Teaching kids Chinese through local culture

New book covering festivals celebrated here aims to help pre-schoolers learn language

Using coloured sand to recreate rangoli, a colourful floor decoration placed at the entrance of homes during Deepavali, and making plasticine "mooncakes" are some of the activities being used to teach pre-schoolers about language and culture.

They are part of a set of resources on festivals celebrated in Singapore that has been developed by the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language (SCCL) as teaching tools for children to learn Chinese.

The book, which covers 13 festivals such as Chinese New Year and Christmas, was unveiled yesterday by the SCCL to some 150 pre-school educators.

It includes write-ups about the festivals, teaching instructions as well as crafts and games, to help children understand the different cultures.

Titled Come, Let's Celebrate!: Preschool Teaching Activities For Festivals Of Singapore, the book comes with a set of 13 backdrops and other craft materials, which can be used for storytelling or games.

Associate Professor Tan Chee Lay, one of the four authors, said the book is aimed at giving teachers more ideas on the learning of language through culture and tradition. For instance, children could be taught the meaning of Chinese couplets, or lines of poetry, that are commonly displayed during Chinese New Year.

"We also want to encourage inter- racial, inter-lingual interaction," he said, explaining why non-Chinese festivals such as Hari Raya Haji were included.

"Although we are the SCCL, children live in a multiracial society and Singapore celebrates all festivals," said Prof Tan, who is the SCCL's executive director (research and development).

The book, which is written in Chinese, will be translated into English next year. The SCCL hopes to produce Malay and Tamil versions eventually.

Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Trade and Industry, was the guest of honour at yesterday's event. She said: "When we use locally developed and culturally relevant material, the children can connect with it quickly, and this allows teachers to make the language come alive."

These resources also allow young children to better appreciate local culture, she said.

Ms Ivy Huang, a Chinese language pre-school teacher who has tried out the resources, said the material is helpful for storytelling and teaching children about language.

"We talk about why Singapore celebrates these events and the history behind the festivals. It also helps me understand local culture better," said the 28-year-old, who is from Taiwan.

• The package of the book and teaching resources costs $163. A promotional price of $100 is on offer until July 2. For more information, e-mail preschoolcourse@sccl.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Teaching kids Chinese through local culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe