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Grow the Chinese Roots

April, 2018
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A school day at Peide School starts pretty loudly. Yet this loudness is in order and rhythmic: little boys and girls reading aloud Chinese classic poetry and articles, just like those children in traditional Chinese schools of yore.

And, like most ancient practices, the teachers normally do not explain these classics. As the old saying goes, “read a book a hundred times, and its meaning unveils itself.”

“Such repeated reading helps these classics take root in the heart of children and will pay off one day or another,” says Jin Cunfang, a Chinese teacher at Peide School, a school inspired by a traditional Chinese way of education while incorporating modern methods and theories. The school vows give children a globally minded education with deep Chinese roots and an understanding of Western culture.

Apart from the 25-minute reading aloud every morning, Peide students have seven Chinese language classes each week, four Chinese literature classes and one supplementary Chinese class. A unique feature of the classes is that the lessons correspond to the 24 Solar Terms of the traditional Chinese calendar as well as traditional rituals of the four seasons – a design to enable children to gradually understand these basic cultural concepts.

In Chinese classes, students at Peide are provided with a series of teaching materials carefully designed by the school’s research team, adopting modern concepts and theory. According to Dr. Nie Aijun, Peide School’ Principal, a total of 1,440 poems have been selected from the huge sea of Chinese poetry throughout history, divided in line with the 24 Solar Terms of the traditional Chinese calendar based on their content. Each 60-poem group under the same Solar Term is further divided, catering to the six grades. The plan is to publish a set of 12 textbooks in 2018, each of which contains 120 poems with each accompanied by a Chinese painting.

Meanwhile, Peide is working on collections of classic ancient articles, which will also fit to each of the six grades, and contemporary articles, which will suit 12 grades. Textbooks will also be published in the near future.

Nie is confident that any student reading through all those poems and articles over their years of schooling would have sufficient knowledge of Chinese for their age level, because the poems and articles not only cover the best of what’s taught in public schools in China, but also include many outside the reach of existing textbooks.

“By hammering out such teaching materials, Peide hopes to contribute to the present-day Chinese education,” Nie says. He argues that conventional Chinese language education lacks an emphasis on self-expression, which is exactly the strength of the Western way of language education. That’s why students at Peide are encouraged to share what they have learnt.

Sometimes, the students begin writing poems themselves and read to each other after studying children’s poetry, while some other times, they write up a script and perform a play student needs to pick up a single Chinese character, make a presentation about it, and share their ideas with classmates the next day.

peide-chinese-edu-photos4Recently, a Grade 2 girl chose the character “Shu” (meaning “comb or combing”) and wrote about the meaning of it with vivid drawings. “This is very funny, and it helps me understand the character well,” she says. Jin explains that the intention of the “character passport” is to connect daily life with the characters, which are the building blocks of the Chinese language, and therefore enhance the ability of the children to express themselves in Chinese. And for children who are learning Chinese, her advice is reading and sharing.

Firstly, a child needs to read every day for a certain period of time, and it has to be reading aloud. This works better when parents can join in with the reading and discuss it with their children.

Then comes sharing, which means expressing ideas both verbally and in writing. “The more they express, the more interested and confident they become in the sharing process, and as a result the better they learn,” Jin emphasizes.

 

By Qin Chuan,
LittleStar Magazine

 

 

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