Help your child excel in Chinese this year

New-Year_Resolutions_list

With the start of a new year, it is time to set resolutions. One suggestion is to regularly help your child with Chinese.

Getting kids interested in learning Chinese is not an easy task, as most parents and kids are far more comfortable with speaking English. However, this has become extremely important as MOE introduced a new primary school curriculum in 2015.

The new curriculum places greater focus on using Chinese in everyday life – rather than a subject that kids need to “pass” or “ace” exams. Lessons are structured around daily-life scenarios such as going to school or visiting the doctor. Also, there is a larger oral component like show and tell presentations. There are also relatively complex comprehension passages. Taken together, kids who are not regularly exposed to Chinese are likely to find the new curriculum more difficult.

The good news is that you can help your kids lay a strong foundation for primary school with the 3 simple tips.

TIP 1:

Manage expectations – getting your kids to be comfortable with Chinese will take time. It is easy to get frustrated and give up if your kids keep responding in English – but realise that this is a gradual journey. When your kids refuse to speak or read Chinese, do not worry or show unhappiness. Instead, encourage them to keep trying, and when they do take baby steps (e.g. say a word in Chinese) praise them for trying and encourage them to keep using Chinese.

TIP 2:

Set one day a week as Chinese day – on this day, try speaking to your kids in Chinese and have them respond in Chinese. For parents who are not as confident in incorporating Chinese into your daily life, check out MOE’s Xue Le website for ideas. Xue Le is MOE’s online portal based on its curriculum and the new P1 and P2 欢乐伙伴 syllabus has tons of animated videos based on daily life.

TIP 3:

Read Chinese books to your kids regularly – daily if possible. Most parents know the importance of reading English books to your kids to help them improve their vocabulary and English standards. Why should Chinese be any different?

We buy our paper books from Taobao and the collections are much larger and cheaper than those available in Singapore. Below are some of our recommendations – it is also useful to look for books that are translations from popular English series.

神奇立体书 (popup books with English translations, suitable for preschoolers)
小玻系列翻翻书 (Chinese translation of the popular ‘Spot the dog” series with English translations, suitable for preschoolers)
西游记 (children version of Journey to the West with han yu pin yin, suitable for primary school kids)

For parents not as confident in reading aloud to your kids or if your kids are not interested in Chinese books, we recommend our Boshi Panda animated storybooks (70 books created specifically for Singaporean kids for just $5/mo).

Good luck in helping your kids enjoy learning and excel in Chinese! If you are interested in additional help, our Chinese enrichment classes are highly recommended by 17 parent bloggers and we have helped hundreds of kids excel in Chinese in school.

KidStartNow to offer sponsorships for needy kids

I recently read a Straits Times forum post by a recent RI graduate, who believed that elitism can be good for society. It was eye-opening, to say the least, and immediately brought to mind one of my favourite comics.

inequality

The full comic is available at the Wireless. (Artwork courtesy of Toby Morris)

I find this comic always relevant, and a good reminder for all of us – our personal and professional successes are in part due to our merit, but also due to the foundations that our families, teachers and societies establish for us. We should always be appreciative and grateful.

This comic also made me reflect on my own biases: I come from a relatively privileged background, allowing me to study at a highly-ranked university in US and then work in finance in Taiwan. It shocked many when I decided to give up my high flying career (I had just been promoted) to move back to Singapore to set up KidStartNow to help kids develop an interest in learning Chinese.

I truly felt a calling – and knew I could help kids (often English speaking kan-tangs like myself) love to learn and excel in Chinese. And I’m happy to say that thanks to the efforts of our exceptionally talented team, we are progressing well.

A key motivation for starting KidStartNow is a desire to give back to society and our community. And so, we set up a sponsorship programme from day 1 and provided nearly $10k worth of classes and camps to financially disadvantaged students. We want to do our part to ensure that kids from less advantageous backgrounds have an equal head start as their peers.

We continue to feel strongly about the importance of equality in Singapore and want to play our small part in it. And so, we am happy to announce that we will be releasing 5 new two-year sponsorships, for kids entering K1 in 2016.

Each 2-year sponsorship is worth more than $4k and will cover the full fees of our enrichment classes and holiday camps. To apply, please fill up this form and we will be in touch.

