Month: January 2008

Will we survive the 21st century?

If you think this post is about answering the question in title, think again! It’s too tiring to think about. The title is that of the comprehension the Sec 3 classes have been working on this week, and I told everyone I would put the answers up here. The answers are taken directly from the book “Score in Comprehension” by Graham Spencer. Mr Spencer is an invisible and unavoidable presence in our classroom, and we will accord him his due respect! I have your answer pages with me because I think it will be more interesting to discover the answers bit by bit as we go along. To give Mr Spencer credit, the passage was very thought-provoking. For those of you who did not manage to pick out the main drift of the essay, there are 3 parts to it (of course! Magic number three!) : the damage done by humans to the environment, the presence of solutions to the problem, and the need to come together as a species to ensure our survival. If anyone would like to modify this or disagree completely, just write in with your comments.

Here, then, are the answers…



Poem of the week

Found this online, really liked it, thought I’d share it with you:

 sad-dog.jpg                               umbrella.jpg

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella,
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

Charles Bowen

Do you agree with this? Any real life experiences come to mind?

An Inconvenient Truth- an exercise in frustration


We have been trying to watch Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, but have been faced with obstacles at almost every step of the way. I am very frustrated by all the technical difficulties I’ve encountered. It started with the lack of picture and sound in 3E5 yesterday. In ITR1 today there was sound, but no picture. Worse still, there was no airconditioning- it was like a sauna, and we were all breathing in each other’s carbon dioxide. (Very apt, given the content of the video, but not exactly conducive to learning.) We moved over to ITR2 where we had sound and picture, but what a picture! Busy blue-green stripes moving across the screen, calculated to give anyone the mother of all migraines.


Hang on- I’m not done yet. In 3E1, there was picture and no sound. So the poor students ended up reading the subtitles in silence. Kudos to them for their valiant attempts to stay awake. By the end of the lesson I was ready to call it quits. “An Inconvenient Truth” seemed to be just too inconvenient to screen.


But Mrs V does not give up easily. I really believe that this video is one that you should watch, because it is an argument in the film medium. Al Gore convincingly (if not very elegantly) builds up his case for reducing carbon emissions, and there is a lot of good vocabulary related to discussing issues that you can pick up from the documentary. So my final attempt consists of booking the movie screening area in the library. We will move the desks out so that we can all sit on the floor. If this also does not work then I will be forced to conclude that someone up there does not want you to watch this film!

Can’t wait to see how this turns out!

In the meanwhile, have a look at these articles, because they contain descriptions of the film, as well as some opposing points of view. These are good examples of counter-arguments. But do read them critically. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but you notice that some arguments are more well supported than others, and therefore are more convincing. There are many articles out there on the net, and you are welcome to look them up if the topic interests you. These are just the first ones I found, not necessarily the best. If you have any comments after reading them, I’d love to hear from you.





Be extraordinary

Some of this is going to sound familiar to you- especially if you are from 3E5.


Very few of us are ever going fail anything very badly, unless we really want to. Our greatest fear is not that we will fail. Our greatest fear is that we will be invisible in our mediocrity. Our greatest fear is that we will not be extraordinary. But what does it mean to be extraordinary? It does not mean that you have to come first in class, nor does it mean that you have to have your picture in the newspaper (the obituaries and crime sections do not count). Being extraordinary simply means that you are everything you can be. That you have taken all your talents and all your opportunities and made full use of them. But how do you do this?

Being extraordinary starts with little steps- being punctual, respectful, alert, hardworking, sincere, honest. All these qualities and more that are so small when viewed singly, but so magnificent when they come together in a symphony of success. Don’t settle for the mundane when brilliance is your birthright. The difference between the ordinary folk of this world and the ones we look up to is simply that the latter have recognised their greatness and used their life tools to achieve it. The former leave their tools to rust while they wallow in the tide pools of mediocrity.

inspiration2.jpg         Be extraordinary. To be anything less is unthinkable.

