The primary language that Noah has grown up listening to is English, and his exposure to the Chinese language is extremely minimal. It didn’t help either that we were based in Adelaide for nine months recently, where we had even more limited contact with the language. As a result, it’s been quite a struggle teaching him the language, and he usually doesn’t respond when I speak to him in Chinese.
Recently, we were invited to join the drop-off Chinese classes at Sparkanauts (previously known as Gymnademics), and I thought it was a wonderful way to ease him into the idea of attending classes on his own, since he has been attending classes there since he was ten months old, and is extremely familiar with the place. More importantly, the class provides him with an hour of Chinese “immersion” a week, which is more than what he’s been getting at home, because I always forget and switch to English after a few sentences.
Prior to this, Noah has never attended any kind of drop-off programme before, and I was pleasantly surprised when he happily ran into the room, after saying a quick goodbye to me. This went on for three sessions, before he suddenly had separation anxiety during his fourth class, most likely because C went on a business trip.
Happily posing for a photo before running into class
Cheeky fella playing before class
The Chinese class is taught by a Taiwanese teacher, and I really like how she gives every child plenty of personal attention. Her pronunciation is definitely better than mine, and she made the effort to teach Noah to say his Chinese name. I was impressed when he came out of his second class, proudly telling me his Chinese name, and that 老师 (teacher) said, “棒, 棒, 棒!” (Excellent!)
The class size is still relatively small, with about five kids on an average day, and most of the children are between three to four years old. Noah, at almost 2.5 years old, is the youngest, and it was so heartwarming to see the older children helping him out, especially when they were going around the circuit. I peeked in through the tinted windows during the class, and was so glad to see Noah participating in the activities, as it meant that he understood what was going on, despite everything being in Chinese!
My “Spy” photos (pardon the poor quality)
If you’re wondering what the children were doing in the above photos, they were preparing some cake batter. Yes, they baked cupcakes in class that week, as they had been reading 老虎来喝下午茶 (The Tiger Who Came to Tea) that month. A lot of thought has clearly been put into planning the lessons, as every activity done is related to each month’s book and theme. I’ll share more about the books used in my next post, so do look out for that.
I think many of the children don’t really get to bake much at home, so it was quite an experience for them. They took turns beating the egg, then mixing the egg into the flour, and waited excitedly for the cupcakes to be baked. I was so pleased to see my fussy eater stuffing the cake into his mouth when it was done!
Om Nom Nom
Noah had a really good time dancing along to the Chinese song, 客人来, sung in class, as you can see in the video below.
Plus, he learnt how to say 蛋糕 (cake)!
In his second lesson, he learnt how to say 火车 (train), together with the accompanying actions and sound effects. The class also made their own trains, and Noah had quite a bit of fun painting his. The next week, the children made boats, and tested them in a bathtub in class, to see if they could float. The 飞机 (aeroplane) became his favourite vehicle the week after, as they got to make their own aeroplanes then. I thought it was really wonderful that the children got to do so many hands-on activities, as these really aid in getting them to remember what they’ve learnt.
Learning to say 火车
Painting his 火车
Testing their boats
Painting the sky for his 飞机
Of course, it wasn’t all play, as the children had to sit down for short periods to work on some simple worksheets as well. Noah wasn’t particularly cooperative when it came to this segment, so I worked on it with him at home instead. I was impressed that the teacher came up with such a fun way to teach them the concept of 里面 (inside) and 外面 (outside)! First, Noah had to paste short pieces of straw on the paper to make a boat. Then he had to paste the pictures of the bear either on the boat itself, or above the boat, according to the instructions. Next, he got to practise his scissors skills, by cutting out various pictures, and gluing them into the respective 里面 (inside) and 外面 (outside) columns.
Making the boat
里面 (inside) and 外面 (outside)
One unexpected result of Noah attending this drop-off Chinese class is his improved motor skills. Although he has been attending classes there regularly, they have always been parent-accompanied, which means he tends to rely on me for help, when he has to go on the circuit. In this class, he has gained so much more confidence in conquering the circuit, perhaps from watching the other children, and is a lot more willing to try it on his own, even in his usual Sparkanauts classes. Noah can now jump confidently off high platforms, and more importantly, is able to land properly most of the time, if the platform isn’t too high. This might sound silly and insignificant to many parents, but to us, it is a huge improvement, as he is generally a very cautious kid. He has also learnt to walk up and down stairs more confidently, although he still needs to be watched closely. We are just very happy that he is willing to try it on his own, when previously, he would insist on holding my hand all the time.
On the circuit
Learning to jump
An added component in the circuit is the Chinese segment at the end, where the teacher introduces a verb, and gets them to do the action. Again, this interactive bit helps them to remember both the verb and the action, which is very useful.
I’m so glad that Noah has been able to attend these Chinese drop-off classes, as he is a lot more responsive to instructions given in Chinese these days, and will even use one or two Chinese phrases occasionally, without being prompted. I’m not sure if we will be able to continue attending the classes after he starts school this month, but we really hope that he will, as it is very important to us that he is able to enjoy learning the language, through all the fun ways incorporated in these classes.
For more information on the Chinese drop-off classes at Sparkanauts, please do give them a call, drop them an email, or even stop by the centre, to check out the learning environment for yourself!
Disclaimer: We were invited to attend the Chinese classes at Sparkanauts for the purpose of this review and the next. No monetary compensation was received. As it is a drop-off class, some of the photos and videos were kindly taken by one of the teachers in the class. All opinions are my own.
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