Monday, September 21, 2015

Primary One: Chinese Compositions

I am blessed because in my circle of friends, I have many educators whom I am able to reach out to, to clarify and seek for advice / opinions. Though I was a part time tutor years back, there have been many changes to the Primary school syllabus over the years. I even had to do "investigative" work to understand the Stellar system and learn about the English curriculum again.

Importantly, there has also been a total change in the Chinese syllabus where the course materials have been updated and the focus is now on communication/oracy skills. (I have previously shared a post on helping your child to prepare for Show and Tell.) While working with the kiddo on Chinese oracy (will share in another post), one other thing that came up was composition.

To be able to write, it must mean that the children need to be able to string sentences together, have the right vocabulary and write the right words. Hence I reached out to a friend (a current Chinese teacher) to ask more about Chinese compositions in Primary schools.   

Q: Based on the current system with the change in P1 syllabus, which year is Compo needed?

A: Currently schools are doing 4-picture compositions from Primary 3, and 6-picture compositions from Primary 5. For some schools, they may start earlier with a 4-picture composition; these all vary slightly from school to school. 

Q: How do we support our children in writing? There seems to be a jump from just "fill in the blanks" (Tian Chong) to suddenly needing to produce a piece of work?

A: Basically, activities like Tian Chong in Paper 2 test on the pupils' reading and comprehension ability. To do so, they need understanding of vocabulary which is taught via textbook. Of course the new textbook teaches beyond vocabulary. Since at the moment, with the new syllabus, we only have P1 textbook, I would say that for P1, focus of the textbook is really more on oral and listening interactive skills.

Q: In terms of flow / content, is there a suggested format? (Say for lower primary?) Are there specific areas to watch out for?

A: Writing at young age is more about writing sentence or short story - 写句/写. Importantly good sentence structure is very important for the Chinese language: 句式练习. The progression should be in this manner: 从字、词、短语、句、段、.

I engage my child (who is in lower primary) through the making small books (). I also use picture books to build up my child’s comprehension and inference skills. Hence, my child is very quick in Q&A sessions after being read a book.

With the picture books we read, I will then encourage my child to work on writing. To start off, it can be something that is related to the book we just read but progressively, my child has started to work on writing which is not related to the books we read.

To elaborate, for e.g. after reading 我爸爸,you can design the small book in the form of a大嘴 to express what your child wants to say to his/her father. Also, for this book, there are many repeated sentences that begin with 我爸爸真的很棒,他像什么一样。So in my child’s small book, the same sentence structure (句式) was adopted. You can build up slowly – at first my child only started with drawing, then I guided on the writing slowly.

You can also do thematic topics too, like festivals or special days. Here’s one we did on National Day. 

(Above sample provided by "interviewee")

(If you like to know more about this approach, I adopted it from a Taiwanese master teacher, 林美琴, in her book: 阅读到写作).

As for Primary 3 to 6 picture composition format, many schools train their pupils in having 头,内容,结句,结尾.

结局 is the ending of the story, as in what happen to the character(s) in the end, but 结尾 is commonly expected in Chinese compositions when character reflects on the lesson learnt from the incident.

An example:


However, with so many model compositions available in the market, I feel that this has also led to pupils (even for Higher Chinese pupils) writing only in this genre/way. To write about life experiences, however it requires a different skill set. 

This will require parents to read to and read with your children and engaging them in meaningful conversations so that they are sharing their thoughts and views. Through small books, children can then write whatever that is on their mind or apply their experiences into these stories.

This is an ongoing series on documenting my learning and Dumpling's Primary one journey

Disclaimer: the article is a sharing based on my friend’s observations and it does not represent the teaching fraternity / education system.

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  1. Thanks for sharing! I have to admit I have lots of room for improvement when it comes to this! 小书 sounds interesting! We kinda do it - make small books - but never thought of doing it as a summary for stories. Thanks for the idea!

    1. Thanks for popping by Adora. Yes, the 小书 sounds interesting doesn't it? :) We have just completed our first and I will be sharing that soon! I even went to Paper Market and went a bit crazy there buying some scrapbooking stuff to embellish the pages for project #2! :p

    2. Oh! Will be sharing on Project #1 soon! :p

  2. Thanks for the insightful sharing. We can do with more ideas and ways to improve our mandarin compo... : ) WIll be sharing too.

    1. Thanks Angie. :) Looking forward to your sharing!

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