Vocabulary exercise


This is for the Sec 3E classes. Remember the vocab worksheet we went through in class? There was another side to it that I said was optional. Some of you like to take up options like this, so for your benefit, here are the answers to the worksheet.

Test 83: Academic writing 2


1. If you posit something, you suggest it is a fact.

2. If something epitomises something, it is a perfect example of it.

3. If a point in an essay underscores another point, it emphasises it.

4. If someone expounds something, they propose and develop arguments for it.

5. If someone reiterates something, they repeat or restate it.



1. The economic issue is beyond the scope of this essay.

2. Verb meaning ‘to include’ or ‘to put one’s arms around someone’ – embrace.

3. Verb meaning ‘to quote’ or ‘to refer to someone’s work’ – cite.

4. Noun form of the verb ‘to epitomise’ – epitome.


5. Noun form of the verb ‘to preface’ – preface.

6. Verb form of the noun ‘category’ – categorise.


In this chapter it has been impossible to deal with the history of traditional music in every detail, and we have only touched upon some aspects. We shall return to the history of the music briefly in Chapter 6. The topics to be addressed in the next chapter include the types of instruments which are commonly used and the various song and dance forms.

We shall consider the factors influencing the process in descending order, starting with the most important, namely the civil war of 1994-1996. The opposing sides in the war were made up of different, loosely allied faction, and we are forced to conclude that the war might have ended sooner had there been a more united front. Looking at the protagonists in ascending order, we begin with the least significant military figures and end with General Ujima, the ruthless head of the regime. This paper will attempt to account for the climate which led to deep political divisions and, finally, war.

Test 84: Writing- style and format


1. CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS is written in upper case on the front cover of the book.

2. a) round brackets b) square brackets

3. a font or a typeface

4. a) italics or italicised text b) bold (text)

5. block

6. bullet points or bullets

7. single inverted commas and double inverted commas or single quotation marks and double quotation marks or single quotes and double quotes

8. an asterisk


1. To write something down is to write something on a piece of paper, usually so you don’t forget it, and to write something up is to make a proper written text out of notes you have made.

2. To scribble is to write something down quickly, whereas to doodle is to draw little patterns or pictures while you are thinking or talking or because you are bored.

3. When you are word processing, you cut and paste a piece of text if you take it out of one place and put it in a different place in your document. If you copy and paste something, you copy a piece of text to put it somewhere else but you also leave it in its original position.

4. A title is the main title of a book and a subtitle is an extra or second title that provides more information about the title. For example, in Grammar in Context: Grammar reference and practice, ‘Grammar in Context’ is the title, and ‘Grammar reference and practice’ is the subtitle.

5. To jot something down is more informal than to make a note of something, but they both mean to write something down in order to remember it.

6. To print a document means to make a printed copy of a document that is on the computer, whereas to format a document means to decide on font sizes, margins, etc. to make the document look good before printing it.

7. To indent a line means to position it so that the line starts further in from the margin and to put a line in a shaded box means to put it in something like this: (there is a picture which I don’t know how to insert here, but I think this is pretty self-explanatory).

8. A manuscript is the original copy of a book or article before it is printed, whereas the first draft is the writer’s first version of a piece of work.

9. Upper case letters are capitals or block letters, i.e. LETTERS, and lower case letters are small letters, i.e. letters.

10. A chapter heading is the main title of a chapter and a sub-heading is one of several smaller headings within a chapter or article. Sub-headings are usually found in articles or in academic books rather than novels.


