodi.

(A) Farah perlu menjaga ibunya yang sakit di rumah.
(B) Farah ada banyak tugasa yang perlu diselesaikan.
(C) Farah sibuk dengan bermacam-macam aktiviti sekolah.
(D) Farah mahu ke Panggung Permata pada waktu tengahari.

You notice that the Turn happens when Farah says, ”Tetapi, sebenarnya . . . ” After the turn, you realize that the answer is (A).

This is the next popular trick and often is often used with other tricks. In this trick, the recording replaces keywords from the question with synonyms to confuse you. So if you are waiting to hear the keywords in the question mentioned in the recording, trust me you will never get to hear them.

Let us see if you can spot how the keyword in the question below is replaced with a synonym in this recording.

Apakah produk terbaharu yang dihasilkan oleh Syarikat Harmoni?

(A) Pil Minda Fokus
(B) Jus Epal Tropika
(C) Susu Soya Segar
(D) Teh Halia Anggerik

You notice that the keyword terbaharu in the question is replaced with a synonym terkini in the recording. The answer is (C).

This trick is more sophisticated than the earlier two tricks and it is employed from question 5 onwards. In this trick, the keyword from the question and some of the answer options are mentioned early in the recording but void of any connection just to distract you into believing that one of the answer options is the right answer. Stay calm and continue to hear closely for you will hear the keyword mentioned again with the right answer that follows.

Let us see if you can spot how the keyword in the question below is thrown early in this recording just to trick you into believing that what follows is the answer.

Sebagai pegawai perkhidmatan pelanggan Cik Shida dilengkapi dengan kemahiran yang memudahkannya menjadi penghantar makanan. Nyatakan kemahiran tersebut.

(A) kemahiran untuk berbahasa Mandarin dan Tamil
(B) kemahiran untuk berkomunikasi dengan sesiapa sahaja
(C) kemahiran untuk menghadapi keadaan yang berbeza-beza
(D) kemahiran untuk melayani pelanggan daripada pelbagai latar belakang

You notice that the keyword (or rather key phrase) pegawai perkhidmatan pelanggan is mentioned early and mentioned again towards the end of the recording. The first mention is to distract you while what follows from the second mention is the right answer which is (C).

This is also another sophisticated trick and is employed in the later questions of listening comprehension. In this trick, you find several half-truth answer options to tempt you to consider any of them as the right answer. Pull back and study the recording till the end. You will find these answer options seem true halfway you listen to the recording but turn out to be false by the time you finish listening to the full recording.

Let us see how many answer options in the question below you can identify as half-truth after scrutinizing till the end of this recording.

Mengapakah Yana kurang selesa dengan tindakan Faiz?

(A) Yana meragui kesahihan tawaran yang diiklankan.
(B) Faiz bertindak secara terburu-buru dan tanpa usul periksa.
(C) Reputasi syarikat yang mengadakan jualan murah itu tidak diketahui.
(D) Iklan tersebut mungkin bertujuan untuk memperdayakan orang ramai.

You notice that all the answer options are half-truth expect for (A).

This is the strategy that we strongly advised students to employ for selected questions where they are unsure if they have got the right answer. In this strategy, we urge them to ignore the recording and run down each of the answer options with a logic test. A logic test simply aims to tease out if the answer options hold true in a real-world setting.  If it does, it is likely the right answer. To facilitate the logic test, just imagine what would you do if you are faced with the question asked in real life.

Let us see which answer option in the question below survives your logic test.

Apakah langkah yang paling penting sebelum memulakan proses tawar-menawar?

(A) menanyakan harga barangan yang mahu dibeli
(B) meminta agar harga barangan yang mahu dibeli dikurangkan
(C) membuat tawaran yang sesuai bagi barangan yang mahu dibeli
(D) membandingkan harga barangan yang mahu dibeli terlebih dahulu

You notice that (D) is the what you and anyone else would do if you address the question above in real life. That’s the logic test in play.

We hope you have benefited from our sharing. We wish you all the best in the coming N and O Level Listening Comprehension Examinations. Do share this post with your colleagues and friends. Cheers!

Motivational Gifts for Graduating Students

We continued our yearly tradition of holding a prize-giving ceremony during our intensive mother programme this year. We held this ceremony at the end of the programme and it was meant to lift up our graduating students’ spirits, as the programme was quite an energy-sapping experience. The ceremony was also to reward them for working hard to learn Malay throughout their 4-5 years stay in our school.

We have seen our students grew and mature right before our eyes. We felt honoured that we had the opportunity to teach them not just the content of our subject expertise but also nurture them into individuals with wholesome values and good work ethics from our classroom interactions with them. How we wish that our influence would sustain and be far-reaching, even after our students have left us. With this in mind, we have thought of the right gift for them.

This year we have decided to gift each of our students a Solar System Crystal Ball. This 6 by 6 cm crystal ball can be part of their bedroom decorations whereby upon looking at these gifts remind them fondly of us and the advice we gave them, as well as the memorable experiences they had during our lessons.

