Chinese Comprehension Deep-Dive (Upper Primary)

阅读理解 or Chinese comprehension is the minefield where many exam marks are lost. We previously did a case-study of a lower primary comprehension; today we will be analysing an upper primary Chinese comprehension passage and examine common mistakes students make.

REFRESHER ON COMPREHENSION GRADING

Students can get a maximum score of 200 for PSLE Chinese, and there are a total of three comprehension passages with a total score of 42 marks.

The first comprehension passage is 10 marks and consists of five multiple choice questions. The second passage is a short announcement, advertisement or letter (通告、广告、便条) worth 10 marks, and consists of three multiple choice questions and a short writing task.

In this post, we focus on the third (and most scary) passage, or 阅读理解二B组 worth a whopping 22 marks and consists of all open-ended questions involving writing.

PaperSectionMarks (%)
Paper 1Composition40 (20%)
Paper 2Language Use 30 (15%)
Cloze Passage10 (5%)
Comprehension 1 (Multiple Choice)10 (5%)
Sentence Completion8 (4%)
Comprehension 2 – Module A10 (5%)
Comprehension 2 – Module B22 (11%)
Paper 3Oral50 (25%)
Listening20 (10%)
PSLE Chinese marks allocation

THE THREE FACTORS FOR COMPREHENSION SUCCESS

In our Chinese enrichment classes, we emphasise three key factors to ace the comprehension passage – vocabulary, exam techniques, and checking. It’s not rocket science, but not something easily learned overnight.

The best but longer-term solution to acing comprehension is to simply read more. Reading is one of the best ways to change students’ attitudes towards Chinese and improve vocabulary but we understand exams are just around the corner, so here are some fast tips to improve.

Factor One: Vocabulary

Reading is the core bedrock of comprehension, especially for upper primary. In lower primary, it is possible to rely on exam techniques to do well even without full understanding the passage. However, as we explain later, this is much harder to pull off when passages get more difficult.

So as a parent, what should we do?

If you have very limited time, the biggest bang for your buck is to revise the textbooks and make sure your child can recognise and understand all the keywords covered this year. Don’t focus only on Textbook B (下册), and make sure to revise Textbook A (上册) too.

Revise the keywords in your textbook

Another good way to revise is to skim through some of the recent comprehension passages done in school or at enrichment centres – circle words that you can’t remember, look it up, and commit to memory if they are important.

Pro Tip: Get your child to read the textbook aloud – many studies show reading and speaking text aloud is a much more effective way of remembering information vs silent reading.

Lastly, if you have more time or if your child’s standard is weaker, be sure to revise previous levels as well (e.g. revising P3 words if you are P4). While previous level words aren’t tested directly, they will appear in both language-use questions and comprehension passages.

Factor Two: Exam Techniques

As we previously discussed in our lower comprehension post, the general approach we advocate is as follows:

Step 1: Skim through passage to get an overall understanding of the passage and to identify its broad theme, topic or storyline.

Step 2: Identify and underline the question words in the questions (i.e. the 5W+1H questions).

Step 3: Do a detailed read of passage while using question words and context from Step 2 to find the sentences where answers are found.

However, there are minefields for upper primary. There are tricky questions that “punish” students that just copy and paste. Some questions require retrieving information from different paragraphs to get full marks, while other questions require students to omit certain irrelevant information to avoid getting penalised. We cover more examples in the case study below.

Factor Three: Checking

It’s hard to overstate the importance of checking, especially as passages become harder. It’s one thing losing marks to a question you don’t know, it’s another losing marks on something you know but was careless.

The three things to check:

  1. Check that you haven’t made mistakes when writing the characters – depending on level and grader, you could lose up to two marks for wrong characters (or 10% of the comprehension score!!). Whenever a student copies wrong (照抄都能抄错), it makes a teacher sad so please be careful!
  2. Check that what you wrote fully answers the question; if it’s a two part question, have we answered both parts? If it is a two mark question, does our answer have two points?
  3. Check if there is irrelevant information in our answer that might be penalised

P5 CASE STUDY – 阅读理解

学校举行庆祝活动,老师让同学们表演音乐剧,她安排每个同学扮演一个角色。

玛丽回到家后,就一直站在窗前看着外面的大雨。妈妈看到她闷闷不乐的样子,便问道:“你看起来很不开心,发生了什么事?”玛丽答道:“老师让我演狐狸,可我不会演狐狸,我想放弃演出。”

