E-Bridge Pre-School teachers win top prize after using nature's elements to teach Mandarin

(From left) Ms Xu Ruijin, Ms Chu Ya-Li and Ms Fang Liyuan bagged the top prize in the Pre-school Chinese Language Storytelling Aids Competition. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - One tried-and-tested way to engage and teach preschoolers is to develop characters or props using loose materials like branches, leaves, wood chips and bottle caps.

This is one aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach, developed by Italian pedagogist Loris Malaguzzi and named after the northern city of Italy where he came from.

Ms Fang Liyuan, Ms Chu Ya-Li and Ms Xu Ruijin, from E-Bridge Pre School, applied the strategy to teach their students Chinese, encouraging them to collect leaves, twigs and branches and guiding them to create different characters and props which were then used to put together a storybook.

The teachers also encouraged the children to form their Chinese names using the twigs.

The story of a fairy who meets three different parts of a plant won the trio the top prize in this year's Pre-school Chinese Language Storytelling Aids Competition.

Speaking to reporters at the awards ceremony, held at the annual seminar for Pre-school Chinese Language Teachers on Saturday (July 9), Ms Fang, 32, said: "We hoped to create an opportunity where more children could make use of natural materials and loose parts to create props and characters and give them the opportunity to express themselves."

The event was held at the Ministry of Education's Buona Vista premises. 

Ms Chu, 25, said that the strategy was extremely well-received by the children.

"The children made props such as planes, cars and insects, which really showed our students' rich imagination and boundless creativity," she added.

Minister of State for Education and Manpower, Gan Siow Huang, the chairman of the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning (CPCLL), presented the top three prizes and seven commendation awards to 10 preschools on Saturday (July 9).

In a speech at the seminar launch, Minister Gan spoke of the importance of play in preschool education.

"Interactive games and purposeful play provides a good platform for children to build their critical thinking skills, stimulate their creativity, and pique their interest in the Chinese language," she said.

The one-day seminar, now in its 14th iteration, is organised by the CPCLL and supported by the Early Childhood Development Agency and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development.

Nearly 1,000 teachers and administrators, among others, attended keynote lectures and workshops by early childhood experts. The seminar aimed to enhance the professional skills of pre-school Chinese language teachers, and empower them to create diverse and interesting teaching methods.

A book featuring the winning entries from 2018 to 2020 titled Creative Storytelling Aids was also launched at the event.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.