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Class Supplement, TOEFL iBT Independent Writing, Early Childhood Education -partly rewritten-

2012年5月15日

Writing Topic
There are people who think that children should start school or kindergarten when they are still very young and should learn early in life to work hard at their studies. Others feel that young children should be more free and should spend a lot of time playing and enjoying themselves. Discuss these opinions. Which idea do you share?

☆Let’s Think
The topic requires you to discuss both opinions about early childhood education. Will there be any difference and if so what kind of difference will there be between people who received early academic training and those who did not? Of course there are many variants depending on related factors such as innate ability of the individual and the environment like the family and community, but we could imagine the results in general.

In Japan, children start kindergarten at the age of 5 and school at the age of 7. This means that early childhood education starts around the age of 3 at the earliest. Studies show that most of a person’s neurons are formed between ages 0 through 6. Apart from the genetic factor, the environment you are in during these early years will decide what brain you will have, in other words, what kind of person you will be. Therefore, it is clear that how people spend time in their early childhood will decide their lives.

There seem to be many factors to consider. What should children acquire during these years? What is the purpose of early childhood education? What does it teach children? What is given as education might be only a small part of a child’s learning, while it could be an essential initiation or kick start for an individual to do well in today’s society. What about the child’s feelings and human rights?

Let’s answer these questions to prepare for the discussion.
1. What should people experience and learn when they are children?

2. What is the purpose of early childhood education?

3. What does it teach children?

4. What is given as education might be only a small part of a child’s learning, while it could be an essential initiation or kick start for an individual to do well in today’s society. What do you think?

5. What about the child’s feelings and human rights?

In answering the question in the writing topic, very often, your intuition, unconscious you, knows the answer before you, conscious you, start thinking, especially when the question is about such fundamental matters as education. Let’s start with the answer and find the reasons later today. Which of these opinions do you like better intuitively? Why do you think you have chosen the policy? Why doesn’t the other opinion strike the right cord?

♦I like the first opinion because …
1. I received early childhood education and thanks to it I was able to make a head start. Learning was easy and fun to me while many of other children who started school later had difficulty in learning ABCs and hated sitting in class. The earlier the start, the better you learn.

2. Except for geniuses, who will teach themselves sooner or later, human beings are animals of habit. If you are not disciplined to work hard, you will be lazy all in your life.

3. In modern society, where traditional communities are gone, children need school as substitute for community. At school, they can interact with adults and other children and learn things that children in the past learned from people in their community such as folk songs, old jokes, games, and other things that will be their lifelong asset.

♦I like the second opinion because …
1. Although I received early childhood education and now I go to a prestigious high school, I have never appreciated this. I have always had a feeling of loss. I miss my lost childhood. I wanted to play more. I was always envious of other children playing in the park when I had to go to a cram school. I always feel that I lack something important as a human being because of this experience.

2. I doubt whether the best environment in which a child to prepare for the years to come is kindergarten and school because they are artificial. The world, nature and society, is complex and dynamic. Children should be exposed to it so that they can learn it directly. They should touch the earth, catch insects, or interact with many kinds of people.

3. Children should play as much as possible because play is their work. The free time they had will give them power to work hard in later years.

☆How to increase the volume of your essay
Writing more than 300 words is the requirement for the essay in the independent writing section to be considered satisfactory. When you are almost done but know that you have not met this requirement, you might try to add another point. However, it is actually rather difficult to come up with one more point after having brainstormed once. On the other hand, completing the logic and details will increase the volume of your essay as well as making it flawless. Here are some tips for increasing the volume of your essay:

First, find the shortest paragraph and …
1) describe/develop the main idea well: If a paragraph has only one or two sentences, chances are that you have not described/developed well enough. Make sure that each paragraph has its main idea, supporting details (examples), conclusion, and additional supporting details like counter-argument treatment if necessary.

2) describe/develop each sentence well: A statement usually has some exception or needs some condition or concession. Look for a sentence that you can add a reason, condition, concession, or any other additional information, and add “because …”, “except …”, “as long as …”, “although …”.

3) describe words well: Which of the following sentences gives a clear picture of someone’s pet? A) I have a pet. B) I have a cute cat. C) I have a little fluffy kitten. With two adjectives and a specific noun, Sentence C) depicts an adorable pet well and it happens to be the longest of the three. Also, use transitions such as Fist, Also, Moreover, Therefore when necessary.

4) discuss other choices: Even if the Writing Topic does not say, “Discuss the two views” or “Compare and contrast the choices,” you can write about other choices. Doing so will make your essay more convincing and longer. Make sure that you do not digress.

5) take up counter-arguments if necessary: While you are writing, sometimes a counter-argument, “Well, but what about this case?” comes up to your mind. Then it is better not to ignore it but take it up and give a counter-counter-argument or two. By doing so, you can confirm your argument. If you can do it well, you will get a high score.

The key to remember is to try to put what you want to say into words as accurately as you can. Then you cannot help adding some more words and sentences, and some more… In the end, your essay will have many words.

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