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Clever use of Idioms

Idioms are part and parcel of any language.  They often add colour to the language.  It is rather disappointing that many students have forgotten the beauty of idioms to express their thoughts in their essays.  Idioms are useful in vividly showing something by providing images that give an impactful yet concise explanation.

There are thousands of idioms and it’s virtually impossible to go through every single one.  In this article, I would like to share the following which are very useful.

  • A chip on the shoulder – to be upset / afraid by something that happened in the past

He was almost drowned as a child in the pool.  Now, whenever he sees water, he’s fearful.  The incident has become a chip on his shoulder.

  • A dime a dozen – something that is very common

Pandas are a rarity in Singapore.  In China however, pandas are a dime a dozen.

  • Bark up the wrong tree – blame a wrong person or to take a wrong approach

Some parents are too busy for their children.  They shower their kids with everything except attention.  They are barking up the wrong tree, when sometimes what the child wants is their attention.

  • Count your chickens before they hatch – to be too sure or over-confident 

We should never count our chickens before they hatch.  Although we may be very good at a particular subject, it pays to be careful and check our work especially in exams.

  • Go to hell in a handbasket – something that is already bad and will become disastrous

The team is weak and its members are also not in harmony with one another.  They will be going to hell in a handbasket when they meet the defending champion in the next match.

  • Other fish to fry – other more important things to do

The exams are coming.  Instead of playing all the time, don’t you have other fish to fry?

  • Paddle your own canoe – to do something without any help

Parents should let their child paddle their own canoe as much as possible so that the child can learn to be independent.

  • Sail under false colours – to pretend to be something that one is not

When making friends on social media, we should always be wary of people who sail under false colours.  They may be criminals looking to cheat or harm us.

  • See the world through rose-coloured glasses – to be too optimistic and only see the good side about something

Although technology has brought convenience to our lives, we should not see the world through rose-coloured glasses.  It has also caused distress to victims of scam and cyberbullying.

  • When the chips are down – when situation becomes really bad or difficult

We will only know who our friends are when the chips are down.  True friends will help and encourage us.  Those who are not our real friends will abandon us when we need them.

For those who want to know more about using idioms in essay writing, you can always grab a copy of these books (that I have authored) from the school bookshop or Popular Book stores.

This book is used by some of the top schools such as Hwa Chong, Nanyang Girls and Raffles Girls as teaching aid and recommended reading text.

A call to regulate the tuition industry

I read a Forum Page article on 12 Aug by a concerned parent calling the authorities to regulate the tuition industry.  The writer mentioned how some tuition agencies require parents to pay six months worth of  fees in advance.  Not only that, parents have to put a few months’ deposit as well.  You may read the whole article

Indeed, some establishments resort to unfair means to “lock in” students with 6 months to a year of course fees.  These can actually be tell-tale signs of measures to curb the high attrition rates of students who may have previously signed up with them.  Often times, students register with high hopes that they will become star students like others.  However, when they realise that it is not what they have expected, they cannot back out due to the significant amount of fees already paid – with no refund.    

Locking in students using questionable means can only do this much to retain students’ loyalty.  Staying true to my course has been my guiding principle over a decade.  Parents and students will be able to tell a tutor’s level of commitment with just a few sessions.  

So to all parents and students, when faced with such registrations’ pre-requisites, do ponder and not to make hasty decision.  I once had a student a few years ago who had to give up two months of fees paid to a “branded” establishment and come to me.

An Inspiring True Story

There was a young artist in Italy trying to make a living by selling his paintings on the street.  A very rich woman came and offered him $1,000 to have her portrait painted. The artist put in his best effort and time to paint her portrait. 

When it was completed, the woman didn’t like how she looked (in fact, that was exactly how she looked) and backed out on her promise. She refused to pay anything for the work and said it was a piece of trash. The artist was very hurt by the wealthy woman and told her that one day, she would buy back that painting at more than 600 times the price. The woman scoffed and left.

The humiliated artist went back to his hometown and continued improving his painting skill. 10 years later, he became a renowned artist and held an art exhibition. It attracted the rich and famous and woman’s circle of friends who attended the exhibition told the woman about the amazing artist and his works. They said that all his paintings but one, were snapped up.  It was the portrait of a woman and not for sale.  Everyone commented that the woman in the portrait looked so much like her.  Curious, the woman went to the art gallery to see for herself.  There, standing at the centre stage of the gallery was the portrait of her that the artist had painted 10 years ago.  It was titled “THIEF”.  The woman was dumbfounded and apologised to the artist. And yes, she paid 600 times above the original price for that piece of painting – $600,000.  The name of the young artist is Picasso.

By sharing with you this story, I hope just like Picasso, believe in yourself and never let others underestimate your self-worth.  

Something delightful to share with everyone

I have just received a fantastic news from my all my secondary 3 Chung Cheng High students!  All of them scored a distinction for their English debating Weighted Assessment!  They were so happy and so was I.  One even shared with me that it’s his first ever distinction for English.  I told him more to come if he continued to put in his effort.

They had indeed put in good effort, followed my pointers and techniques to deliver a good debating script and presentation!  Going forward, I hope they can see that by putting in effort, the outcome will likely be positive. And that it will propel them to continue their endeavour.

You can click on the link to view two of the students’ presentation.

