by Zhou’s Academic Studio
Writing a good composition takes time to master. The shortcut is to memorise good phrases, some “extreme” case memorise the whole essay.
But are these effective ways?
Yes for the first one but not the latter one.
1. Active learning in composition writing is much more effective. Students should be learning the techniques to compose an essay. Training is needed to make students identify which writing techniques should be applied for a particular essays. Our teachers integrate great pedagogy to inspire the students to think and analyse the pictures or situation. The thinking process will leave a longer impressions in one’s memories so that students will follow the similar path of thinking whilst come across with any other essays.
Memorising essays will only limit the students’ imagination as well as learning horizon to expand their writing ability.
2. Copying essays during lesson is not encouraged at all! But students are asked to copy certain good phrases and memorise them. Certain good phrases suit certain level of students and students are capable to use these phrases in their composition writing frequently.
3. Furthermore, our students especially those in P1 to P3, may not know how to complete an essay independently due to limited vocabularies and phrases as well as techniques. We will inspire them through our pedagogy to expand their storylines freely but logically. Later, teachers will make necessary corrections or adjustments.
4. After equip with basket full of vocabularies, now, is time to putting more expressive elements inside the compo and write the details. We want the essay to fill with lively and colourful content, not only all the bombastic good phrases. The connection between the lines, the logic behind the story and the flow of the entire story are important too.
We don’t spoon feed the students, make them think and analyse and brain storm! They don’t have to be gifted to write a good compo, we should make them fall in love with this beautiful language and embrace it.
Have you ever wondered why there were a lot of research that says people who are bilingual perform better in many cognitive tasks including conflict management? That’s because in order to maintain the relative balance between two languages, the bilingual brain’s language systems are always active and competing by practicing cognitive abilities such as attention and inhibition.
Recent research has found that young children may learn Chinese, or any other second language, by utilizing the same building blocks—and developmental process—that babies use when first learning to speak. However, young children enjoy a much faster acquisition rate for new languages. They’re much quicker than babies, and, in many ways, more adept than big folks, too!
Taking advantage of this ‘window of opportunity’ is especially critical in Chinese learning for young children (4-9 years old). As in our center, Zhou’s Studio, we emphasize interactive approaches in learning Chinese and not just spoon feeding. We attempts to integrate analytical, imaginative, language skills into each activity. This way, the child not only has a better chance of grasping information, but also trains all parts of the brain to work together.
As parents we can try some of the interactive ways to teach our kids at home.
Step 1: Speaking
Always follow the rules of thumbs: Practice makes perfect.
To those parents who can speak Chinese (most of the Singaporean parents falls into this category), do encourage bilingual at home and not just purely speaking in English. Do speak to our children in Chinese more often at home since young. The interest in learning this language will be slowly cultivated and they will not feel awkward to speak in Mandarin wherever they are.
Another effective approach is through role-playing games at home. It depends on the proficiency of the children in Mandarin; they can speak from a simple 2 liners to 10 liners during a short play. Parents can dress them up in simple costumes like putting up a hat, a scarf etc. During the simple role-playing, children are actively acquiring speaking skills at different aspects. We do integrate this approach in our pre-school programs as well and children love it.
Step 2: Reading
Reading Chinese books to kids extensively is a great way to expand their vocabularies. Further, because reading is individualized, please choose the materials in their interests. Extensive reading is aimed at increasing their exposure to Chinese, consolidating previously learned and enforced their understanding on the language at different aspects. That’s why we have a series of books for our Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 kids to learn every week and encourage parents to read with them at least twice a week with them.
Another effective ways to learn individual Chinese characters are using flash cards to play games, i.e. memory games, guessing games etc. At Zhou’s Studio, we do adopt the different “flash cards” games to enhance speaking ability among the small kids and “speaking out loud” games for Primary 1 to Primary 3 children.
Step 3: Writing
This is crucial and is the most challenging for the young children. Most of the recent new Primary 1 students which we have seen in our center hardly follow the correct strokes of writing Chinese characters. It was quite shocking for us. For us, we enforce our kindergarten kids not only to write nicely but with the correct sequence of strokes (笔画). By knowing how to write correct sequence of the strokes, they increase their proficiency in writing the Chinese characters independently and will boost their confidence in learning Mandarin at a later stage. By knowing this difference, the pre-schoolers in the Zhou’s Studio have been writing quite complicated words which are beyond their level very well.
Our children don’t have to be “gifted” to learn a Mandarin, but as parents we should know the smart ways about how they learn it.