1. Jane scribbled a note to her mum.

2. You should put all the headings in bold.

3. I copied out my lecture notes for Sam.

4. I’m hoping to submit the final draft soon.

5. Ben is writing up his thesis at the moment.

6. Let’s all just jot down our first thoughts and then discuss them.

7. It’ll save time if you copy and paste these sections of the document.

8. It’s a good idea to indent every paragraph.

9. Don’t forget to put single quotes round direct speech.

10. Make a note of your reference number.

I hope you found this exercise useful. Do write in if you have any questions. If you are interested to know, the exercises were taken from a book called “Test Your English Vocabulary in Use- Advanced”, by Michael McCarthy and Felicity O’Dell (Cambridge University Press: 2005)

Lifelong Learning


There are a lot of things going on in  my life now. Of course there is my job- I have the delightful task of interacting with all my ebullient and charming students. I also have my family- consisting of Mr V and my two kids, Arjun and Rishi. The second is the most important part, as I am sure you will all agree it should be. Arjun is in Primary 6 and Rishi is in Primary 4. Both are students of Henry Park Primary School. I stayed home for 10 years to be with them and be maximally involved in their early development, and only got back to work in January last year.


But there is a new aspect to my life now, and that is my studies. I am enrolled in a Masters in Educational and Social Research course with the University of London. It is an online course, so there is a lot of independence and self-discipline involved. But it is very exciting because in my virtual classroom I have friends from all over the world. My classmates hail from Ghana, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, US, Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and so many other places. It is like a mini United Nations.

The first module I am doing is one entitled “Research Methods”, and it starts with a section on using interviews as a research method. We always just think about interviews as being occasions for people to ask questions while other people answer them. But did you know that there are many different types of interviews? There are structured interviews and more creative ones. Face-to-face interviews and electronic ones. Individual interviews and group ones. There are alsso many issues involved such as how the interviewer perceives the respondent. Does the interviewer think of the respondent as being an expert in a particular field? Does othe interviewer want to control the course of the interview? Does the interviewer believe that the interview should be more like a conversation that should be allowed to develop freely? And above all, the main question is what basis does the interviewer use to make all these decisions?

It has been ages since I read academic writing, which is  much more meaning-packed and highly coded than most other types of writing. So the first few readings took me ages to get through. Now it is going much faster. My kids find it amusing that now they can remind me to study and do my homework. You should see us at home. My husband, my kids and I all study/ work at the same time, and the kids can ask for help whenever they need it. The house is very quiet until we take a collective break. And then all hell breaks loose!

I never stop learning. I have always loved reading and studying. So what if I am older than most of the people doing the course with me? Better late than never. And now I have my wonderful children to back me up and urge me on.

Helping people- one drop at a time


I spent the morning at the Singapore Blood Bank yesterday. My husband and I are part of a religious society and we organized a blood donation drive. Our target was to get 50 donors for the blood bank. We didn’t meet our target, but we ended up with 25 successful donors. 11 people who came were turned away for various reasons- being on medication, having recently travelled to certain countries, not enough iron in the blood, or blood pressure that was too  high or too low. I was the first donor. The last time I had donated blood had been almost 15 years before, so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I settled back in the chair to wait for the process to start. In the end it really did not hurt much at all. My blood was extracted (is that the right word?) and it was pretty cool to see it flow, a rich dark red, through a tube into the bag. The nurse who set me up for the process also noticed that I had a very prominent vein in the crook of my right arm, and said that I could try donating plasma as well. Apparently that is a longer process, and it can be done once a month, unlike whole-blood donation which can only be done once in three months.


This set me to thinking. There is little I can do for the world at large. I have no medical knowledge and no money. I also have no time at present, given my commitment to my family, my work and my studies. But if my blood can help people, and it is so easy to give, then there is no reaason for me not to be a regular donor. God has given me health. I don’t look after myself as well as I should- I hardly watch what I eat, and I almost never exercise. But I am going to start. Because if being healthy means I can help more people for a longer time, I will do everything I can to stay well and whole.

If any of you are wondering about donating blood yourself, here is the low-down: you can donate blood from the age of 16 if you meet all the criteria, but until the age of 18 you need parental consent. Most of you who read my blog are too young, but you can start thinking about it now, so that you are prepared when the time comes. It should be something that you want to do- no one can force you into something like this. Also, there is something you can do now. Keep yourself healthy and fit. Eat well and exercise regularly. Stay away from unhealthy habits like smoking.

Your blood can save a life.