Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How to write a CXC English A short story in 45 minutes

So, how do you write a CXC English A short story in 45 minutes?
Well, there are a lot of techniques for short story writing. Many of which will posted here over time. In this post, I just want to give you some "quick and dirty" tips for writing good short stories when you are not so good at it and you are under the pressure of time in the CXC exam room.

Tip 1: Write about the things that you know well.
It is easier, faster and smarter to write about the things that you know well.
When you choose a short story to write, try to stick to a story that you can connect to your own life and or experiences. When you do this, you don't have to reach into your imagination so much. You already know much of the story because you have lived it yourself or you know someone who has.

Tip 2: Write about one short event or short experience.
Write about one event, one moment in time or one emotional experience. When you make your story take place in a short space of time, or focus on one emotional moment, it is easier to start and end the story in 45 minutes. If you don't believe me, check out the CXC best short stories, each one is about an event that happens in a few minutes.

Tip 3: Make your sentences work hard.
Every sentence in a short story has to work overtime. It has to "double up" on what it does. It has to tell the story and build the mood or theme of the story at the same time. It's not just, " the road stretched in front of him", it's, "the road that stretched in front of him, seemed to echo the emptiness of his future". See? In that one sentence I not only talked about the road but I also related it to the character's feelings and future.
Please note that a sentence doesn't have to be long to work hard.

Tip 4: Use short sentences.
It is easier to read short sentences than it is to read long sentences. You don't want the examiner slowing down his reading to try to figure out what you want to say. You will impress the examiner more by using simple, clear language to tell an exciting story, than using complex language to tell a story he can't figure out.

Tip 5: Use simple words.
Sometimes exam candidates think that they need to use "essay language" to impress examiners. They use '10 dollar words' when '10 cent words' will get the job done just as good or better.
One way to tell if you are using 10 dollar words in your essay is to read your essay back to your self as you are writing. If you find yourself stumbling over words, change the ones that you are stumbling over for easier words.
If the essay does not flow smoothly when you are reading it to yourself, see where you can rewrite it so that it is easier to read.

Tip 6: If you are not sure, don't use it.
If you are not sure about using quotation marks and other punctuation signs when writing direct speech, don't use direct speech in your story. Make life easy for yourself, use normal sentences and write in paragraph form.
If you are not sure about the spelling of a word, don't use it. Use another word that you are sure you know how to spell.
This is an easy way to save some marks.

Tip 7: Do not write about sex (or a lot of unecessary violence).
The examiners really, really do not like when CXC exam candidates write sexually explicit stories. They have said this publicly.

Tip 8: Write neatly.
I know this sounds too easy but many people do not write neatly in exams. They are so busy trying to get everything down on paper within the time limit, they don't worry about neat handwriting. This is not a good idea.
When your handwriting is neat and easy to understand, you are reducing the work the examiner has to do to read your essay. This puts him/her in a good mood, you want that. I repeat, you want that.

Tip 9: Leave time to proof read your essay.
Leave 5 minutes out of your 45 minutes to proof read your essay at the end.
We all make mistakes. In the heat of trying to get the whole essay on paper, you may have made spelling and/or grammar mistakes. Take a few minutes at the end of the exam to clean up the essay and make sure it reads well (sounds good to your ear).
Well, that's it for now. If I think of any more tips, I will add them as time goes on.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Narrative Writing 1

Narrative is a report of related events presented to the listeners or readers in words arranged in a logical sequence.

A story is taken as a synonym of narrative. 

A narrative or story is told by a narrator who may be a direct part of that experience and he or she often shares the experience as a first-person narrator.

 Sometimes he or she may only observe the events as a third-person narrator and gives his or her verdict.

Elements of a Story


The sequence of events that happen in a story. The plot
usually happens in the order of: Exposition, Rising Action,
Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.

Where and when the story takes place. The setting is the
geographic location of the story. When a character walks
from one part of a neighborhood to the other, the scene
changes, but the setting always stays the same.

The people, animals, or creatures in the story.

One character who is central to the story and all the
major events in the story.

The character who opposes, or goes against the main
character or protagonist. The antagonist tries to
prevent the main character (protagonist) from
succeeding or being happy.