Dan,
KidStartNow (http://www.kidstartnow.com)
Co-founder and director

6 phrases to teach your child during National Day :)

Happy Birthday Singapore!  At today’s National Day Parade, teach your kids some of these terms as you watch the show:)

新加坡 (xīn jiā pō) – Singapore

国庆日 (guó qìng rì) – National Day

挂国旗 (guà guó qí) – to raise a flag

庆祝 (qìng zhù) – to celebrate

唱国歌 (chàng guó gē) – to sing the National Anthem

看表演(kàn biǎo yǎn) – to watch a performance (or NDP)

5 phrases to teach your child about Hari Raya

It is Hari Raya Puasa on Monday! Take this opportunity to teach your kids about the customs of their Muslim friends.

For example, did you know that Muslims children receive green packets (like how Chinese kids get ang paos during Chinese New Year).

开斋节 (kāi zhāi jié) – Hari Raya

Hari Raya

Hari Raya

马来族 (mǎ lái zú) – Malays

 

绿色 (lǜ sè) – Green (colour)

Malay kids wearing green during Hari Raya

Malay kids wearing green during Hari Raya

斋戒 (zhāi jiè) – fasting

 

种族和谐 (zhǒng zú hé xié) – racial harmony

How your kids can speak more Chinese (without complaining)

Who says English speaking kids do not and cannot love Mandarin?

Many parents ask us the same thing – why do my kids refuse to speak Chinese? Aren’t they a little too young to hate Chinese? 

Surprise one: they actually can speak Mandarin. Watching through our webcam of the class, parents were amazed at how much Chinese their kids can and will speak.

“I sat down to watch via the TV screen in the waiting area. What happened next shocked me. He spoke in Chinese. Actually not such bad Chinese, either. You have to understand I’d never really heard him try before – he’d always refused to perform when asked, coyly insisting (that it was the “wrong” language for the social situation at hand, what with me being all English-speaking and so on,” says Bronwyn Joy, mother of P, K2.

P having fun speaking Chinese during our Jun Holiday camp

P having fun speaking Chinese during our Jun Holiday camp

For some, their unwillingness to speak Chinese despite learning it in school or from additional classes boils down to a lack of confidence (rather than vocabulary).

That’s why we have focused on building this confidence through constant encouragement, role playing and digital coins. As kids become more confident, they are naturally more willing to converse in Chinese.

“We have been extremely impressed by the huge improvement that our son Mark has experienced through KidStartNow. Despite daily half an hour Mandarin classes in preschool for the last 2 years, he has resisted speaking Mandarin and even refused to let me speak to him in Mandarin. However, within one class at KidStartNow, he has been very open to learning Mandarin and receptive to me speaking Mandarin to him at home,” says Carolyn Chin, mother of Mark, an N2 student. 

“Mark really enjoyed the fun and interactive style of teaching where children learn through play and interest is nurtured, unlike other tuition schools. We have been really grateful in particular to teacher Marissa for her patient and interesting teaching style.”

Mark volunteering enthusiastically during his Chinese class

Mark volunteering enthusiastically during his Chinese class

What can parents do to build up oral confidence?

Outside class, you can help your kids build this oral confidence. As we wrote in a previous article (https://blog.kidstartnow.com/2014/06/19/28/), the most important tip is realising that getting comfortable with Chinese takes time (months not weeks), and it is very important to encourage baby steps.

For instance, a common issue with kids from predominantly English speaking families is incorrect Chinese pronunciation or wrong usage of vocabulary. As parents, we naturally want kids to speak correctly, and as we get worried about our kids’ speaking ability, we sometimes get frustrated and impatient. While it is normal to get worried, kids are very good at reading our expressions, and this can hurt their self-confidence in Chinese, leading them to clamp up. 

Instead, the best thing to do is praise baby steps. In class, we constantly emphasise to kids that it is okay to make mistakes and it is more important to keep trying and keep improving. When kids try to say something in Chinese but get it wrong, we praise their effort and tell them the correct expression – reinforcing this by having them repeat after us at the end.

Through this method of encouragement and positive reinforcement, we build up their oral confidence and willingness to speak Chinese.

Which games or activities did the kids enjoy the most? How can parents adopt the same activities at home?

We found that kids really enjoyed the role playing activities in camp – not surprising since preschoolers love to mimic. This is also a great way to build interest in Chinese, as well as develop oral confidence and word recognition.

