Month: July 2007

The Migration

This is long overdue; my sincere apologies. I thought I would upload your versions of the chapter (remember the one in which Gerry’s family makes the decision to move to Corfu?), and then allow you to see the actual chapter. Not all of you handed in your versions, and some were virtually unreadable. Plus I simply don’t have the time. So here is the actual chapter, broken up into the sections you worked on.

You can see how rainy weather is described in great detail. In fact many of you did this part very well- I was surprised how you were able to wax lyrical about rain, until I remembered that it rains so often in Singapore that you would have had to be deaf and blind not to have noticed what rain looks like, sounds like, feels like.

The second part describes the way the family suffers from the cold, and it is here that we are introduced to many good words and phrases that you can actually use in your own writing.

The conversation between Larry and Mother is priceless in its humour, as well as the insight it gives us into Larry’s character and his relationship with his mother.

Next we see the family’s luggage, and you will see that it is very similar to what you imagined.

Lastly, an almost poetic description of the sea journey and the island of Corfu.

There’s much to enjoy and to learn in this book. Here is just a taste of it.




Narrative Structure: The One With All The Resolutions

This week the focus is on the structure of personal recounts. Despite the fact that in textbooks this is often treated as a seperate form of writing from narratives, I think that it is, in fact, just another narrative variety.

The theme we are using is that of New Year’s Resolutions. Specifically, the struggle to keep a resolution. My apologies- some of the lessons have been a little mixed up. Let me explain what I mean. My plan was to show you an episode of the sitcom “Friends” (carefully chosen- in no way an endorsement of the suitability of the series as a whole for young people) in which 6 friends make resolutions for the New Year. The episode focuses on how some of the friends face difficulties in sticking to their resolutions. Following the viewing of the VCD, you were then to be given a structured assignment, which required you to reflect on a resolution you have made before, and how you faced challenges keeping to it.

Thanks to my involvement in the Racial Harmony Day concert, however, 3E4 and 3E5 have ended up having to do the assignment before viewing the episode. No harm done though- time will tell if they have been badly scarred by the experience. Additional modifications to my plan have been necessary because of our guests from Shanghai. I felt it would be rather unfair for them to come all the way here, only to have to swot over an in-class essay. So with 3E1, 3E5 and 3E6, the assignment has been done as a group essay- for which all members of the group will receive the same mark. Why 3E1? Well, it just seemed easier that way. Plus- they seem to work very well in groups, helping each other out and assiduously following instructions.

So that leaves us with 3E2, 3E3 and 3E4. These 3 classes are a little challenging, because I find it tough to get all their assignments in on time. Plus, if they are asked to work in groups, only a few groups function well. Thus these classes will do the asignment on an individual basis, in class. So now you know.

Anyway! Aqil from 3E4 is down with chicken pox- sorry man. I wish you a speedy recovery. Meanwhile don’t pick at the scabs. I’ve never had CP, but I’ve heard that leaving the spots alone reduces the scarring. People who’ve had the dreaded disease have also told me to go and boil my head when I have given them this advice, because apparently, unless you’ve actually had CP before, you have no idea just how damned uncomfortable the whole experience is.

For Aqil and anyone else who has missed any of the lessons related to this topic, I have posted here the PowerPoint Presentation that I prepared for 3E4 explaining the whole writing process. I have also included here the assignment template. I recommend you print out the template then view the slides, following the instructions all the way.



What a week- and it’s just started!

In answer to all you kay-pohs who wanted to know why I was wearing a bandanna today, here is the definitive answer: with all the running around I had to do, sweaty curls flopping on my forehead was the last thing I needed. And here is my retort to the smarty pants who said I looked funny: I couldn’t care less, man! I came home and peeled off my sweat-soaked scarf and knew it had been well worth it. (All together now- EWWWW!!!)

Well, our friends from Shanghai came today, and I know one group of teenagers who are going to be sleeping well tonight. These kids worked their fingers off to make sure everything went smoothly today, and I really appreciate all their effort. I’m talking about my 3E6-ers, who made me proud with their warmth and hospitality towards their foreign friends. Oh sure, they had their moments of panic, but I think they weathered the crises pretty well. Now all we need to do is sail through the next few days. But I know they can do it. And yes, 3E5-ers, I’m proud of you too! I love seeing all my students in other roles, apart from just in my English class.

That’s one reason why I attend events like Sports Day, even though it’s not strictly compulsory for me as an adjunct teacher. How I enjoyed all the cheering, the happy faces, the surprisingly fast runners and the pride I felt welling up in me whenever one of you stepped up to receive a prize. I even enjoyed the rain, because it brought everyone close together and created a cozy atmosphere. I only felt bad for the houses that were stationed further away from the prize table. It must have been tough for you to catch glimpses of what was going on.