Conflict is a problem that happens in the story. Usually, the
conflict happens toward the beginning of the story, at the
beginning of the Rising Action. There are different types of
(1) Person versus Person
(2) Person versus Self
(3) Person versus Nature
(4) Person versus Society
(5) Person versus Circumstance

The message that is in the story. Common themes are love, friendship, loyalty, faith, hope, forgiveness, sacrifice, honor, justice, truth, freedom.

Monday, 28 April 2014


Read the following poem carefully and then answer the questions set on it.
The Hawk
The hawk slipped out of the pine, and rose in the sunlit air:
Steady and still he poised: his shadow slept on the grass:
And the bird's song sickened and sank: she cowered with furtive stare,
Dumb, till the quivering dimness should flicker and shift and pass.
Suddenly down he dropped: she heard the hiss of his wing,
Fled with a scream of terror: oh, would she had dared to rest.
For the hawk at eve was full, and there was no bird to sing,
And over the heather drifted the down from a bleeding breast.
(a) Briefly state what happens in the poem. (2 marks)
(b) What does the following tell you about the bird? she cowered with furtive stare...(2 marks)
(c) Explain what is meant by ;the quivering dimness. (2 marks)
(d) Comment on the poet's use of each of the following:
(i) slipped
(ii) drifted (4 marks)
(e) Name one sense to which this poem appeals and quote a word or phrase in support of your choice. (2 marks)
(f) Identify a figure of speech and comment on its effectiveness. (2 marks)

Descriptive Writing 1

Watch the following video's based on Descriptive Writing and make the necessary notes.


Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions below it.
      Quiet and the night came early and Leonard sat there feeling a flicker of restlessness. He needed his books, a radio perhaps, he wasn't sure why he had been delaying going into Kingston to fetch his things. The pattern he had established of working on the house had completely absorbed him, but, he thought, stretching lazily, it was time to make the trip into town. He would go there the next day, get it over with. If he went like that, mid-week, there would be nobody there. He could simply pick up his two boxes and leave the key with the next-door neighbour. He would not have to face his parents and their angry comments, the small guilt-making jabs, 'after all they had done', giving up his job, 'such good prospects', to hide himself away 'in the depths of beyond', as they put it. And, of course, he could not explain. He could not say that the prospect of working to buy things did not interest him, of drifting into a marriage, much like theirs, did not interest him. It was all sound, solid, and it frightened him, the years stretching ahead, known even before they had happened. He wanted to make something very simple, very different, for himself. He could not explain because they were so proud of having lived out Grandma Miriam's dream, to be educated, professionals, a far remove from Grandpa Sam, travelling in on the country bus with his country talk and his bag of yams.

a) Why was Leonard feeling a flicker of restlessness (line 2)? (2 marks)
b) What does the phrase get it over with (line 12) tell us about Leonard's reaction to the idea of the trip into town? (2 marks)
c) How did Leonard decide to avoid his parents? (2 marks)
d) How did Leonard's parents feel about his chosen lifestyle? (2 marks)
e) What was Grandma Miriam's ambition for her children? (1 mark)
f) What does the last sentence suggest about Grandma Miriam's' reaction to the lifestyle of Grandpa Sam? (2 marks)
Total: 11 marks

Sunday, 27 April 2014


(a)(i)Who is likely to have said the following lines:
'Twill rot yu' teet'! (line 3) and Study yu' book! (line 11) (ii)What effect is the writer trying to create by using them? (3 marks)
Suggested answer(a) The words would have been spoken by an adult, possibly a parent.

Question(b) In what ways is the content of the first two stanzas (lines 1 - 15) similar?
(3 marks)
Suggested answer

(b) The content of the first two stanzas is similar in that they show the views/concerns of the adult with regard to the child. Also, both stanzas offer guidance from the adult.

Question(c) Why does the poet refer to leather jacket (line 12) and ;football boots (line 13)? (2 marks) 

Suggested answer
(c) The poet refers to leather jackets and football boots, items which we associate with the male, to indicate that these attract teenage girls.

Question(d) Comment on the poet's choice of the following words:
(i)Tinkly (line 4)(ii)dim (line 31) (2 marks)
Suggested answer
d)(i) Tinkly is an example of the figurative device, ono- matopoeia; hence it appeals to the sense of hearing. Children will be attracted to the sound of the paper.
(ii) Through the use of dim, the poet maintains the contrast between childhood and adulthood, innocence and experience.

