The learning of Chinese language is often associated with rote learning, where one will need to memorise characters and phrases.
How is Poi Ching School doing their Chinese lessons differently? Students get out of the classrooms to hone their speaking, listening, reading and thinking skills, so that they can effectively use the language in their daily lives.
The school’s Chinese language curriculum is targeted at equipping students with skills to communicate, read and write well in Mandarin. To achieve this, programmes and activities are lined up for students at every level.
From Primary 1 to 5, students get to build confidence and hone their public speaking skills as they present stories to their peers at assembly. In addition, all students would be encouraged to expand their vocabulary by reading voraciously, with guided reading sessions and opportunities to loan books from the school library.
On top of that, students also get to participate in intra-school story-telling competitions, as well as external competitions in areas such as creative writing, cultural quizzes and calligraphy.
“Sending students to participate in competitions creates a platform for them to showcase their skills in writing, speaking, creativity and innovation,” explains Mr Matthew Teo, head of department of Chinese at Poi Ching School “Students can benefit as they prepare for competitions as it takes courage and confidence to accept the challenge and it allows students to think critically and express creatively. Competitions also help spark a love for learning the language.”
“Besides, having a strong foundation and knowledge of Chinese language from will give students the confidence to learn the language further. Chinese language also provides an opportunity for students to work and study abroad, conduct better business and get more out of the world where China is a dominant force. Mandarin is not limited to mainland China; it is also used in other regions including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia,” explains Mr Teo.
No one is left behind
Mr Teo acknowledges that the learning of a language goes beyond just knowing how to speak, read or write it. “Learning any language requires an understanding and respect for the cultures that use it. Mastering a language shows commitment, passion and a high level of cross-cultural competence,” he says.
Thus, while the school has many activities lined up to impart the necessary language skills, some students may still find difficulty in mastering the subject. However, these students are not left behind.
At lower primary level, a smaller class size would be planned for students so that they can learn at a slower pace and have more individual attention from their teachers. Teachers would cover basics including character recognition, sentence construction and reading.
“For these students, there will be emphasis on learning to form simple sentences and improving their vocabulary,” says Mr Teo. “These students will not feel discouraged that they have to learn at a slower pace than their friends, as various activities, such as the inter-class recital competition and mass lecture on cultural appreciation, will still allow students to participate together as a class.”
While students have found the Chinese language lessons and activities challenging, they have also found it enriching.
“The National Chinese Composition Writing Competition has triggered my creativity, as I had to write according to the given topics,” shares Primary 6 student Gerold Tay. “In competitions, there are also questions which I do not face regularly in my school work. I feel encouraged to boost my standard of Chinese.”
“Sometimes during Chinese lessons, we would do group work, in areas such as having discussions on Chinese oral,” adds Primary 6 student Elysia Koh. “This is fun because we get to voice our opinions and learn from one another.”