How to Improve in Chinese Comprehension (Part II): Read Purposefully

Instilling a habit of reading Chinese books in your child from young is fundamental to doing well in Chinese reading comprehension (阅读理解) later in school. However, not only the types and quantity of materials he/she reads matter, but also how he/she reads them and your parental role in the reading process. In this blogpost, we highlight ways to read and decode stories and comprehension passages effectively.

Parent-guided, child-directed reading makes the difference

Are you wondering, “How ‘complicated’ can reading with my child get? Isn’t it just about picking up a book and reading it from cover to cover?”

As a parent, you play twin roles in the reading process. Firstly, give your child the space and time to do child-directed reading; follow his/her lead in what interests him/her. Secondly, be his/her reading support, guide and model. Make use of the interesting elements to guide him/her to expand his/her thought process.  

Engage your child in ‘guided reading or storytelling’ (导读), and not just passive story-reciting (朗读).

How to conduct guided reading

We understand how tempting it can be to treat reading with your child as an item on your task list to tick off, especially at the end of a tiring day at work and home, as your bed is calling. However, do try to resist the temptation to flip over the cover page right away at the start of each reading session and make a beeline for the last page of the story book. Instead, aim to make each reading session a two-way dialogue discussion, an interactive sharing experience (讨论分享) and a joyful parent-child bonding opportunity.

Decoding the cover

Before opening up the book to begin reading, spend some time observing and exploring the cover page. Children’s picture books (绘本), in particular, offer plenty of rich details as conversation starters. Encourage your child to draw upon his/her own interest, imagination and life experiences to deduce what the story is about, with these suggested prompts:

  • Introduce the title, author and illustrator’s names. Ask your child what he/she thinks the story is about.
  • Get your child to pick out details that catch his/her eyes and express why they are interesting to him/her.
  • Go beyond highlighting details to elaborate on the specific meanings of different visual cues (e.g. why the author/illustrator uses certain elements, different colours, different sizes, different positions).

For a spot of fun, you can also print the cover picture, cut it up into many pieces and make it into a jigsaw puzzle for your child to do. This can help to sharpen his/her observation skill.

Unravelling the story

As you delve into the story, you can do role play and read the story together collaboratively, if your child is old enough to recognise the words.

Remember to allow for pauses along the way when your child has questions or wish to share his/her thoughts as these are great opportunities for clarification and to promote understanding. You can also take the lead in pausing to ask questions at suitable points in the story, such as:

  • The 5W+1H questions – who (/什么人), what (什么东西/什么事情), where (哪里/什么地方), when (什么时候), why (为什么) and how (怎样).
  • “How do you know that?” (你怎么知道?)/”Why do you think so?” (为什么你这么认为?). This is possibly the most important question to ask your child as it trains his/her analytical, deductive and inference skills. It also enables you to understand his/her thought process.
  • Ask your child what the moral of the story is, whether the subject is doing the right thing, what lesson he/she can learn from the story, or what he/she would do if he/she was the subject of the story.

Pro Tip

Scaffold your questions progressively, from easy to hard, and be sensitive to the age of the children. Avoid plunging right into deep questions from the start. Always be encouraging, and don’t be too quick to correct a wrong answer. Aim to create a positive reading and learning experience every time.

Such guided reading is beneficial not only for reading comprehension, but also for the latest PSLE composition writing and oral format, as well as critical thinking in general, in the long run.

How to read comprehension passages

Reading in context

Unlike the English language, Chinese words (词语) are usually formed by and derive greater meaning from combining two or more characters (字).

At KidStartNow, we teach our students to read word by word (词语), not character by character (字). This is to help them understand the context of each sentence in the paragraph and the meaning of each paragraph. You can practise the same technique when you are reading with your child at home.

Example:

Instead of reading like this:

        亲                                                  

read like this:

今天    母亲姐姐    喜爱  鲜花    妈妈  买了  一束  红色  玫瑰  妈妈  感到  很高兴

Another plus point about reading word-by-word is this – even when he/she sees a word or character in the middle of a sentence that he/she does not know, he/she can skip it and move on to other parts of the sentence or passage to try to understand the larger context. With contextual understanding, it will help him/her make an educated guess of the meaning of the word that he/she does not know how to read.

Read like it’s a team sport

Note: Student names blanked out

What about students who get turned off by having to read long paragraphs of text during comprehension exercises? During KidStartNow’s lessons, our teachers break the class into two or more groups and pit them against one another to read the passage or paragraphs in turn.

When one group is reading, the others listen attentively to check if the group is reading correctly. Teachers record the teams’ scores using a quiz-based teaching app. This competition format motivates our students to pay attention in class and try to do better in comprehension.

