Thursday, 19 May 2011

Putting Your Thoughts On A Piece Of Paper

When it comes to creative writing, there is one principle that you need to understand and live with all the time. That principle is... you are free! Even though creative writing has some standard 'rules' you need to follow especially in a sense of grammatical aspects such as subject-verb agreement, tenses and articles just to name a few, you are allowed to 'bend' them and let your ideas flow however they want. Because in the end, it's all about creativity. And not to forget, presentation.

Well, I am more than happy to share a few tips on how to be free while writing creatively. Please be reminded, though, that these suggestions are only a type of personal point of view. You don't have to necessarily agree with them.

1. Start your sentence with freedom

Some people say you can never start a sentence with an 'and'. Guess what? 'Never' is a strong word. Way too strong. That is nonsense and there is no absolute indication that putting an 'and' at the beginning of a sentence is grammatically wrong. That notion is just a personal opinion or preference, hence you are free to use it whenever you want, especially in creative writing.

2. Split your infinitives

An infinive is normally formed by two words, the word 'to' and the base form of a verb like 'go', 'walk' and 'feel'. In order to make it sound more descriptive, we add an adverb like 'naturally', 'sadly' or 'deeply'. It will then form 'to go naturally', 'to walk sadly' or 'to feel deeply'. And sometimes, we disrupt the positions and make, 'to naturally go', 'to sadly walk' or 'to deeply feel'. This is called a split infinitive. And to certain linguists who follow a certain Latin grammar rule, a split infinitive is a grammar mistake. You know what, just ignore this and let us all sound like Captian Kirk in 'Star Trek'. It's not wrong, it's acceptable and it sounds cooler.

3. Ignore the format and play with your title

If you realize, every first letter in every word in every single title that I have in this blog (and other blogs) is written with a capital letter (you won't see this because this blog uses 'ALL CAPITAL LETTERS' for titles, se let me write it back for you - 'Putting Your Thoughts On A Piece Of Paper'). See? Capital letter for every word's first letter. In English, supposedly but not compulsory, the only words in a title that should be written in capital letters are the significant ones. Not the preposition or verb to be (unless it is the first word in the sentence). For instance, I should have written 'Putting Your Thoughts on a Piece of Paper'. But will it change anything? I don't want to waste my time thinking, "Eh, is this a preposition or what?". In fact, the one thing you should focus on is how to make your title sound catchy and interesting. My advice, don't make a statement, but make a description instead. How? You know yourself better, don't you?

4. Mess with the SVO (Subject, verb and object)

Yes, this is one rule you should master before writing a sentence. The order of these three should always comply with the type of sentences you are producing. Is it active? Is it passive? Is it this? Is it that? Oh please, it doesn't kill you if sometimes the sequence becomes less organized. For me, it is more entertaining if the structure is somehow 'messy'. It's like playing with your mind, a riddle, a question, or a poem to ponder. It can be a personal style of writing too! But of course, the readers know if you're just messing with it, or you simply don't know. Be smart and careful.

5. Ignore the ending preposition

Some people say it is not a good sentence if it ends with a preposition. Doesn't matter if it is a statement or a question. "Can you tell me where the library is at?" and "I have no idea where the library is at" don't sound so right, some say. My question, do you understand what the sentence is saying, or asking? If you do, then it's not a problem.

6. Be observant

There are lots of people who have problems with this part of writing. When they want to say, "He is badly injured", they'll write, "He is badly injured". Well what about, "He cries in agony", or "His white shirt turns red", or even, "I could feel every sense of pain by just looking at his condition"? What I am trying to say is, instead of telling people what your idea is, why don't you describe it and let those readers define your intended meaning themselves? Observe your ideas carefully and you will see that there's more than one way to skin a cat. At this junction, skin an idea.

Do not let rules stop you from writing what you have in mind. You can follow them if you want, but always know that you can sometimes break the pattern as well. Writing is like eating where you can use a spoon, you can use your hand, or you can even ask your mom to feed you. But still, it's eating. Comprende?

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Language and Association of Knowledge Concepts in Early Childhood

In the early stage of knowledge development, children do not only acquire inputs from adults but actively develop their own interpretations of their surroundings.

What are the relationships between play and learning development?
  • reflect development with prior learning
  • reinforce development with current learning
  • result in development with future learning
The three branches; namely prior, current and future learning somehow have strong connections with children's cognition on stages that they develop throughout childhood. 'Circular effect' is a term that explains how children learn and associate knowledge in a more advanced stage of learning once they established a grasp of concepts in an earlier stage.

Concepts are any one of the knowledge disciplines children learn about through formal and non-formal inputs. Jean Piaget proposed three branches of concepts learned during childhood that are:
  • physical knowledge
  • logico-mathematical knowledge
  • social knowledge
But wait, what have these concepts to do with language? Well language is one essential matter that makes learning possible.

How is language utilised in embedding concepts?