 妈妈指了指窗外的雨,问玛丽:“雨声好听吗?”玛丽点点头。妈妈说:“雨点原本是没有声音的。雨点想要落到地面,有时却没办法直接到达地面,会遇到石头、屋顶等障碍物。但是,雨点仍然勇敢地落下来,与障碍物碰撞,发出声音。我们因此才能听到好听的雨声。”妈妈拍拍玛丽的肩膀,又说:“我们要像雨点一样,勇敢地克服困难。虽然你不会演狐狸,但是你只要肯付出努力,就一定能够演好这个角色,最终赢得喝彩。”玛丽眼前一亮,说:“妈妈,我知道该怎么做了。”

玛丽抓紧时间练习。她查找有关狐狸的视频,学习狐狸说话的语气、神态和动作,不断地模仿练习,改进自己的表演。

演出当天,玛丽扮演的狐狸受到同学们的称赞。从此,玛丽遇到困难时,也会勇敢接受挑战,努力克服困难

The first two questions are worth two marks each, and requires us to look for a synonym in the passage based on the keywords in the question.

The general approach for the first two vocabulary questions is the following:

  1. Underline keywords in the questions
  2. Based on the keywords and our initial skim of the passage, try to think about what are potential answers
  3. When doing a detailed read of the passage, look for the correct answer

Q1. 文中形容“用坚强的意志和力量战胜或消除”的词语是:

Answer: 克服

We underline the keywords 坚强 and 战胜, which hints to us that the answer is probably related to being resilient and overcoming something (e.g. difficulty). We pick up on the phrases 努力克服困难 and 勇敢地克服困难, and arrive at the answer 克服. 

Q2. 文中形容“大声叫好”的词语是:

Answer: 喝彩

We underline the keywords 大声叫好, so we know we are looking for a situation where people are cheering, which bring us to the phrase 最终赢得喝彩

This question is harder as the term 喝 has multiple meanings and pronunciation (多音字). Most students will automatically think of “to drink – hē” but it has another meaning “to shout – hè”.

Q3. 玛丽闷闷不乐原因是什么? (2 marks)

Answer: 因为老师安排玛丽在音乐剧表演中扮演狐狸,玛丽不会演狐狸,想要放弃演出。

Reading the question, we know we are looking for a reason for why Mary is unhappy, and look for 闷闷不乐 or a similar phrase in the passage.

Just like the question we previously encountered in our lower-primary comprehension case-study, we need to convert what Mary said to reported speech.

However, since this is a two mark question, we expect to furnish two points, while Mary’s speech about wanting to give up as she doesn’t want to perform the fox role is just one point.

We notice there is more relevant information from paragraph 1 about Mary’s teacher organising a musical that is not reflected in Mary’s speech. If we leave that out, we won’t get full marks.

Pro Tip: Upper Primary questions tend to require students to piece together information from different paragraphs, so students need to read and answer carefully!

Q4. 玛丽认为雨声好听吗?妈妈告诉玛丽雨声是怎样产生的?

Answer: 玛丽认为雨声好听。妈妈告诉玛丽,雨点想要落到地面,有时却没办法直接到达地面,会遇到了石头、屋顶等障碍物。但是雨点仍然勇敢地落下来,与障碍物碰撞,发出声音。

There are always questions with “free marks” for students – this is one of them.

Potential areas where students might lose marks on this question are a) only answering one of the two questions, b) not converting from directed speech to reported speech, and c) writing characters wrongly.

Q5. 玛丽为什么眼前一亮

Answer: 因为玛丽从妈妈鼓励的话语中,明白了自己要像遇到石头、屋顶等障碍物的雨点一样,勇敢地克服困难,为演出付出努力,最终也能赢得喝彩,所以她眼前一亮。

The question asks us why Mary’s eyes shone. We look for the keyword 眼前一亮 in the passage, and notice it precedes Mary saying she knows what to do. So what does she know to do?

The same paragraph involves a dialogue between Mary and her mom, where her mom tells her a story about raindrops and overcoming difficulty. This is where it gets slightly tricky – most of the conversation is in reported speech, and some of the information in the paragraph is not directly relevant to the question.

If your child “copies and pastes” the entire paragraph without omitting irrelevant information and without converting to reported speech, he or she might be penalised.

Q6. 玛丽之后是怎么做的?她的表演结果怎么样?