(e) What do the following lines,
She'll see beneath the silver wrapper
Beneath the flashy football boots ... (lines 21 - 22) tell us about the young girl?
(2 marks) 
Suggested answer
(e) The lines tell us that the young girl realises later on in life that things are not what they seem to be. She would arrive at this position because of her maturity and experience.

Question(f)What is suggested by the poet in the last seven lines (lines 27 - 33) of the poem? (2 marks) 
Suggested answer
(f) The poet is saying that it is difficult for anyone to see why adulthood, with all its problems, should be preferred to childhood.
Total 14 marks

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Read the following poem carefully and and answer the questions which follow it.
Growing pains
My child-eyes cried for chocolate treats
And sticky sweets
'Twill rot yu' teet'!
Tinkly silver wrapper hides
How can a child-eye see?
This child-heart cried for mid-teen love
10A blow, a shove
Study yuh' book!
Leather jacket
Football boots
Are not the most sought-after truths
15How can a child-heart know?
So watch the young-girl-heart take wing!
Watch her groove
And watch her swing
She's old enough
20She's strong and tough
She'll see beneath the silver wrapper
Beneath the flashy football boots
She'll find the great sought-after truth
That child-eye tears are not as sad
25And child-heart pain is not as bad
As grown-up tears and grown-up pain
Oh Christ, what do we have to gain
From growing up
For throwing up
Our childlike ways
For dim
Grown-up days.

(a)(i)Who is likely to have said the following lines:
'Twill rot yu' teet'! (line 3) and Study yu' book! (line 11) (ii)What effect is the writer trying to create by using them?                                                                                                        (3 marks) 
(b) In what ways is the content of the first two stanzas (lines 1 - 15) similar?
                                                                                                                          (3 marks)
(c) Why does the poet refer to leather jacket (line 12) and ;football boots (line 13)?   (2 marks) 
(d) Comment on the poet's choice of the following words:
(i)Tinkly (line 4)(ii)dim (line 31)                                                                                                         (2 marks) 
(e) What do the following lines,
She'll see beneath the silver wrapper
Beneath the flashy football boots ... (lines 21 - 22) tell us about the young girl?
(2 marks) 
(f)What is suggested by the poet in the last seven lines (lines 27 - 33) of the poem? (2 marks) 
Total 14 marks

Friday, 25 April 2014

Reading Comprehension PRACTICE 1

Read the following extract carefully and then answer all the questions set on it.

Pita panicked. There was nothing he could do. He was trapped. Trapped with hundreds of others. The monster had come and was slowly, surely dragging them from the deep. He swam through the excited crowd to try the bottom. Then he tried the top again. The great monster had encircled them completely. There were millions of holes in its great hands, but none large enough. If only they were a little larger. Pita tried to push himself through one of the holes again. He squeezed and squeezed. Great tails lashed around him. Not only he but against his eyes. If only his head could get through. He pushed again, hard, and the pain quivered through his body.

There was nothing he could do. He heard the breakers roaring above now. That meant they were nearing the shore. Pita whipped his tail in fury. The monster was gradually closing its hands. There were cries now above the surface. Below, the monster grated on sand. The shore! They had reached the shore! Frantically, Pita flung himself against one of the tiny holes. He gave a cry as the scales tore from his back - then a cry of joy. He was free! Free!

He lunged forward below the surface. Down he sped, rejoicing in his tinyness. If he was only a little bigger, he would have been dying on the shore now. The fateful shore! There had been those who had actually come back from that world. This was one of the great mysteries. But some said they had been there, and had talked of that awesome place.

