Did you know that there are currently more than 30 million people learning Chinese?

With so much hype and spotlight on China’s economic growth, we need to step back and reflect on this current trend. No doubt, there are economic advantage and benefits if one masters Chinese. But more importantly, we need to step back and evaluate on the ways on how Mandarin is taught and used in school.

At the official opening of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language in 2009, Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew Spoke suggested that educators should first arouse the child’s interest in the language by emphasizing on the way it is spoken and heard. This means a more hands-on learning approach, using other mediums such as Drama and IT into lessons to make it more interactive and engaging (Channel News Asia, 2009).

Indeed, gone are the days where teachers relied tests such as ting xie (listening) and mo xie (dictation) to teach Chinese. Today, schools, language and enrichment centers realize the importance of this, and many have come up with a much more interactive and hands-on approach to teaching the language.

LEAP SchoolHouse is no exception. Started in 2010, LEAP Schoolhouse programmes place a strong emphasis on language development in children. Their philosophy is to build a strong foundation in language skills and acquisition for children through a range of experiential and hands-on methods.

Esther, Curriculum Director of LEAP SchoolHouse adds, “When we mention experiential methods, we take a more hands-on approach to teaching and learning.”

For example, for one of lessons in the Yue De Le Program, children were learning about ‘Market’. To start off the lesson, the Chinese teacher read a book called “巴刹里”(In the Market). This was reinforced with a field trip to the nearby supermarket, where the teacher showed them some of the items they read and saw in the book, such as 蔬菜(vegetables),水果(fruits), 鱼 (fish) and a few more. At the end of the field trip, the class made a small purchase from the market and cooked it for their friends in class!

In another example, children made moon cakes in class after a lesson on 中秋节 (Mid-Autumn Festival). Esther explains, “The whole purpose of this experience is to make the language learning aspects alive and relevant in children’s day to day lives. It also makes learning fun and hands-on, hence, the retention on what is learnt is then more purposeful. In this way, it connects them from learning to read, to reading to learn. Subsequently, the writing aspects also become personalized and draws meaning from the learner.”

This certainly beats the old ways of rote learning and memorizing essays with no comprehension of the essence of the text. Using Speech and Drama as a catalyst to spark children’s interest and learning of the language, below are the rest of Mandarin programmes offered at LEAP SchoolHouse.

Chinese Speech and Drama Tots / Speech and Drama 演艺班

In Speech and Drama Tots, the aim is to expose and introduce the language to young children, through a range of songs, rhymes, music, dance, stories and games. For the older kids, the emphasis is to cultivate self-confidence and clarity of speech, while promoting free expressions of their imagination and creativity at the same time.

For children 2.5 to 4 years old, and 3.5 to 6 years old
*Trial classes for the Speech and Drama Class (3.5 – 6 years old) are available in March

Yue De Le 阅得乐
Learning Pin Yin can be confusing for young children as they may be picking up another language at the same time, and the phonics of both languages can be quite different. Through a range of experiential and interactive methods (as mentioned above), this Chinese reading appreciation programme aims to pique children’s interest in Mandarin, and at the same time enhance their reading and use of the language. Recognition skills (认字), and writing strokes (笔画) of Chinese characters will be included in the teaching process as well.

For children 4 to 5 years, and 6 year old

For more details about the program, contact LEAP SchoolHouse at 6634 0828 or can log on to their website for more details.

Written by Michelle Ang