Pre-schools get creative in teaching Chinese

PCF Sparkletots introduced new elements, such as using handmade characters, to bring stories to life in its Chinese curriculum for Nursery 2 children this year.
PCF Sparkletots introduced new elements, such as using handmade characters, to bring stories to life in its Chinese curriculum for Nursery 2 children this year.PHOTO: PAP COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

Infants and toddlers will soon have more opportunities to learn Chinese naturally through play and storytelling activities.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday that the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) will be rolling out new Chinese language programmes in the next two years for children under the age of three, joining other operators that are looking into this too.

These classes will revolve around more creative storytelling methods, such as using props and employing songs, dance and music.

New Chinese classes at PCF Sparkletots, the largest pre-school operator in Singapore, will start next year for toddlers and in 2019 for infants.

Dr Weelai Suwanarat, PCF's director of professional and education development division, said: "Most of the time, stories are being told from the books. This year, we have been introducing Chinese teachers to the idea of using a 'story stage' to tell stories.

"Teachers create puppet-like characters from the story to help storytelling to be more animated."

Last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally that the Government plans to improve the quality of pre-school education, with a focus on strengthening bilingual education in early childhood. Children learn languages better when they are young, and that window of opportunity must be seized, he said.

To help children pick up the language faster, teachers are encouraged to interact with them in Chinese regularly, not just during class.

Opportunities will also be created for parents to be involved in their children's learning of Chinese through activities such as calligraphy workshops.

Other pre-school operators are also looking at ways to strengthen bilingualism in children.

Little SkoolHouse, which is run by NTUC First Campus, started a pilot in 2015 to use drama and theatre to teach pre-schoolers Chinese.

Some 570 children aged four to six at four centres have been part of this project, where they were encouraged to take the lead and write their own scripts in Chinese, as well as take up roles and present their stories to an audience.

A spokesman for NTUC First Campus said that training for Chinese teachers started this year and will continue over the next two years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'Pre-schools get creative in teaching Chinese'. Print Edition | Subscribe