There was no more blood now. Down he swam. Deep, deep until the sound of the breakers was only a bitter memory, and the sea was not sandy but blue and clear, and until, far, far away in the distance, green with fern and the tender moss, he saw the rocks of home.

a) To whom or what does 'he' refer? (1 mark)

b) What effect is the author trying to create by using short sentences in the passage? (2 marks)

c) State ONE word which could describe Pita's feelings when he realised, There were millions of holes ... but none large enough. (2 marks)

d) Why does the author repeat 'squeezed' in line 6? (3 marks)

e) Who or what does the 'monster' refer to? (2 marks)

f) Why does the writer use 'fateful' to describe the shore? (2 marks)

g) Why does Pita utter a cry of joy? (1 mark)

h) Why was 'the sound of the breakers' a bitter memory? (2 marks)



a) To whom or what does 'he' refer? (1 mark) 
Suggested answer
a) 'He' refers to the fish or Pita

b) What effect is the author trying to create by using short sentences in the passage?(2 marks)
Suggested answer
b) The writer is trying to create suspense/tension/fast-moving action.

c) State ONE word which could describe Pita's feelings when he realised, There were millions of holes ... but none large enough. (2 marks) 
c) Alarm/anxiety/frustration/desperation.

d) Why does the author repeat 'squeezed' in line 6? (3 marks) 
Suggested answer
d) The word is repeated to show the tremendous effort the fish is making in its bid to escape.

e) Who or what does the 'monster' refer to? (2 marks) 
Suggested answer
e) The 'monster' is the net

f) Why does the writer use 'fateful' to describe the shore? (2 marks)
Suggested answer
f) The word is used because that is where the fate of the fish was decided/where death took place.

g) Why does Pita utter a cry of joy? (1 mark)
Suggested answer
g) Pita utters a cry of joy as he was now free.

h) Why was 'the sound of the breakers' a bitter memory? (2 marks) 
Suggested answer
h) It was the sound of the place where he would have died.


Computers and Education in America

Dudley Erskine Devlin writes his own commentary of computer technology on the rise in "Computers and Education in America." While all the optimists out there push the movement of Websites and constantly flash e-mail addresses on all advertising promising simplicity for our hectic lives and education for our children, Devlin retorts by saying, "In short, the much balleyhooed promise of computers for education has yet to be realized." He believes that finding information and retrieving it from the Internet is long and tedious. The Internet is cluttered by commercialism, claims Devlin. He also points out how the information might be false when found. He believes claims that the Internet is democratic are false. The personal computer eats money and that plus the cost of Internet bills is too much for families. Although the Internet has nearly 20 million sites, there are not enough mentoring programs to lead students through the Internet. Besides, according to Devlin, kids will always prefer the TV and their friends over cyberspace. Even if kids were on the Internet they would be surrounded by commercialism and pornography. Finally, in the words of Dudley Erskine Devlin, "The cult of computers is still an empty promise for most students."

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Practice Question 2- Summary Writing

Summarize the passage below in 150 words. The model question will be provided tomorrow.

Computers and Education in America

In the last decade, computers have invaded every aspect of education, from kindergarten through college. The figures show that schools have spent over two billion dollars installing two million new computers. Recently, with the explosive increase of sites on the Internet, computers have taken another dramatic rise. In just five years, the number of Internet hosts has skyrocketed from 2 million to nearly 20 million. It is not uncommon for 6th graders to surf the 'Net, design their own home pages, and e-mail their friends or strangers they have "met" on the Web. Computer literacy is a reality for many junior high students and most high school students.

In the midst of this technological explosion, we might well stop and ask some key questions. Is computer technology good or bad for education? Are students learning more or less? What, exactly, are they learning? And who stands to benefit from education's current infatuation with computers and the Internet?
In the debate over the virtues of computers in education, the technological optimists think that computers and the Internet are ushering us into the next literacy revolution, a change as profound as Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. In contrast, a much smaller but growing number of critics believe that cyberspace is not the ideal classroom. I agree with the critics. If you consider your own experience, you'll agree that the benefits of computer literacy are at best wildly overrated. At their worst, computers and the Internet pander to the short attention spans and the passive viewing habits of a young television generation.

The technological optimists sing a siren song of an enchanted new land where the educational benefits of computers and the Internet are boundless. First, they boast that children can now access information on every conceivable subject. If little Eva or little Johnny wants to learn about far-away cultures, they can access sites from their own homes that will teach them about the great languages and cultures of the world.
Second, these starry-eyed optimists warble about how the Internet has created a truly democratic space, where all children--rich, poor, black, white, and brown--have equal access to information and education. Third, they claim that computers will allow students to have e-mail conversations with experts on any subject around the world. No longer will students be limited by their own classroom, their teacher, or their environment. Distance learning is the wave of the future, and classrooms will become obsolete or at least optional. In the words of John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Computer, the new technologies have created an "avalanche of personal creativity and achievement" and they have given students the "ability to explore, convey, and create knowledge as never before." Children who used to hate going to school will now love to learn to read and write, to do math and science. They will voluntarily spend hours learning on the Web instead of being bored to death by endless books and stodgy teachers.

