Primary 1 pupil's English composition answer generates online debate - what's your answer?

By Posted on 8/10/2015
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The question was a stimulus-based conversation consisting of three parts.

Part C asked: “If you are celebrating a family member’s birthday, how do you plan to celebrate it?”

Zoe’s answer was: “If I were to plan a birthday, I would plan it for my mother. Instead of a cake I would make cupcakes.”

The teacher corrected the answer to read: “If I am to plan a birthday, I will plan it for my mother. Instead of getting a cake, I will make cupcakes.”

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/primary-1-students-english-composition-answer-generates-online-debate?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#xtor=CS1-10

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The question was a stimulus-based conversation consisting of three parts.

Part C asked: “If you are celebrating a family member’s birthday, how do you plan to celebrate it?”

Zoe’s answer was: “If I were to plan a birthday, I would plan it for my mother. Instead of a cake I would make cupcakes.”

The teacher corrected the answer to read: “If I am to plan a birthday, I will plan it for my mother. Instead of getting a cake, I will make cupcakes.”

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/primary-1-students-english-composition-answer-generates-online-debate?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#xtor=CS1-10

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Posted on 17/11/2015

I think that the child is not wrong at all! Composition is meant for children to write with their creative thinking. With teacher like that, I don’t think children will be motivated to think creatively and write stories of their own?

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Posted on 12/10/2015

Zoe the child is correct, since the case is asking a hypothetical scenario (‘if’). The ‘past tense’ used is applied not because things had happened, but what things might come.
So, for example, it is correct to say that
‘If I were you, I would go to Australia instead of Indonesia’.
‘If it were to rain tomorrow, we would cancel the outdoor camp’

In this case, the teacher’s question was also phrased wrongly. It should be “If you were (not ‘are’) celebrating a family member’s birthday, how would (not ‘do’) you plan to celebrate it?”

As an educator myself before, I first learnt this grammar rule in a Primary 5 English textbook when I was a beginning teacher, preparing a lesson for my students (year 1999). I did not learn this grammar when I was a student. Many of us (those who are in the late 30s and beyond) were not taught explicit grammar because the approach to English at our time was ‘incidental English’, a direction set by MOE. It emphasizes on learning English through natural reading possibly with the objective to cultivate the love of English without killing it with lots of grammar jargon. That is why many people of our age may not be aware of special rule like this.
~~ Isabelle Loo, Founder of actualyse.com

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