Skip to content

Making Chinese Language Real and Relevant

10 Feb 2011

CLB at ACS Barker

Tapping on the students' love for electronic gadgets, CLB lessons include computer-aided learning.

"We played games in class like Passing the Parcel and Musical Chairs," declares Justin Ho. With visible glee, Justin's classmate in Sec 2 Glee, Joel Chua, adds, "We got to eat chicken rice during lesson time."

Goofing off or playing the fool? Neither, actually. The two boys from Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) were simply recalling memorable moments from their Chinese Language (CL) classes, which were among the first in Singapore to use MOE's new CL 'B' instructional materials. With an eye on equipping students with the oral skills and vocabulary to use Chinese in everyday life, the CL 'B' resources employ a range of media and novel methods to make learning Chinese an authentic and engaging experience.

CLB at ACS Barker

The new CLB approach places equal emphasis on speaking & listening, and writing skills.

ACS (Barker Road) did more than just use the new materials - the school complemented the syllabus with a new teaching method developed by the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language (SCCL). According to Mdm Li Ya Ya, who teaches CL at the school, the SCCL approach was designed with the CL 'B' learner in mind and includes many opportunities for participatory and interactive learning, hands-on activities and games.

"Our Sec 1 boys were very receptive to the new textbook and teaching method as they could readily identify with the content," explains Mdm Li, who has used the new materials for a year at ACS (Barker Road), which has one CL 'B' class per level.

Going through key phrases of life

And if you were wondering, the class time meal took place during the enactment of a chapter on peer bullying. Set in a school canteen, the skit involved a couple of bullies who forced their victim to buy chicken rice for them during recess. Using themes, settings and language that the students were familiar with, the role-play thoroughly immersed the students into the phrases and sentence patterns the chapter sought to convey.

CLB at ACS Barker

With an emphasis on language in use, students are now more confident when speaking in Chinese.

The new resources also make liberal use of videos, web-based tools and games to develop Chinese oracy. To help her students revisit key Chinese phrases, Mdm Li turns to popular parlour games. In a twist to the game of Passing the Parcel, students play hot potato with a small box while the music runs. When the music stops, the boy with the box in hand draws out a piece of paper, reads the Chinese phrase on it and attempts to form a sentence using the phrase. "If it's a very good sentence, we get extra points for our team, so we try very hard to form a complex sentence," says Joel.

Other sessions tap on the students' affinity for computers. For instance, one exercise that tests the three vital skills of reading, writing and speaking involves having students go through the descriptions of various CCAs on a computer screen. They then 'apply' to join the CCA by filling in a form and explaining why they would like to take part in the activity. Each student then gives a presentation to his classmates on why he deserves a place in the group.

Strategies to aid recall

What differentiates the CL 'B' syllabus from older textbooks, according to Mdm Li, is that formal phrases and settings students would find unfamiliar have given way to a more structured and practical approach. Another strength of CL 'B', she adds, is the way the teaching materials aid recall by recapitulating points from earlier chapters.

CLB at ACS Barker

The interactive approach to the teaching of the CLB syllabus was devised with the learners in mind, explains teacher Mdm Li Ya Ya.

The CL 'B' syllabus also teaches students to focus on the time, venue and matter when using the language, a skill that comes in handy to help anchor the Mother Tongue to tangible dimensions of life. "This new approach is about teaching language in use," says Mdm Li. "Once they know the appropriate time, venue and matter, they can use joining words such as 'then' and 'and' to form sentences." It's a strategy with structure that simplifies the learning process and dispels the notion that the Chinese language is difficult to master.

"The time-venue-matter approach helps me to think," says Justin, "I can also apply this to the letter-writing component of the exams." Joel also declares himself to be a more confident speaker in Chinese. The proof is in the pudding, as both boys have charted improved scores after a year of CL 'B' classes. For Mdm Li, this is good news and a sign that the CL 'B' approach is bearing fruit. "All students have the potential to do well in their Mother Tongue," she states. "They just need to be motivated the right way."