Monday, March 19, 2012

My Playschool's Chinese Homelearning Workshop!

Chinese has never been a strong language of mine when I was in school. I am not sure if this has to do with the fact that the Chinese teachers during my days were all in the "drilling" mode or the fact that none of the Chinese teachers I had were remotely close to "cute". I was bored and hated the rote method. There was no love or even any remote bit of appreciation for the language, let alone the culture. It's a miracle that I survived O levels and even scored a decent grade. But I decided to bypass attending a JC because I simply could not stomach another two more years of Chinese. That, in a nutshell, is how much I loathed the language.

Now, a few years into motherhood and with Dumpling being a preschooler, the enormity of the importance of a second language and in this case, Chinese, has finally hit me. I regretted not putting in more effort for the language.

So mummy here had to buck up. I started reading chinese books (after a really looooong hiatus) with Dumpling about a month before she attended Chinese classes at her existing school. Horror of horrors, during the first month when she was there, I suddenly realised that I was unable to string a coherent sentence and communicate with her teachers who are from China. My tenses were wrong, my pronounciation was off and my vocabulary went out the window too. The red alert "BOY, IS MUM HERE IN TROUBLE" must have flashed across my forehead.

I needed to work on it and work hard. FAST. I started reading more chinese books and more often with Dumpling. With words that I get stuck at, I'd ask her teachers. Despite my broken Mandarin, bit by bit, I pushed on and I also attempted to homelearn Chinese with Dumpling too, though not daily. Hence I signed up for My Playschool's first ever Chinese homelearning workshop.

The presenter was Katherine, an ex Primary school Chinese teacher and the owner of Happy Cottage, an online webstore.  

The session was about 2.5 hours long. Katherine went through the various ways to teach Chinese and shared examples at each step. For myself, because of the fact the Dumpling is in a Chinese preschool and with our homelearning efforts, I was already using some of the methods mentioned in the workshop. For some of the other mummies who are just starting in this journey, I can see them enthusiastically jotting down the notes. :)

What was interesting for me was some sharing of the Primary 1 syllabus (which I have no clue about since I am a first time mum) and what preschoolers should be taught at each stage. It is actually quite daunting for me to know that Chinese spelling are being taught and tested in K2 as a "prep" to Primary 1. (Cold beads of sweat were gathering on my forehead by then) I also found out that children at that level were expected to write a short and simple passage as a prelude to "composition". So, to score well, a parent needed to work on guiding the child to craft descriptive sentences about the surroundings, feelings etc. (yes, even at P1).

Though I basically left the teaching of HYPY to Dumpling's school, from an "information storage" perspective, it was good to learn how and what to teach for HYPY (teach the base / root word first and when we add on, we always teach the ones with the same "tone" as the base word) which forms Term 1 (and in some schools, Term 2 too) of the Primary school syllabus.

From a word recognition perspective, Katherine also shared various resources and methods she has used with her children, one of which, the pictogram approach. While this is not something new to me, I know it resonated well with some of the attendees. Katherine also encouraged participation from the attendees and this was evident in some of the activities she had us to do.

Amongst other useful sharing was what to look out for in story books to enhance the child's learning experience and improve his/her chinese.

As Dumpling is able to read simple Chinese sentences now, I appreciated the sharing on the basic formation of a sentence and how to work with your child the sentence structure. This will be an area which I will definitely be working with her on in the near future.

Towards the end of the session, Pauline of My Playschool came up and shared very briefly on her approach to teaching chinese - the thematic way. (Katherine uses the word recognition way).

Personally, I use a mixture of both methods with Dumpling. So, for me, I wish that Pauline could have presented longer and shared more examples into guiding the attendees how to extend to the various disciplines using the mindmap below which she shared at the session.

I particularly liked how she created a Chinese lapbook from a chinese title: 火车要开了

The lapbook elements look interesting and the activities also extended beyond the book. When I bought this title, it came in a set of 15 titles with the relevant DVDs. Dumpling loved it. So, when we were invited to try our hand at the end of the session to create a lesson plan based on what we learnt earlier, I thought that it was a great approach. But unfortunately by then, it was close to 1230 and a lot of the attendees (myself included!) were distracted by the book display instead.

Moving on, I hope that the lesson plan part could be done in the middle of the session and that there is more interaction and involvement from the participants. It would be way cool and useful if we are able to work as a group to come up with suggestions and ideas for building up a Chinese lapbook pack. :)

At the section where I was seated, we were mainly attempting on our own; some form of moderation would have been great in encouraging this to be a group session as I find that I often learn most in group sharing with other mummies.  

All the attendants also received a pack of Chinese printables and I am looking forward to using it! I am certainly inspired to do a Chinese pack for another book in the 影响孩子一生的情商故事 series in the near future. :) Do you have any special request on which titles? Leave me a comment!

* All photos (except the last) are courtesy of My Playschool


  1. You're lucky you at least have the 'basic' Chinese knowledge to start off with!

    I'm so dead... I didn't take Chinese as a 2nd language, and the husband (who's a Peranakan Chinese) can't speak the language to save his life.

    No option for Caden to take any other 2nd language as well, since the system states that he has to follow Father's (mother tongue).

    My sister-in-law has been slowly introducing the language to him - and he either ignores her, or looks at her funny. *sigh*

    Good times ahead.

  2. In a way yes, 'cos I can speak and read it. But in a way its also very tiring 'cos clearly my hubs doesnt speak it very wello!

    Better start early Regina, the environment is very important and it is hard if one starts too late as they will start to resist the language 'cos as it is, it is a hard language.

  3. Yes... totally am with you on this.

    Sourcing for a Chinese pre-school for him now.

  4. I absolutely agree - Poppy is in a Chinese kindy and that's made things so much easier for me. I simply add on to what her teachers teach instead of starting from scratch like I do for English stuff. I have to admit - think I couldn't read half the characters I saw in your post :S

    Regina, I am Peranakan Chinese too! That coupled with the fact that I was a convent girl for 10 years = F9 all the way!!!

  5. Geez Adora, you have so much going against you! LOL = convent girl + peranakan. :)

    Yes, so far, I do think that the approach is good for us because I really am not that great in Chinese. I can see the good work her teachers do and I really do not think that I can do as well. :p


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