Dreaded Time Of The Year
As September draws to a close, October brings along the smell of dreadful Chinese exams.
And for modern parents, after going through our own childhood, teenage and young adult exams in primary, secondary and tertiary studies – never would we find ourselves back on the exam desk with more angst than ever.
Facing a younger and harder-to-manage little ones.
The easy way would be to send the kid off to Chinese tuition to prepare for the exams (and if tuition hasn’t started, you have less than a month’s time to scramble) but all hope is NOT lost if tuition is not an option.
There is only one key thing that the kid needs to get ready for the Chinese exams – that is to know the Chinese Vocabulary “by heart”.
I wish there is solution that says one only need to cruise through learning Chinese – but that will be wishful thinking.
To take my child for example, he is in Primary Five this year, and there are altogether 15 chapters in his Chinese textbook, with about 150 new words. He has cleared his Chinese spelling throughout the term, but as we know, those words can mean little if the kid seldom uses them in their daily life.
So where do we start?
The 15-5 Rule
If the child needs more time to pick up on new vocabulary, carve aside 15 minutes every day to revise 5 new words. Have a quiz by the end of the week for the 35 words, and then jot down the words that he got wrong. Piggyback those difficult words into the quiz next week (this is compounding learning), and so on and so forth. That way, your child gets to practise those difficult words more than twice.
By the end of 30 days, he would have completed revision for 150 words and had 4 quizzes. The final quiz can then be a final revision of sort.
That’s the 15-5 Rule, 15 minutes a day, 5 new words each time, repetitive practise is necessary.
Put The New Words Learnt Into Use
For the words that the child gets wrong during the quiz, assign practice to construct a sentence by writing it out – 造句. This is a lost art I observed in primary school – and in my humble opinion, sentence construction lays the foundation to better writing skills. If a child can construct a sentence based on a word, he will be in a better position to construct a paragraph and subsequently, an essay.
If the basic building blocks of writing are weak, the sentence structure crumples – and is it any wonder why our kids struggle with Chinese composition writing?
造句 is key and very important. Don’t overlook this practice. Even for the easier words- get a quick sentence out from your child by getting him to verbalise it. Every bit of practice counts.
Spotting Patterns Between Words that Looked Similar
There are some Chinese words which can be confusing because they look similar – for example, 特、持、待、诗. If your kid is very reliant on hanyu pinyin even when he/she is in Primary Five, you have a lot more work cut out.
To differentiate these words, stage 1 – not only does the kid need to know how to read the word, but he’ll also need to know some strategies to tell them apart. The Chinese character itself has all the clues.
And in stage 2, the kid will also have to understand the context of how the word is used in a sentence. To sail through stage 2, there is the assessment books route and the new digital route – using Vitamin M’s GamiStory vocabulary video exercises.
With all the worksheets drilling that is going on behind the scenes – watching some videos to revise the vocab helps the child reconnect with the words with greater sensory awareness – he literally “sees” the context, and he hears the pronunciation.
Also, don’t forget to help your child relate the new word to the older words he has learnt, this will help reinforce his past learning, and build a new understanding to the new word.
These are the 3 main strategies you can help your kid master his Chinese Vocabulary. And the more he/she remembers, the more you’ll be able to observe usage of those new words in his conversations or essays.
In summary, to help your kid do well for Chinese end-of-year exams – it is all about VOCAB, VOCAB and VOCAB.
Start now, and all the best!
Co-Founder Vitamin M
(Father of two boys, 10 and 7)