Sound too good to be true? Let's examine these claims, one by one.

First, promoters of computer learning are endlessly excited about the quantity of information available on the Internet. The reality, however, is quite a different story. If you've worked on the Internet, you know that finding and retrieving information from a Web site can sometimes be tedious and time consuming. And once you find a site, you have no idea whether the information will be valuable. Popular search engines such as Yahoo! are inefficient at finding relevant information, unless you just want to buy a book on or find a street map for Fargo, North Dakota. Information is definitely available on the Web, but the problem is finding relevant, reliable, and non-commercial information.

Next, the optimists claim that the Internet is truly a democratic space with equal access for everyone. Again, the reality falls short.

First, access to an Internet provider at home costs over a hundred dollars a month, once you add up service and long distance fees. And then there's the technology barrier--not every person has the skills to navigate the Web in any but the most superficial way. Equal access is still only a theoretical dream, not a current reality.

Finally, computers do allow students to expand their learning beyond the classroom, but the distance learning is not a utopia. Some businesses, such as Hewlett Packard, do have mentoring programs with children in the schools, but those mentoring programs are not available to all students. Distance learning has always been a dream of administrators, eager to figure out a cheaper way to deliver education. They think that little Eva and Johnny are going to learn about Japanese culture or science or algebra in the evening when they could be talking with their friends on the phone or watching television. As education critic Neil Postman points out, these administrators are not imagining a new technology but a new kind of child: "In [the administrator's] vision, there is a confident and typical sense of unreality. Little Eva can't sleep, so she decides to learn a little algebra? Where does little Eva come from? Mars?" Only students from some distant planet would prefer to stick their nose in a computer rather than watch TV or go to school and be with their friends.

In addition to these drawbacks are other problems with computers in education. There is the nasty issue of pornography and the rampant commercialism on the Internet. Schools do not want to have their students spend time buying products or being exposed to pornography or pedophiles.
Second, the very attractiveness of most Web sites, with their color graphics and ingenious links to other topics, promotes dabbling and skimming. The word "surfing" is appropriate, because most sites encourage only the most surface exploration of a topic. The Internet thus accentuates what are already bad habits formost students: Their short attention spans, their unwillingness to explore subjects in depth, their poor reading and evaluation skills.

Computers also tend to isolate students, to turn them into computer geeks who think cyberspace is actually real. Some students have found they have a serious and addictive case of "Webaholism," where they spend hours and hours on the computer at the expense of their family and friends. Unfortunately, computers tend to separate, not socialize students.

Finally, we need to think about who has the most to gain or lose from computers in the schools. Are administrators getting more students "taught" for less money? Are big companies training a force of computer worker bees to run their businesses? Will corporate CEO's use technology to isolate and control their employees? In short, the much ballyhooed promise of computers for education has yet to be realized.
Education critic Theodore Roszak has a warning for us as we face the brave new world of computer education: Like all cults, this one has the intention of enlisting mindless allegiance and acquiescence. People who have no clear idea of what they mean by information or why they should want so much of it are nonetheless prepared to believe that we live in an Information Age, which makes every computer around us what the relics of the True Cross were in the Age of Faith: emblems of salvation.

I think if you examine your own experience with computers, you'll agree that the cult of computers is still an empty promise for most students. Computers, the Internet, and the Web will not magically educate students. It still must be done with reading, study, good teaching, and social interaction. Excellence in education can only be achieved the old fashioned way--students must earn it.
--Dudley Erskine Devlin

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

How to Write a Summary

The following are the six (6) steps for writing a summary

1. Find the main idea of the passage:
Read the passage the first time for understanding.
(So you can get a sense of what point they are trying to make.)
Ask yourself, “ What was the passage about?”
(You should answer yourself with a sentence or a phrase)
Hint: If you are having problems, scan the passage to see which 'topic' word appears most often. This is likely the topic of the passage.
Now you have to figure out what is being said about the topic.