A Sincere Message to all my students

Dear Students

It is my pleasure to teach each and every one of you.  As we all know, we only have 24 hours a day.  Each session that I allocate for you is precious to me as well.  I give my full commitment in passing the right knowledge.

Thus, it is only fair that I give my time to students who will also return full commitment towards learning and picking up knowledge from me.  It takes two to tango!  

If you show a sluggish attitude, it is not possible for me to continue my enthusiasm.  This, I believe you would agree.  

Just share some correspondence (attached) with you.  Treasure the opportunity given to you, don’t lose it.

An enquiry to help a GP student
A Sec 1 student whom I had to turn down (voice recording) despite the mother’s persistence
A very sincere plea from a mother of a Pri 6 student
A helpless tone of a mother of another Pri 6 child
A happy parent who can vouch for my dedication
Another referral that I had to turn away

Training the young debating

30 years ago, I represented my school and Singapore in International Debates overseas.  Today, I am able to relive the excitement by training (remotely) some Chung Cheng High students in debating for their weighted assessment.  I am happy to feature 2 of them with contrasting styles – one aggressive and the other, calm and collected.  Both, I must say, are equally good.  

The student submitted his presentation for assessment and was subsequently informed by his teacher that he was the Best Speaker. Kudos Yi Feng!
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Erica too was informed that she got a distinction for her presentation. Well-done! You have earned it!

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Writing Descriptive Essays

A good descriptive essay describes the content so well that it brings out the five senses; smell, touch, sight, taste and hearing.  To achieve that, students must readily be equipped with fantastic descriptive phrases to facilitate their writing.  These phrases are most easily adapted from novels or narrative texts.

I have collected a list of such phrases from books and narrative writings that I have come across.  For students who are attempting descriptive essays or those preparing their PSLE, these phrases will be very useful to incorporate in your essay.

Descriptive phrases

  1. Multitudinous stirring of leaves

Describes how the leaves move, before an impending storm or when the wind blows 

2. Trees swayed and strained

Describes how strong the wind is that trees are almost uprooted

3. Wind howled like a crying banshee

Describes the blowing of the wind to that of a howling ghost to emphasize creepiness

4. Air screamed as though it was packed with attacking demons

Describes the forceful nature of wind

5. Pelting down bullets of rain

Describes a heavy rainfall

6. Roofs of houses peeled away

Describe the destructive nature of a hurricane or tornado

7. Parting traffic like a knife

Describe how a vehicle, most likely an ambulance, navigates through heavy traffic during an emergency

8. Eyes dilated in terror

Describes a terrified look of a person

9. A spasm of terror ran through him

Describes how a person is overwhelmed by terror

10. Eyes crinkled up in a wide smile

Describes how a person’s face brightens up in joy

11. A mounting pressure of tears

Describes how a person is overwhelmed with emotions 

12. Heart hammering in my chest

Describes the forceful beating of the heart

13. Body glistened with sweat

Describes the texture of the skin moist with sweat

14. Face tight with pain

Describes the expression of a person in pain

15. Heart leapt to my mouth

Describes how a person is so suddenly shocked

16. Multitude of colours

Describes a variety of colours

A brand new decade!

Happy New Year to all!

To some students, this year marks another milestone in their education journey; a new environment in a junior college or polytechnic.  And to some, the year marks a new beginning to a more rigorous upper secondary curriculum while some, will have a taste of life as a secondary school student.  

Whatever this year means to you, never stop believing in your dreams.  Continue to hold it dear to your heart and know it will manifest some some day, really.

If you notice, my website has a brand new look!  The new website would not have been possible without the hard work of my dearest wife, Aihui.  She literally had to pull her hair out to iron out some of the thorny issues.  No amount of words can thank her enough for her grit in getting the new website ready.  Still, I want to thank her from the bottom of my 

Paper 1 final component – Editing

11 October 2019

This month I would like to share the final component in Paper 1 which is Editing.  A lot of students attempt the Editing based on “gut feel” or by “trial and error”.  Most times, many are disappointed by their scores.

In fact, it is just a simple technique to follow in order to ace the Editing – look for the 7 types of errors in the text:

  1. Grammar – referring to subject verb agreement, tenses etc

Example: The child may become greedy and expects more toys – expect

  1. Preposition – such as in, on, under, through etc

Example: I am now travelling in the bus – on 

  1. Word form – any word can come in 4 different forms; noun, verb, adjective and adverb   

This is a beautiful (noun) crafted piece of work – beautifully (adverb) 

  1. Pronoun – such as it, he, they, ourselves, their etc

Example: The dog is trained to walk home by himself – itself

  1. 5W 1H – (who, what, where, when, why, how)

Example: This is the park when I will go to unwind – where

  1. Conjunction – a word that connects the whole sentence such that it makes sense

Example: Fried food is unhealthy and many people still love it – yet

  1.   Article – (a, an, the)

Some students are still unclear when to change from “a’’ to “the” and vice versa.  “A” is used when it refers to things in general and “the” refers to something more specific.
The school is an institution where students attend to gain knowledge – A
Singapore is a small country.  A country is known for its strict laws – The

Handling Situational Writing

20 September 2019

The English O-level Paper 1 begins next month.  There are still students who are unclear about the Situational Writing format.  Hence, I would like to take this chance to share with everyone the different types of situational writing and the correct format.

You may download and look the the corresponding format.