Answer: 玛丽抓紧时间练习,她查找有关狐狸的视频,学习狐狸说话的语气、神态和动作,不断地模仿练习,改进自己的表演。最终,她的表演受到同学们的称赞。

This question is quite simple but note that it has two parts, and students need to make sure they fully answer both parts to get full credit.

In particular, as most of the answer comes from paragraph 4, a common mistake is for students to copy and paste from paragraph 4 and neglect to include the information from paragraph five that she received compliments from her classmates.

Q7. 如果你是玛丽,听了妈妈的鼓励,你会像玛丽那样做吗为什么

Potential Answer: 如果我是玛丽,听了妈妈的鼓励后,我会像玛丽那样做。因为遇到困难时,我们不能逃避,要勇敢地接受挑战,最终克服困难。如果我们克服了所有困难,我们的人生就会越来越精彩。(答案合理即可)

The final question is usually the hardest as it requires students to understand the passage and then reflect on it. In this question, we are asked what we would do if we were Mary and why.

Rule of thumb: if the subject of the question is doing something morally correct (like Mary), you are highly highly encouraged to say you will do the same thing, while if the subject is doing something wrong, say you will not do the same thing because doing so will lead to negative consequences. Moral relativism does not exist for primary school comprehension!!

Generally speaking, most students are comfortable with describing or summarising what happened in the passage, but lose marks when it comes to reflecting.

Usually in class, we ask students to first recall when they were in a similar situation, and reflect about the experience. However, more often than not, students will say they have never been in a similar situation, and find it difficult to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist.

This doesn’t only apply to comprehension – one of the PSLE oral topics this year was about cleaning your room, and if a child has never had to clean his room before, would she be able to reflect on it? Unfortunately there isn’t a silver bullet for such questions besides practice as they require not only language skills, but the ability to reflect or 举一反三.

Typically, there are two ways to get better at such questions: the first is to practice a lot of comprehension questions as there are common patterns (at KidStartNow’s enrichment classes, we practise 1-2 comprehension passages a week).

The second way is for parents to read fables or stories with our children and then ask them for their thoughts afterwards. Or to have regular discussion sessions with our children in Chinese. Many of these reflection questions tend to have a moral message, and the more our children practise, the better they get at answering such questions. 

SUMMARY

Chinese Comprehension can appear to be extremely complex, but given the proper techniques and vocabulary foundation, any child can tackle it.

Lastly, if you are looking for help with Chinese, KidStartNow runs weekly Chinese enrichment classes that combine time-tested teaching methods with proprietary AI technology to make learning Chinese effective and engaging. 

We are recommended by 20+ parent bloggers and 95% of our parents continue with us every term because they see their children improve week after week, month after month. We provide physical N2-P6 classes at Bedok and online P3-P6 classes, and please leave your details below and we will contact you within two working days.

Comprehension Deep Dive (Lower Primary)

Ask any primary school parent which Chinese topic gives their child a headache, and the answer is either comprehension or composition. We have previously discussed how to tackle composition and a general approach to acing comprehension, and in this post, we are deep diving into a specific comprehension passage (P2) to show how parents can apply these concepts.

As a quick refresher, we advocate the following three-step approach when tackling comprehension passages.

Step 1: Skim through passage to get an overall understanding of the passage and to identify its broad theme, topic or storyline.

Step 2: Identify and underline the question words (疑问词) in the questions (i.e. the 5W+1H questions; click here for more information). Knowing what kind of question word we are dealing with will give us clues on how to identify the answer.

Step 3: Do a detailed read of passage while using question words and context from Step 2 to find the sentences where answers are found. Underline or highlight these sentences and write the relevant question number next to it.

We are big advocates of reading the passage twice vs reading just once and it doesn’t take much longer since the first read is just a quick skim. From our experience, this simple tip greatly improves marks especially when it comes to tricky and “what do you think (感想)” questions.

CASE STUDY: PRIMARY TWO

Step 1: Skim through passage 

The very first thing we should do when we get a passage is to do a quick read-through to get a rough idea of the passage. From our first scan, we know the passage is about an ant bragging to his friends that he killed a tiger.

💡Pro Tip: Some students prefer to skip this step and read the questions first before reading the passage. From experience, students who do that tend to only read the passage once, which can cause them to lose marks. In comparison, skimming the passage first before reading the question will naturally “force” students to read the passage twice.