While speech and drama classes, costumes and props are nice to have, you can easily do role-playing at home with items at home and a dash of improvisation and imagination 🙂 

Take for instance our recent story involving Pirate Panda and his adventures in a vegetable farm. While having panda, carrot and pumpkin soft-toys are nice (and kids absolutely adore it), you can do role-playing with items easily found at home like a teddy bear or real carrots, etc.

Props like the ones we use in class are nice to have, but parents can easily improvise at home

Props like the ones we use in class are nice to have, but parents can easily improvise at home

Just grab a Chinese book your child enjoys (preferably with dialog so they can pretend to be characters), and have your kids act out the various scenes.  

For parents who aren’t as confident in their own Chinese skills, try choosing books with audio read-aloud, so you can read together with your kids.

Our popular animated storybooks are a great way to help even reluctant Chinese readers love to learn Chinese, and kids are quickly drawn to our exciting stories, animation and sound effects. It also contains audio read-aloud and text-highlighting, so parents can read together with kids regardless of ability. We are offering a free 30 day trial (http://www.jiejieandfriends.com/signup, referral code is “SKA”), so give it a try now!

Try out our popular animated storybooks now

Try out our popular animated storybooks now

8 phrases to teach your child during the World Cup

One of the best ways to help your child learn Chinese is to use it in everyday life. While watching the World Cup, have you wondered how to say phrases like “dive” in Chinese? Or how to describe Brazil’s 1-7 defeat to Germany? Read on to learn 8 Chinese phrases to teach your child during the World Cup finals!

假摔 (jiǎ shuāi) – to dive in football

dive

踢足球 (tī zú qiú) – to play football

SoccerPanda

咬 (yǎo) – to bite (pro tip: don’t bite other people)

bite

冠军 (guàn jūn) – champion

champions

世界杯 (shì jiè bēi) – the World Cup

world-cup_e

一败涂地 (yí bài tú dì) – a disastrous defeat (*cough cough 7-1*)

defeat

比赛 (bǐ sài) – competition

world-cup

天才 (tiān cái) – genius (also known as Messi!)

genius

This story can get your child to start listening

Don’t we all wish that our kids would just listen for one second? However, 9 times out of ten they refuse, despite pleading, cajoling or scolding.

We understand your frustration – and in response have written a story aimed at helping kids understand the importance of listening.

At KidStartNow, we pride ourselves in teaching more than just Chinese – we believe it’s critical to impart the right values through our books and classes.

While sailing aboard a pirate ship, Jie Jie and his friends meet a massive thunderstorm… (Side point: stories are a good way to teach 成语 like 乌云密布)


causing all of them to be drenched, and leads to Pirate Panda shrinking (yes, he’s a pirate that is afraid of rainwater). Despite Pirate Panda’s assurance that he is okay,


 

his friends don’t listen and try to “help” him, which makes the situation worse.


Moral of the story: listen to others when they are talking!

We hope this short story is a jumping point to help your young kids understand the importance of listening to others.

To help reinforce this point, do share the reasons why it is so critical for them to be good listeners. Here are some tips (http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/5-ways-to-get-kids-to-listen/) that might help!

10 ways your kids can love Chinese

Last week, Singapore Motherhood invited us to write an article on how to help kids love to learn Chinese. Indeed, learning Chinese does not have to be dry or difficult, and we share 10 ways to help your kids start loving Chinese.

1. Be patient and encouraging

The first and most important tip: realising that getting comfortable with Chinese takes time, especially if your kid currently lacks confidence in Chinese. The process of helping your kid love learning Chinese will takes months, not weeks. So when your child refuses to read a Chinese book or speak Mandarin at the start, do not worry or express displeasure as this is normal. Instead, praise your kid for baby steps (e.g. saying a word in Chinese) and encourage him or her to keep on trying.

2. Read Chinese books with your kids

Reading helps kids develop a love for languages and is an important step to helping them become effectively bilingual and confident Mandarin speakers. Select wholesome and age appropriate books – good quality picture books help pique interest in younger kids, while a strong plot will keep older kids enthralled. Start introducing Chinese books into bedtime reading sessions and soon habit will become second nature!

Parents who cannot read Chinese or struggle with the language should not be left out – they can read electronic books where voiceover and text highlighting help overcome this challenge.

3. Sing your way to success

Songs are a great way to encourage kids to develop interest and an ear for the language. Younger kids are drawn to music which they can sing and dance to, while older kids are likely to benefit from wholesome Chinese songs.