Physical knowledge:
Describing objects in the surrounding with its attributes.

Logico-mathematical knowledge:
Counting and using numerical figures to measure dimensions of objects.

Social knowledge:
The notion of self-identity and others', interacting with encounters, addressing people of different hierarchy (for example parents from siblings, teachers from friends).

In childhood learning, language is not restricted to verbal or written texts. Language can be extended to a limitless of means, namely body language and voice expressions that are meaningful. In this sense, teaching must be as dynamic as possible to meet pupils' diverse needs of literacy acquisition through language use. While body language is another matter of which I am not an expert to discuss, here I place great focus on how language learning is important and that teaching language is not only in school but at home. It is the first ever learned concept in a person's life.

Teaching language in early childhood must be endorsed with visual, aural, verbal and sensory aids, for language is used in expressive sense of a child's cognition. Without aids, teaching language is just another raw input that would take a long while to be recognised by a developing mind.

Language evolves with mankind, and as such, is unbound to any limit of use. It provides man with multitudes of ways to communicate, serves multitudes of purposes, and therefore needs multitudes of effort and support in teaching and learning.

If you're a parent or a teacher teaching young children language, all you need to do is let them out to do whatever they love to do-let them tell stories, draw on sand, play pretend, just anything-while you support with some aids or props and watch the magic as they learn to communicate in many adorable ways! :)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

How To Write An Introduction For Academic Writing

Academic writing sounds so serious doesn't it? Well, it is not. While there are some certain techniques for you to know in writing a good introduction for academic writing, there is no rule saying that we must write a dull essay for it to be academic. Here I will explain some ways in writing a good introduction for academic writing. I will start with introduction and will continue with other parts of academic writing some other time.

Introduction can be separated into two parts: General statement/Hook and Thesis Statement.

General statement/Hook.

You don't have to write much for this but don't be mistaken in thinking that it is not important.This is the technique in getting the reader's attention so it is very vital in getting the reader to continue reading your essay rather than just stopping after the first few lines. There are different types of hooks such as Anecdotes, Quotes, Statistics and Questions. While there are other types of hooks, I will just concentrate on these.

Anecdotes: You describe a character or a person which is related to your essay.
For example - ' He used to work at big companies, getting paid so much that he can afford to have the finer things in life. But that changes when he was involved with drugs. Abuse of drugs are certainly dangerous as it can damage you and people around you.'

Quotes: You quote some words from other people, usually famous people or significant people who are related to your essay.
For example - ' Nelson Mandela used to say, " After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." Being satisfied with what we have is not an option as we must strive to be successful in life.'

Statistics: Include some data that can be easily be found either from the internet or books.
For example - ' As of 2010, more than 80% of the tablet computer market is dominated by Apple's iPad. This shows that the significance of tablet computer cannot be ignored as the market is still huge and largely untapped. '

Questions: Ask a question but make sure you give an answer for that question.
For example - ' How would you feel if a murderer was let off with a light sentence? Of course, you will not be satisfied with the verdict as it seems unfair to the dead. Nevertheless, respecting the decision of the court is very important.'

These are some of the hooks that can be used in the introduction. If these seem to difficult for you, just write a general statement. I would recommend this for students of lower level as you just need to write a general statement that is related to the topic. As long it is related to the topic, it is good enough.

CAUTION: Please do not start with 'Nowadays' or 'As we all know' as they are cliches that are being used over and over again that they will not help your essay to stand out as they are as common as the greens besides the road.

After you are done with hooks/general statement, we should state our stand and give some indication on what we are about to discuss in the essay. This is the use of Thesis Statement. Thesis Statement is used to explain the points that will be discussed in the body paragraph of an essay.

For example - He used to work at big companies, getting paid so much that he can afford to have the finer things in life. But that changes when he was involved with drugs. Abuse of drugs are certainly dangerous as it can damage you and people around you. So it is agreed that abuse of drugs is dangerous because it can lead to a dysfunctional family institution and declining moral values of the society.

Have a look at the bold part. That is the thesis statement. By reading the thesis statement we can know that the first body paragraph will discuss the dysfunctional family institution while the second body paragraph will discuss the declining moral values of the society.

Having to agree or disagree shows your stand which you have to choose. It depends on the question actually. If the question asks you either to agree or disagree, you have to choose one. If the question only asks you to discuss or give your opinion, you can have both sides, positive and negative. The question for above introduction might be ' Abuse of drugs is dangerous, do you agree or disagree?' which leads to the thesis statement above.

There is another way to write thesis statement. While the example that I give here is an explicit thesis statement which lays out the point that will be discussed, an implicit thesis statement is the opposite of that. I will not explain much about implicit thesis statement as usually explicit thesis statement is the one which is preferred.

In a way, for you to have a good and clear introduction, you must know how to combine hooks and thesis statement. Hope this helps, please comment if you have any questions or suggestions.