Read the passage a second time.
What is the overall point being made about the topic word?
You need to be able to see the "big picture" being presented by the passage. This is the main idea of the whole passage; Write it down.
Never start writing a summary before you read the passage for a second time.

2. Find the supporting ideas in the passage:
(Supporting ideas are used to develop, explain or expand on the main idea.)
While "skimming" (reading through quickly) the passage for
the third time, look for the supporting ideas by reading over
the opening sentences of the paragraphs.
(A paragraph expresses and develops one main idea or point)
Underline topic sentences in the paragraphs and the key
ideas in them.

3. After reading the passage for the third time, write one or two summary sentences for each paragraph describing the main idea that you see expressed by the paragraph.
If you see yourself repeating the same ideas, you will need to read the passage again to get a clearer picture and then revise your summary sentences.

4. Join together the main idea of the passage and your paragraph summary sentences by using transitional words and/or phrases.
These transitional words/phrases do three things:

1) They give your summary a sense of being a "whole" - not just a group of unconnected sentences.

2) They also make your summary "flow" smoothly when reading

3) They reinforce and support the main idea being expressed in the passage.

5. Reread (and edit if necessary) the summary to make sure it clear and to-the-point.
Eliminate repetitive words, too many descriptive words (adjectives and adverbs)and non-essential sentences.
The final version should read like a whole, sensible piece of writing.
**Check your spelling and grammar.

6. Finally, check your summary against the author’s original. Have you correctly described the author’s main idea and the essential supporting points?
Make any necessary adjustments or changes to your summary.

MODEL RESPONSE - Summary Writing 1

Yesterday you were given a sample question to write a summary of 50 words. Here is the sample response below. 

Adding sweet-smelling flowers to a garden is something many gardeners may skip.  One can become too caught up in visual flower aspects such as color or composition.  Yet adding beautiful smelling flowers just as important for those gardeners who are looking to have an all-around "memorable" flower display.  Most aromatic flowers are mainly white; yet, some more colorful plants may hide their lovely smell in less obvious places, like in their roots, stems, and leaves.   

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Analyze the diagram below and write one sentence that states
what the diagram explains about summary writing.

     When you are writing a summary you should filter a number of details so that your summary only includes the relevant details and  main ideas.

Watch the video below and define the following:
¢What is a summary?
¢When do we use summaries?

What is a summary?

summary is condensed version of a larger reading.  
A summary is not a rewrite of the original piece and 
does not have to be long nor should it be long.  To write 
a summary, use your own words to express briefly  the 
main idea and relevant details of the piece you have 

The following video shares the aims of a summary. 
Watch the video and list the important steps that you 
need to consider when writing a summary.

Below we sum up the features of a summary based 
on the video:
¢Start your summary with a clear identification of the type of work, title, author, and main point in the present tense.
¢2.Check with your outline and your original to make sure you have covered the important points.
¢3.Never put any of your own ideas, opinions, or interpretations into the summary. This means you have to be very careful of your word choice.

Our final video tells the things you need to avoid 
when writing your summary.
List the things that the video identifies that you 
should avoid.

Practice Question 1

Summarize the passage below in no more than 50 words.

There is a fourth dimension to any garden that may often be overlooked. This is the dimension of fragrance, and although its appreciation is not new, it seems to have been cast aside to make room for texture, form and color. Fragrance is subjective, and opinions of it diverse, but it is unquestionable that the garden planted with scented flowers offers the added bonus of fragrance in addition to form and color. It has been said that smell is the sense that is most memorable and that none of the other senses is more subtle in its suggestions or more reminiscent of a certain time.
The purpose of a flower's fragrance is thought to be that of an attractant to nectar-feeding insects. Not all perfumes are found in the flowers, however. Scents may also be found in roots, bark, gum or oils, leaves, stalks and sometimes in the seeds.
Generally, fragrant flowers are lightly colored or white.  Although brilliantly colored flowers are not usually fragrant, there are exceptions. Flowers that are thick in texture, such as citrus, magnolia and gardenia, are often the most distinctive and intense in scent.

Check back tomorrow for the answer to this summary.
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