4. Use Chinese cartoons as a tool

Kids love watching animation so do help them by selecting good educational Chinese cartoons. Use them as tools to encourage conversation, rather than passive entertainment. For instance, when watching a YouTube video with your kid, pause the video at regular intervals to ask leading questions in Chinese (“What are they doing? Who do you like best) and encourage your kid to reply in Chinese.

5. Challenge your kids

Kids love to win, so why not a Mandarin challenge? One easy way is to get your kids to read to you – this helps build oral confidence and word recognition skills simultaneously. It works well for non-Chinese students too – one of our Malay students loves to read to her mother and is happy to help correct her pronunciation!

6. Make speaking Chinese a game

Kids also respond well when properly motivated. In our classes, we award students with digital gold coins when they behave well and participate enthusiastically, which can be exchanged for stickers. A similar system can be easily implemented at home. Do not to penalise your kids for wrong answers as it would discourage them from speaking more Mandarin.

7. Let’s get creative

Kids all learn differently so let’s get creative. For example, throw away the boring flashcard to teach “Apple” and get your child to paint or draw the fruit instead. Keep all their art works for an original picture dictionary!

If your kid likes games, why not learn word recognition using snakes and ladders – with a twist. Before taking turns to throw the dice, quiz your kids using word cards. If they recognise the word, they can throw and move. If they don’t, you get to move. Do remember to coach them if they forget. Within a few rounds, the desire to win will definitely improve their memory.

Using board games to teach Chinese

8. Make Chinese a part of your daily life

If your child becomes used to speaking only English at home, it can be difficult to change. Start by weaving Mandarin into daily life – such as a set hour where the family communicates only in Chinese (and to sweeten the deal tie this hour to their favourite play time or activities). Or when out and about, consciously point out street names and places of interest etc in Chinese. For example, when you are next at the zoo, add 长颈鹿, after saying giraffe.

9. Help your kids appreciate Chinese language and culture

It’s easy to believe that Mandarin is all about drilling, spelling and word exercises. But your kids are missing out on the charming Chinese language, culture and history.

Change that by sharing interesting stories about how Chinese words came about with your younger kids while older children might like to hear about the origins of idioms or mythological characters.

10. Immerse your kids in Chinese

And what better way to appreciate Chinese language and culture than to travel to China or Taiwan? It is a great way to immerse your children in the rich culture and have them experience first hand how useful it is to learn Chinese!

Here are some resources that can be your starting point on your journey to making the Chinese language fun to learn. No matter which method you choose, please stick to it and you will see results in time. Your kids may be resistant in the beginning, but your patience and perseverance will definitely help them to develop the interest and confidence in using Mandarin daily!

You won’t believe what this 5 year old did for her Mother!

Dina stood in front of her Chinese teacher and hesitated – should I buy more stickers for myself today? She shook her head, no, not this week.

We were amazed at how Dina, a K1 student at KidStartNow Chinese enrichment, decided not to buy stickers for herself. But we know why: she has a greater goal.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, KidStartNow challenged our students to collect as many digital gold coins as they could over 3 weeks. These gold coins would determine how many stickers they would be able to buy to create a special present for their mums. These gold coins are earned for behaving well and participating enthusiastically in class.

And to maximise the number of stickers they could purchase for their mums on week 3, our students also had to decide if they wanted to spend less on weeks 1 and 2. That was exactly what Dina chose to do – spending just a third of her usual amount of coins on stickers, and saving the rest.

“I am very proud of Dina. Even though Chinese is not Dina’s Mother Tongue, she is so enthusiastic about answering questions in class and singing. She really wants her mother to be proud of her,” says Hong Mei, her teacher.

We were blown away when Dina and her other 3-6 year old classmates all showed this willpower. And it was all worth it when on week 3, our students were able to use their hard earned coins to purchase stickers to create a personalised photo frame and card for their mothers. In fact, some used up all the coins they had earned the entire term.

But our kids had a final surprise. The best performer in each class over the 3 week Mother’s Day challenge won their mum a special present. Dina had beat out 7 other classmates, to win her mum Huraizah, a special bracelet! Her efforts had really paid off.

“Dina is very proud of her photo frame and card, and will show it to my friends and read the Chinese characters to her,” says Huraizah.

dina

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