Author: Lynda Suthe, Daviot Primary, Aberdeenshire
Class teacher, Lynda Suthe is a beginner learner of Chinese and recounts her experiences introducing the language to P5.
Where we began
All stages began P5 term one of the three year draft planner, which focuses on four MLAN Level 1 Experiences and Outcomes. The content includes greetings, some basic classroom language, numbers to 10 and colours.
I spent considerable time over the initial weeks practising characters, explaining and exemplifying how each represents a syllable, which in turn has an initial, a final and a tone. I eased pupils into the concept of tones with familiar English phrases, and discussed some easy faux pas that could be made by using the wrong tone. It was important to emphasise the differences between the Pinyin phonics system and our own, to ensure pupils listen carefully in order to reproduce sounds exactly as they hear them from native speakers.
Equally important is the need for cultural awareness and to understand that both we, and Chinese people in our society, may make mistakes with language or etiquette and inadvertently say rude or silly things. It is important to make allowances for each other.
Format of lessons
Each forty minute lesson is divided into short time slots to ensure a fast-moving, multi-pronged approach. Each lesson has key language content, but also includes aspects of culture. Basics are always reviewed and practised before new learning is added. An example of one of my lessons is below:
- Reviewing greetings and phrases: a few examples from pupils followed by everyone practising listening and talking. (5 mins)
- Listening quiz – e.g. circle the initial sounds you hear, highlight the tone you hear. (5 mins)
- Listening to fun clips online, e.g. two different number songs. Question what’s difficult about them and what’s easy. Sing along. (5 mins)
- Reading characters and pinyin for numbers to ten. Talking by verbalising the numbers and using hand signals when the character is held up. (10 mins)
- Talking: Sing the New Year song learned the previous week. (2 mins)
- Writing numbers 1-5 on Chinese square sheets, following stroke order and position. If keen, pupils can continue writing to 10. A few children every week use calligraphy brushes and ink. (8 mins)
- Listening to and discussing an example of a cultural faux pas. (5 mins)
Listening – Chinese children’s TV clips online are a good way for pupils to access ‘real life’ Chinese and give them a feel for the language, even if only a word or two can be identified.
Talking – playing shops lets pupils practise counting, money, change and goods vocabulary.
Reading – labelling around the school reinforces the use of characters for nouns and key phrases.
Writing – using calligraphy and art brushes, as well as the magic water sheets, makes calligraphy more appealing. Some of our pupils have made their own books full of the characters they’ve been learning, and they are really enjoying this aspect of their learning.
Planning for progress
Termly I ask pupils to respond to various questions about their own Chinese learning journey. This information will guide planning.
Our planner covers the Level 1 Experiences and Outcomes over four terms. For P6 and P7, the focus is on covering all the Level 2 Experiences and Outcomes using a topic-based approach.
What are we hoping for?
By the end of P7 pupils will be able to participate in a prepared paired dialogue with a peer using vocabulary and sentence structures. They should be able to offer a few sentences of information about themselves and to answer simple practised questions. Pupils will be able to read a short paragraph written in familiar characters and be able to write some simple characters unaided as well as using pinyin-keyboard skills.
That’s okay for you, but what about me?
A range of resources (print and online) makes it possible for teachers, like me, who are at the beginners’ stage of learning Chinese themselves, to deliver a learning experience with confidence to primary children. Recordings of native speakers are invaluable in making this possible.
Chinese is still in the early stages of development at Daviot Primary. I plan to introduce a weekly challenge located in the school’s central area, giving pupils a chance to work on their numbers and characters throughout the week. We will also build on the success of a whole-school Chinese activity day, which allowed all pupils to experience Chinese language and culture. The support of my language specialist colleague has been invaluable and we meet later this month to flesh out Daviot Primary’s three-year planner.
Return to March 2016 newsletter