Coming up next

We have covered tips on what to read and how to read story books and passages to aid comprehension. If you’ve found this post useful, please share it with your friends.

Look out for our next blog post where we will share tips on how to read comprehension questions as the next important key to answering these questions effectively.

———————————————————————————————————————

Let your child experience how our teachers coach our P1-P4 students in a fun and exciting setting. Fill up the contact form below or call 6481-1932 / 9820-7272 to sign up for a trial class today!

How to Improve in Chinese Comprehension (Part I): Read Widely

Writing

Does your child struggle with Chinese reading comprehension (阅读理解) in primary school? Reading comprehension not only tests students’ ability in understanding the Chinese language, but also in applying it. Not surprisingly, students often see it as the most difficult section of the Chinese Paper 2 to do well in.

Stay with us for the next couple of blog posts to pick up some useful strategies, techniques and pro tips that you can use at home as you coach your child.

Read from young

Firstly, help your child interest in Chinese and build a strong foundation in it through cultivating a reading habit from young, even before they step into P1.

Yes, mastering comprehension starts with reading! As your child gets exposed to more Chinese books, he/she learns to recognise more words, know more vocabulary and become familiarised with common Chinese sentence structures (which differs from English ones). In turn, these help your child understand the comprehension passages that he/she reads.

Now, you might wonder, what kind of reading materials will suit your child?

Different books for different ages

Before preschool

Read picture books (绘本) if you have a very young child.

Picture books generally have a bigger illustration-to-text ratio. Some of them can carry so few words that you might wonder if they are worth reading or buying.

In actual fact, picture books can be read at different depths to suit children of different ages and levels of Chinese proficiency, even right up to upper primary levels. We will share more on how to get the most out of reading Chinese picture books in the next blog post, so stay tuned!

After preschool

Read graded readers (分级书) with your K1 or K2 child. These readers are designed to cater to different reading levels. The levels start from emergent/beginner through advanced/independent level, with increasing number of words.

As your child enters primary school and builds up wider vocabulary, gradually encourage him/her to progress to other bridging books (桥梁书), which are usually simple, short chapter books with smaller illustration-text ratio.

Hanyu Pinyin – with or without?

Do you get stumped over whether to choose books with or without hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音)?

The most important factor to consider in choosing books is still based on their content and value – whether the storylines are interesting, engaging, appealing to your child, encourage thinking and conversations, and teach good values. Then, prioritise those without hanyu pinyin over those with, wherever possible. Your child will get a lot more practice in having to recognise and remember Chinese words this way and not just rely on hanyu pinyin to read.

Invest in a dictionary to look up words if you need help in this area. Dictionary-checking is also a useful skill to teach your child.   

Textbooks are not boring

What if your child has not formed a regular Chinese reading habit by the time he/she enters P1? Get him/her into the habit of reading the MOE Chinese textbooks 欢乐伙伴 every week at home, at least three times weekly. This will help in revising and remembering what he/she has learnt in school.

xuele

Make it a fun activity by taking turns to read alternate lines or paragraphs with him/her, or do role-play. Reinforce by co-watching the animations with him/her, listening to the songs and doing the quizzes at 学乐网, MOE’s repository of digital resources that complements the 欢乐伙伴》 syllabus.

Magazines as supplementary reads

Another reading resource is the popular Chinese magazine 《好朋友》(for P1 to P2 students)/《知识画报》(for P3 to P4 students)/《知识报》(for P5 to P6 students), also written based on the 《欢乐伙伴》 syllabus. You can subscribe to it through your child’s school or via Etutor’s website 知识网.

Encourage your child to read the magazines at home after he/she has done the exercises in the magazines in school. You can also read the levelled e-readers with him/her and try the online quizzes, if the subscription includes digital resources.

Get serious with comics

Check out Chinese comics such as 《闹闹漫画乐园》, 《这一班日记》and《又是这一班》at the local libraries or bookstores. Written by local authors, these stories are full of local flavour and humour. As your child can easily identify with the characters, places and situations in the comics, they may be more willing to read them over more text-based Chinese books.

Animation storybooks for the digital generation

Explore animation storybooks such as the Boshi Panda 《熊猫博士》 series developed in-house by KidStartNow. You can access the storybooks via a monthly subscription. New titles are added every month.

boshi

Or, sign your child up for our preschool classes (N2 to K2) at KidStartNow and he/she will get to learn new vocabulary and sentence structures through these animation storybooks during lesson every week. These storybooks are a hit with our young students as they appeal to their natural curiosity and interest in magic, adventure and travel to sustain their interest from episode to episode, lesson to lesson.

