Many times, students do not write what they actually mean.
There are 2 main reasons for this:
(1) Difficulty in putting their thoughts to paper.
(2) Errors in syntax (ie. grammatical arrangement of words in a sentence)
How can students overcome these weaknesses?
(1) In the long term, reading good books regularly will expose students to different writing styles and will help them to build up the language skills necessary to speak and write fluently.
(2) The more immediate measure is that students need to revise and edit their completed compositions and essays critically. Read and re-read each sentence again to see if what is written is ambiguous or can be misinterpreted in a different way. Edit where necessary.
Below are some more bloopers I have spotted in my primary students’ compositions recently. The scenario is about the student witnessing two burglars trying to break into the neighbour’s house one night.
In each example, what does the student mean to say, versus what is actually written? Are there better ways we can construct these sentences while keeping their intended meanings intact?
Example 1 :
Are you talking about a burglar with over-developed pectoral muscles, or is the burglar a female??
What student actually meant: The burglar was carrying (“with”) a big chest (“box”).
How can you be rooted to the ground and yet “faint”? If you didn’t faint, how could you be “revived” (which means bring back to life or health or existence)
What student actually meant: I got over the shock.
Erm, you mean the policemen got arrested for doing their job??
What student actually meant: The burglars were arrested by the police.
Note: To “apprehend” means to catch and arrest someone who has broken the law. There is no need to use “arrested” again. Also, there is an error in syntax. The conjunction “and” in the original sentence above links the actions of “apprehended” and “arrested” to the subject, police, hence the confusion.