Why the Solar System Crystal Ball?
Well, a documentary about the Apollo 8 mission that sent humanity to circle the moon for the first time in 1968 had inspired us. Though it took the following year for Apollo 11 mission to land humans on the celestial body, this mission was still nothing short of spectacular. The Apollo 8 crew were fixated at the moon as the spacecraft circled around it was understandable. The inaugural mission to the moon was a momentous moment for humanity. The whole proceeding was telecasted live that many people around the world could see the moon’s surface up close for the first time to concur if the moon was really as it was described in their local folklore of romance genre.

Something profound happens when astronauts see Earth from space for the first time

Just as all eyes were fixated on the moon, one of the Apollo 8 crew had a Eureka moment to turn the camera around to capture the sight of the Earth. He must have been curious how our planet looked like as arguably no one had seen our blue planet from space up till then. The sight of the Earth the size of a soccer ball was a gasp of surprise. Looking at our mother planet for the first time gave rise to a profound and overwhelming shift in awareness. This sense of awe is now described as the Overview Effect.

What is the Overview Effect?
While the Overview Effect is understood and discussed broadly by commentators (as evident in the Vimeo video below), we narrow its applicability to looking at one’s challenges in life from a wider perspective.

How do we mean by this?
Well, life offers us unexpected challenges as we moved along its different stations. These challenges often knock us off our feet as we are caught by surprise and left unprepared for them. During those moments when we are down and out, we are likely to fall into depression and to recover out of our predicament will prove difficult and long if ever possible. Chances are for the weak hearted, they may even call it quits and choose to end their life.

However, if we look at our challenges in a wider perspective, we are bound to ask: Does all our present challenges so great that they add up to the size of Singapore? Definitely no, right? I can only think of the Prime Minister of Singapore who has a challenge that fits the size of Singapore because he burdens the nation’s problems.

Still, even if our present challenges do fill up the size of Singapore and possibly the whole world, the world as we can see from the Solar System Crystal Ball is no bigger than a saga seed. Moreover, even if our challenges add up to the size of the whole solar system, they are still no bigger than a speck of dust in the context of the whole universe!

A knock of reality
Remember, there are 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way Galaxy. The nearest such planet may be 12 light-years away. This is with only within our Milky Way Galaxy while there are an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe or so. And this number is likely to increase to about 200 billion as telescope technology in space improves.

How is that for a perspective? In short, no matter how huge our challenges we perceive to be, in reality they are just a speck of dust.

So what does Overview Effect teach us?
Overview Effect teaches us all life challenges put together are no more than a speck of dust and we should not be afraid of them. We should expect challenges and challenges are meant to help us grow qualitatively to be better in what we do so as to prepare us for more difficult times in the future. For example, a good entrepreneur can only be at the cutting edge of his business if he takes every challenge as an opportunity for him to reflect on his practices to seek ways how he can improve how he carries out his business. Only in this way he can succeed.

Likewise, this is the spirit that we expect from our graduating students. We are hopeful that by looking at the Solar System Crystal Balls we gave them will help activate this Overview Effect every time they are faced with challenges as they move along the different stations of life. And in doing so, they remember our advice in this regards so that they remain excited about living and take what life throws at them as an opportunity to learn to better at what they do.

Playdohing to Keep Pre-Oral Jitters at Bay

Last year we shared a post on How to Beat the Pre-Oral Jitters? There we advised students who need an additional hands-on approach apart from reciting the oral doa to beat their pre-oral jitters. For these students, we suggested playdohing their way to keep the pre-oral jitters at bay while waiting for their turn to be oral assessed.

However, the 50 cents playdoh is a small container was so popular that it soon went out of stock soon after our post came out 😊. This year we could only manage to get these ones (see image). I got my daughter to buy them from her primary school bookshop for $2 each.

How does playdohing works?

Playdohing works when students do not look at the oral examiners while waiting for their turn to be called up by the oral assistant or time-keeper. They should focus instead on working on playdohing to create objects of their choices. This exercise has two effects on these students; firstly, it distracts them from worry incessantly, and secondly, it triggers them to be creative as their finger their way turning their playdohs into interesting artifacts. This pre-oral exercise will beat any pre-oral jitters and sets students’ minds into problem-solving mode with all the creative juice they have fed their minds with.

Playdohing to keep the pre-oral jitters at bay is not for everyone. We have identified only 5 students from our 3 Secondary 4 Express / Normal Academic (Out of Stream) classes this year. You can identify these students easily from your oral practices in classes. These students breakdown easily before and during oral practices (the extreme case) to those who manage anxiety from physical demonstrations like finger-tapping on the desk (minor case) during oral practices.

The O Level Malay Language Oral Examinations will commence next week. It is our wish that all O level candidates do well for their oral examinations. Good luck! Ameen

The Polytechnic-Junior College Conundrum

The polytechnic-junior college conundrum has been addressed quite extensively in the Internet to advise students what institution to choose for their post -secondary education. However, the misunderstanding among students and educators alike with regards to the Early Admission Exercise (EAE) into Polytechnic and the Joint Admission Exercise (JAE) applications has given this conundrum a new lease of life. At the heart of this unfortunate misunderstanding is this question:

Can I still apply for a place in a junior college via the JAE despite already securing a course in a polytechnic via the EAE application?