That’s not all. As KidStartNow’s student, your child also gets online access to the animation storybook that is taught in class after each lesson is over. Co-watch the episode with him/her as revision. He/she can even earn digital coins in his/her individual ‘digital bank account’ when he/she answers the word recognition quizzes correctly. Say yay to no more nagging him/her to do revision at home!

More about ‘guided reading’ in Part 2

Now that you know the wide range of reading resources out there, keep your eyes peeled to our blog as we share how you can get the most out of reading with your child through ‘guided reading’ (导读) in our next post.

Share this blog post with your friends if you’ve found it useful.If you would like to find out more about KidStartNow’s animation storybook-based classes for N2 to K2 or our primary school classes, please fill up the form below or whatsapp us at 9820-7272 now!

3 Effective Ways to Prime Your Kids For Success in P1 Chinese

The transition from preschool to primary school is perhaps one of the most challenging adaptations that your child has to make in early childhood – and if your kids aren’t already comfortable with Chinese, that makes the transition even tougher.

Some parents think their children have plenty of time before they have to start working on the material because there aren’t any official exams in Primary One. Whilst this might be true, schools still administer ‘holistic assessments’ which are, in essence, the exact same thing. So make sure your kids are well-prepared, and help them start their schooling days on a good note!

Want to know how you can help your kids prepare for P1 Chinese? Check out these three effective ways to prime your kids for success in the language:

1) Equip your kids with the right attitude

21191567 - group of primary school students holding paper saying i love chinese

If you didn’t already know, there’s a stark contrast between primary school and preschool. Class sizes are doubled, teachers are less patient, and you can expect less mollycoddling and a lot more Chinese homework. Make sure you mentally prepare your kids for this increase in workload, and equip them with the right attitude to handle their homework.

How to do this:

Before term starts, explain to your kids that they will now have more ‘responsibilities’ like more homework because they’re older, and can do more than their younger counterparts – challenging kids to do more because they are now “more mature” is a great way to get them to buy in. Get them to set goals to work towards, and challenge them to strive to do better each term.

2) Help them master Hanyu Pinyin

2413b5ea-f983-44c3-abcd-b26271b34c2c

Chinese exams are heavily weighted towards Hanyu Pinyin, with as much as 40% of questions in SA2 examinations being Hanyu Pinyin-related. If your child’s foundation in Hanyu Pinyin isn’t great, it’s time to rectify that!

How to do this:

Buy Hanyu Pinyin flashcards and charts from Popular Bookstore to revise with your children at home. The two most common problems that kids face are differentiation of vowel tones as well as blending of consonants and vowels – so keep an eye out for these two issues in particular!

3) Brush up on your kids’ oral skills

Props

A lot of parents focus on getting their children acquainted with the necessary vocabulary – but only in written form. As a result, kids at the primary school level often have trouble with their Show and Tell.

The good news? Most schools allow students to prepare a script in advance, so the only thing you have to help your kids deal with is conquering stage fright. You can easily do this by getting your kids to speak Mandarin at home, and holding informal show and tell sessions where they can discuss simple topics with the rest of the family.

Need some expert help?

KidStartNow’s Primary One programme is perfect for students who need help in improving their Chinese via its proprietary BOSHI method that helps your child learn smarter.

We have a proven track record of success, and our tried and tested methods have helped countless students achieve their potential and deliver impressive results. Watch the video below to find out more about our student Jue Ming, who topped Fengshan Primary School for P1 Chinese in 2016.

Sign up for a trial class now!

4 Ways to Make Even The Most Stubborn Child Enjoy Learning Chinese

 

If getting your child to learn Chinese feels like rocket science, it might just be because you’re doing it all wrong. Check out our four tried-and-tested tips that will help you transform your child’s attitude towards Chinese!

1) Be realistic

20083699 - cute asian girl writing

If you sit your child down and tell him that you’re expecting his Chinese grades to improve from a D to an A in one month, that’s not just unrealistic, it’s also highly discouraging.

It’s great to set goals to work towards, but if these goals are unrealistic, your child might feel so overwhelmed that he or she ends up paralyzed with fear. We wouldn’t want that!

Instead, make sure that you and your child are on the same page, and that both of you agree on the goal that you’re working toward. Let your child know that you understand that Chinese is tough to master, and that you believe in him and will support him throughout his journey.

If you’re not sure about what is a realistic goal to aim for, KidStartNow is offering a free Chinese language assessment where we will analyze your child’s weakness and strengths, and come up with suggestions on how he or she can improve.  