Tomorrow all of you will get to watch the Racial Harmony Day concert which the Lower Secondary got to watch today. Look out for an item that I choreographed. Want to know a secret related to this fact? Then look out for my next post, in which I will share something about my mysterious pre-motherhood past.

Mrs V and Pottermania


OH MY GOD!!! I was supposed to do so much marking over the weekend. Writing Burst books, journals and assignments litter my desk, at home and at school. I tremble in fear when I think of how I am going to have to struggle to catch up. BUT IT WAS ALL WORTH IT! I got the new Harry Potter book yesterday morning and I ignored everything and everyone till I finished it. Once I had dropped my kids at their two-and-a-half-hour tuition session I read till it was time to pick them up again. The poor things must have wondered why I packed them off to bed so early. I admit it- bad mother that I am, I did it so that I would have more time to read. At one am it was over. I knew how it ended, what the Deathly Hallows were, who lived and who died- the whole package. I LOVED the book. Exciting twists and turns, vivid detail, teeming with fascinating characters.

The reason I had to finish reading the book so quickly was because my son, Rishi, read the last few pages as soon as he was handed the book in the store. After that he was dying to share with me what he knew. I begged him to keep it to himself, and promised that we would discuss it as soon as I had finished the book. With his wonderful open character, he really can’t keep a secret for long, and so I whizzed through the book in self defence. Don’t worry. I CAN keep a secret. Meanwhile, my other son Arjun is patiently waiting till all of us have have finished fighting over and reading the book. Then, he says, he will be able to read in peace.

If any of you want to comment on the book, please warn us if your comment contains any spoilers.

Upcoming Writing Competitions

aa044444.jpgI know there are many of you out there who really love to write- it is just that you find assignments and exams boring and uninspiring. I hear you, man! Which is why they have writing competitions just for folks like you to show how powerful your pen (or computer keyboard!) is. Check these out:

1. Renaissance Publishing is organizing a writing contest. The prize is $1700 cash and a chance to be published. For serious writers, the second is a better motivator than the first. The competition, presented in conjunction with the official launce of “Cupid Corporation”, is for all full time students in Singapore between the ages of 14 and 25. You can send either

  • A short story (5000 words or less, true or fictional)
  • A poem
  • A love letter
  • A short passage, paragraph, blurb, one-liner or even a phrase- anything that can tug at the heartstrings.

The judging criteria of your literary work are how romantic it is, and whether it can move and touch anyone who reads it. It’s that simple. Submit as many as you like.

All entries must be in by 30th August, 2007. Visit for more details and the entry form.

2. The Golden Point Award Competition is seeking the best, most original, unpublished short story or poem by a Singaporean or a Permanent Resident. First prize winners stand a chance of receiving $10,000 in cash and educational training grants.

Log on to to download the official entry form or pick one up at The Arts House Box Office. The closing date for submissions is 31 July 2007. For enquiries, contact or call 81836034.

Well? Any takers? The first competition is too young for me (note how I avoid saying I am too old!) but am thinking of having a go at the second. Do you think I stand a chance?

Take the wordpower challenge and win!


The Reader’s Digest, together with Singtel,  is holding an online competition that is open to all secondary school students in Singapore. All you have to do is log onto www. to play. So far the school with the highest score is Hougang Secondary School. Do you think Swiss Cottage can beat their score? They are ahead of even Raffles Girls’ School, so it will be quite a challenge- but I know most of you are up to the task. The preliminary round closes on the 31st of July, after which the top 6 schools will be invited to take part in the challenge at the national level. The prizes are fantastic- first prize is $2000 cash, $300 worth of Kinokuniya vouchers and $300 gift vouchers for redemption when purchasing handsets.

Go on. I dare you…

4 Candles and Pandora’s Box


If you are anything like me you get dozens of forwards a day via e-mail. Some of them are really ridiculous, others are wearingly repetitive and yet others are simply a waste of time. But once in a while one comes along that stands out because it is just a little better than the rest, either in terms of actual content or in terms of presentation. Earlier this term I shared one with you regarding the world as it might look in 2070 (you can view it in the post bearing the same name). Now, here is one more- not as topical perhaps as the previous one, but relevant nonetheless. It reminds me very much of the story of Pandora’s Box, with its message of Hope in the midst of great trouble. If you have never read the story of Pandora’s Box, I have also provided here a link to a site that carries a very brief version of the mythological tale. Feel free to search the web for more detailed versions.


After you’ve viewed the 4 candles site as well as read the Pandora story, I’d be very interested to see what you have to say about the similarities or differences between the two.