When we refer to the polytechnic EAE website here, it states the following:

Withdrawal

13. If I have accepted a Poly EAE offer but subsequently decide that I prefer taking part in JAE, what can I do?

Should you wish to withdraw your acceptance of the Poly EAE offer, you must submit your withdrawal online via the Poly EAE online portal no later than 16 October 2020. Students who have accepted a Poly EAE offer but do not withdraw by the deadline will be deemed to have confirmed their acceptance and will not be eligible to participate in the JAE and other polytechnic admissions exercises.

From the above statements, students and educators alike can be excused for thinking that students who are offered a polytechnic course via the EAE application can only participate in the JAE if they have withdraw this EAE polytechnic course by 16 October 2020. However, we need to be alert that the polytechnic EAE website can only speak on the behalf of matters pertaining to application into polytechnic and definitely not on matters pertaining to application into other education institutions.

This is evident when we refer to the JAE 2020 booklet (page 1) that reads below. Do note that the JAE 2020 Booklet is a publication from the Ministry of Education (MOE) of Singapore that has jurisdiction over all applications into government-funded post-secondary education institutions (junior colleges, Millennia Institute, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Educations).

Eligibility to Participate

2.1 The following groups of students are eligible to participate in the JAE:

2.1.1 All Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents (SC/SPR) with valid GCE ‘O’ Level Examination results. However, any SC/SPR who was previously admitted to a JC, MI, Polytechnic, ITE1 should not apply for an institution in the same category through the JAE.

What does this mean? 
Students cannot apply for another course in a polytechnic via the JAE if they have not withdrawal their EAE polytechnic course by 16 October 2020 but they can still apply for any courses in JC, MI and ITE via the JAE.

So students can still keep their EAE polytechnic course beyond 16 October and consider applying for a place in a junior college via the JAE should they receive a favourable results in the O Level Examinations. They do not have to rush in making this decision.

Good luck!

Don’t Despair; Help is Around

Being a student is not easy. Not only that you have to contend with assignments and examinations, but you too are not saved from the brunt of difficulty when problems strike your family. I remember growing up I was always constantly looking out for community centres that offered bursary for needy students ever since my dad passed away when I was in Secondary 1 leaving behind my mom who had never work before in her life consigned to double shift work in a plastic factory to raise a family of three children.

And so, since Karangkutu is drawing record number of hits these past weeks because of the N & O Level Examinations, I thought of sharing this good news over Karangkutu so that more students get to know it.

The good news is that the Northeast Community Development Council is providing financial assistance scheme to help residents living in Aljunied, Pasir Ris-Punggol, Tampines GRCs, Hougang and Punggol East SMCs. Therefore, if your family are Singaporeans/PRs and have a per capita income not exceeding $800 (total family income divided by the number of family members), you may want to consider applying for the financial assistance by Northeast CDC.

The online application can be found here: https://go.gov.sg/necdc-assistance-schemes

Describing COVID-19 in Malay Language

As the circuit breaker eases in phases, we would like to continue impress upon our students the need to stay vigilant and maintain high personal hygiene as well as adhering closely to the safe distancing measures. This we do by getting our students to reflect on their practices and lessons they have learnt thus far during the circuit breaker. To facilitate this, we designed and included COVID-19 themed questions in the paper 1 preliminary examination for our graduating students. Click on the images below to view the questions.

Many students were caught off guard by the COVID-19 themed questions and a few of them did not manage to use the correct COVID-19 related terms in Malay Language in their emails and essays. As such, we took the opportinity to share the correct translation of these terms after the preliminary examinations. In this way, our students are more prepared to use COVID-19 scenarios in their emails and essays in the coming Malay Language Paper 1 O Level Examinations should the opportunitiy arises. We share the translation of these terms with you below. The slides can be found here.

More Students Earning Collectibles

We are glad to report that more students are now earning their Kami Pelajar A1 collectibles. This is a good sign as these collectibles are visual evidences to indicate that these students have attained good momentum and are on an upward trajectory leading up to their coming O Level Malay Language Examinations in June. Students appreciate it when their efforts are affirmed through these visual evidences and draw much psychological comfort to learn that they on the right track. These earned collectibles will spur them to continue working hard to earn the remaining collectibles and in the process prepare well for all the 12 examinable items in their O Level Malay Language Examinations.

Among them most notebly is Rabia who has earned 5 of the possible 12 collectibles. Rabia telah tawan Lautan Peribahasa, Taufan Kefahaman Subjektif, Belantara E-mel Tidak Rasmi, Cakerawala E-mel Rasmi dan Kehangatan Lisan. We humbly and sincerely pray that God blesses our effort and translate these collectibles into more students scoring distinctions in the coming O Level Malay Language Examinations, Allahumma ameen