2) Adopt a growth mindset

21191567 - group of primary school students holding paper saying i love chinese

If you’re not familiar with this term, a growth mindset refers to the belief that intelligence and skills can be developed through hard work. Conversely, a fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence is a fixed asset that people either possess or lack.

According to Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, who has conducted numerous studies on this topic, a growth mindset is essential in helping students realise their potential. Students with fixed mindsets are afraid to try for fear of failing and looking foolish – and it’s the students who are hungry for growth who end up the most successful.

So how do you get your children to adopt a growth mindset, specifically in the context of learning Chinese?

Celebrate small wins and make your child feel good about his or her progress, even if it’s something as small as passing a Chinese spelling test for the first time. Also make sure you don’t discourage your kids – for example, when they speak to you in Chinese, be sure to commend them for practicing the language. Don’t simply correct their pronunciation, without acknowledging their effort.

3) Adhere to a regular weekly reading schedule

20085638 - asian girl reading

Reading is one of the best ways to build your child’s interest and proficiency in Chinese. You might encounter some resistance at the start, but the objective is to get your children proficient to the point where they actually enjoy reading Chinese material – and they’ll be hooked from there. Bonus: kids who read regular do better in Comprehension and Composition, the two key “killer sections” for primary school student.

You may borrow books from the National Library, or purchase them from Taobao. A word of caution – it’s fine to opt for simpler material to start off with, but try to avoid books with Han Yu Pin Yin, as this will result in them becoming overly reliant on it and refusing to read books without Han Yu Pin Yin.

4) Lead by example

learn_with_parent

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised at how many parents neglect to practice what they preach. Children look to their parents as their role models and take behavioural cues from them – so if you don’t utter a single word of Mandarin at home, it’s unlikely that they’ll learn enough to be effectively bilingual.

That having been said, there’s no need to go all out and outrightly ban English at home – simply reading the Chinese papers in front of your children, and designating ‘Speak Mandarin Days’ will go a long way in motivating them.

Your children aren’t having an easy time learning Chinese – so to avoid making it any harder than it has to be, make sure you get them to study smart instead of study hard. Instructing them to blindly memorise and regurgitate content won’t work; neither will forcing them to study without taking the time to cultivate their interest for Chinese first.

If you’re not sure where to start, register for KidStartNow’s free Chinese language assessment – we will help you analyse your child’s weakness and strengths, and come up with suggestions on how he or she can improve. Good luck!

Tips for learning Hanyu Pinyin

Hanyu Pinyin is a key concern for K2 and P1 parents and we interview two of our teachers, Li lao shi and Liu lao shi, to understand common problems students face when learning Hanyu Pinyin and some of their secret tips to help kids master it.

Why is important for my child to have a strong Hanyu Pinyin foundation before entering P1?

There is a large emphasis on Hanyu Pinyin in P1, and some schools allocate up to 40% of the mid year assessment marks to Hanyu Pinyin. It doesn’t help that primary schools teach Hanyu Pinyin very quickly, and will start testing spelling of blended words (e.g. , yǔ yī, wá wa) by the second week of school.

From experience, K2 kids that do not have a strong foundation in Hanyu Pinyin are likely to struggle in P1, leading to diminished confidence and interest in Chinese as they fall behind their peers. In addition, the larger P1 class sizes (20-30 vs 10 in preschool) makes it harder for kids to catch up.

The preschool to primary school transition can be challenging for kids, and having a strong foundation in Hanyu Pinyin makes the transition easier since it gives kids a leg up in a critical component and also helps kids learn vocabulary faster since every word in the P1 textbook has accompanying Hanyu Pinyin.

What are some of the biggest problems P1 students face when learning Hanyu Pinyin?

The majority of marks lost on tests come differentiating vowel tones and blending consonants with vowels. The following diagram is a common P1 type of question where students have to mark the correct vowel tone, and students tend to mix up the second and third vowel tone.

Vowel tone question

 

Another common problem students face is how to properly blend consonants and vowels , and in the following set of questions, students need to recognise the words corresponding to each picture and write down the correct consonant.

Blending question

 

How can I help my child learn Hanyu Pinyin?

Learning Hanyu Pinyin can be quite boring so it is important to help your child build interest first via fun activities, media and games (see the section below for an example of a game we use in class) before moving on to practice worksheets.

Typically, we recommend a three-step process when learning Hanyu Pinyin – start by ensuring your child fully understands and recognises the individual consonants and vowels (including different tones). It is important that your child masters this step before moving on to the harder steps.

We have compiled a list of Hanyu Pinyin songs on YouTube, and you can play it and have your child sing along (learning is far more effective if your child is actively singing along rather than passively listening). Once he or she is able to do this, we recommend testing your child on individual consonants and vowels (you can buy colourful Hanyu Pinyin charts at Popular, as well as the汉语拼音宝宝 flashcard series).