Step 2: Identify and underline question words

Now, let us take a look at the questions, while highlighting the important question words. For Q1 and Q2, we underline the question word【什么】- which tells us we are looking for objects, events or incidents (WHO/WHAT). In Q2, we also underline 【告诉】, which tells us we are probably looking for some sort of speech.

Q1. 小蚂蚁在路上捡到了什么?

Q2. 小蚂蚁拿着毛,告诉朋友们什么?

For Q3 and Q4, we underline【为什么】- this suggests that we are looking for a reason or justification (WHY). For Q3, we also underline 【说】as it implies the answer is probably related to some sort of speech.

💡Pro Tip:【为什么】questions should usually be answered with【因为】

Q3. 为什么小黄鸟那根毛是自己的?

Q4. 听了小蚂蚁的话,朋友们为什么笑了?

For Q5, we underline 【怎样了】-  which suggests that we are looking for an outcome or state. We also underline 【最后】which tells us the answer is likely to be at the end.

Q5. 最后,小蚂蚁怎样了?

Step 3: Do detailed read of passage to find the sentences where answers are found

Q1. 小蚂蚁在路上捡到了什么?

Typically, the answer to the first question is found in the first paragraph, so we start looking there. We know the question is asking for an object and also notice that the phrase 【小蚂蚁在路上】 is repeated in both the question and the passage, and we have our answer.

Answer: 小蚂蚁在路上捡到了一根黄色的毛。 

Q2) 小蚂蚁拿着毛,告诉朋友们什么?

From our question words, we look for some sort of speech that the ant says to his friend, and identify the sentence with the answer.

Importantly, we cannot just “copy-and-paste” because this question requires us to convert Direct Speech to Reported Speech, or the equivalent of converting  [Sam said, “I went to the movies”] to [Sam said he went to the movies].

Answer: 小蚂蚁拿着毛,告诉朋友们它刚刚打死了一只老虎,它手上的毛是老虎的。

💡Pro Tip: An easy way to lose marks is for students to answer only half of the question, by not including【它手上的毛是老虎的】. It’s not uncommon for students to correctly underline the correct answer, but only include half of it because they don’t want to write so much. Don’t give up free marks!

3) 为什么小黄鸟那根毛是自己的?

Based on our underlined question words, we know we are looking for some sort of spoken explanation by 【小黄鸟】, and easily identify the sentence with the answer. Similar to Q2, we need to convert Direct Speech to Reported Speech.

Answer: 因为小黄鸟认为那根毛的颜色和它身上的毛一样,所以它说那根毛是自己的。

4) 听了小蚂蚁的话,朋友们为什么笑了?

We see the question word【为什么】again, so we know we are looking for a reason or justification, and that our answer should start with【因为】.

Since this is a passage for Primary Two, it’s easier and we can use phrases that appear in both the passage and question like 【听】 and【 笑】 to easily find the answer. Harder passages are likely to use synonyms instead, which underscores the importance of having a solid vocabulary foundation.

Answer: 因为朋友们知道小蚂蚁没见过老虎,却说自己打死了老虎,所以朋友们笑了。

5) 最后,小蚂蚁怎样了?

【最后】and 【怎样了】tell us we are looking for what happens to 【小蚂蚁】 at the end, and that the answer is probably near to or at the end of the passage.

As we mentioned above, since this is a lower primary question, the passage and question repeats the word 【最后】, making it easier to identify the correct answer. However, the passage could had used a different term or omitted【最后】, and thus it’s important for students to know 【最后】means “finally”. 

Other important temporal terms include 【然后 / 后来】* and 【一开始】**, etc.

Answer: 最后,小蚂蚁的脸红了,飞快地跑掉了。

* after

** at the beginning

SUMMARY

Comprehension can appear to be extremely complex, but given the proper techniques and vocabulary foundation, any child can tackle it. Having said that, answering techniques and vocabulary do not appear magically, but require constant practise and regular reading. Hope you find it useful, and please feel free to leave comments and suggestions!

Lastly, if you are looking for help with Chinese, KidStartNow runs weekly classes that combine time-tested teaching methods with proprietary AI technology to make learning Chinese effective and engaging. 

We are recommended by 20+ parent bloggers and 95% of our parents continue with us every term because they see their children improve week after week, month after month. We provide onsite N2-P6 classes at Bedok and online P3-P6 classes, and please leave your details below and we will contact you within two working days.

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

This is part 1 of a three part series – check out part 1 and part 3 here.

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

This is part 1 of a three part series – check out part 2 and part 3 here.

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!

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.

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

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!