1.《汉语拼音歌》(单韵母和声母)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcoVki2y0Rw
2.《声母歌》
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMwmzGnN69A
3.《平扬拐弯降》(声调歌)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGUsV98a3Ng
4.《复韵母练习》
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoJQcti4K2Q
5. 《鼻韵母练习》
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqBtlCQp2Kg
6.《标调口诀儿歌》
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8RP1R76JPU

The next step is blending the consonants and vowels together to form a word. The way to master blending is through practice, and see below for the details of one of the games we use in class to make practice fun.

  1. Each child will hold on to a paper with either a consonant or a vowel. On a separate table, prepare four head pieces for each of the four tones.

Headpieces corresponding to different vowel tones

  1. The teacher will pick one child to be the narrator and will show him or her a Hanyu Pinyin word (e.g. ) on a piece of paper/portable whiteboard (only the narrator can see the word).
  2. The narrator will say out the word and the children holding the consonant and the vowel of the word (e.g. b and o) have to stand up.
  3. The child holding the vowel will have to go to the table with the four head pieces and select the head piece with the correct tone and wear it.
  4. Afterwards, each kid will say either the consonant or vowel he or she is holding up, and then say the final blended word.

Narrator PropsBlending exercises

Once your child is comfortable with blending, the final step is getting your child familiar with the Hanyu Pinyin questions tested in P1 through worksheet practice. Since many P1 Hanyu Pinyin questions also test students’ vocabulary (need to first recognise a picture or word before writing the corresponding Hanyu Pinyin), it’s important to ensure that your child is comfortable with the P1 vocabulary wordlist as well.

 

What if I want extra help?

If you would like some extra help on Hanyu Pinyin, KidStartNow is having a Hanyu Pinyin camp during the upcoming Dec holidays for K2 and P1 kids. The camp is from Nov 22-25, 11:30-1:30pm or Dec 13-16, 11:30-1:30pm and we only have a few vacancies left.

The camp will reinforce Hanyu Pinyin fundamentals, with a focus on typical problem spots faced by kids entering P1 like vowel tones and blending. The camp will include vocabulary exercises covering common words from the P1 syllabus to help kids get used to the P1 format and curriculum.

Sign up before 6st Nov 2016 to enjoy a special $30 discount ($285 vs normal price of $315) or sign up in groups of 3+ to enjoy a special rate of $260 per child($55 savings vs normal price of $315)! Leave us your details below and we will contact you within 2 working days.

Teaching kids about food

One of the best ways to help kids learn Chinese is to engage them with interesting stories and use the stories as tools to teach kids vocabulary and spark off discussions in Chinese (particularly useful for lower primary kids as practice for show and tell as well as comprehension).

This term, our kids are going on an amazing 9-part space adventure with the panda siblings to learn about robots, jobs, and food! Check out the engaging story below to learn words like 牛肉, 青菜, 面包, and 鸡饭 as well as idioms like 狼吞虎咽 and 眉开眼笑.

ORAL AND SHOW AND TELL PRACTICE (FOR P1&2)

Show your child the video above and ask your child the following questions in Chinese. Your child should reply in Chinese using multiple sentences. The first question is an oral exercise and the second question is a show and tell exercise.

如果你在场你会用什么方法来帮助海盗熊猫呢? 你会对它说些什么? (至少四句话)

你最喜欢的食物是什么? 你在哪里吃过这种食物?这种食物里面有什么?你为什么喜欢吃这个食物?你和谁经常吃这种食物?(P1: 至少6-8句话; P2:至少10句话)

KEYWORDS AND IDIOMS

牛肉   [niú ròu] – beef

牛肉_0

 

青菜   [qīng cài] – vegetables

青菜_0

 

面包   [miàn bāo] – bread

面包_0

 

鸡饭   [jī fàn] – chicken rice

鸡饭_0

 

狼吞虎咽   [láng tūn hǔ yàn] – to eat something quickly and fiercely, gobble up
造句:   海盗熊猫狼吞虎咽地吃下了一大碗鸡饭。

眉开眼笑   [méi kāi yǎn xiào]  – to appear very happy
造句:   一听到姐姐考上大学的好消息,全家人高兴得眉开眼笑。

If you are interested in finding out more about how to help your kids enjoy learning and excel in Chinese, please check out our classes at http://www.kidstartnow.com or email us at enquiry@kidstartnow.com. KidStartNow is highly recommended by 18 parent bloggers, and we have also been featured by Young Parents’ as “Enrichment class that best nurtures your child’s interest in Chinese” (Jan 2014).