Celebrating Chinese Literacy Week

During the week of May 6-10, Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) celebrated Chinese Literacy Week! Following the success of Chinese Literacy Week, we spoke with ECE & Primary Chinese Coordinator, April Peng about the role it plays at YCIS Beijing.

Please introduce Chinese Literacy Week.
Chinese Literacy Week is a celebration of Chinese language and culture, which allows our Primary School students an opportunity to demonstrate their bilingual and bicultural learning. The blending of Chinese and Western culture through the integrated teaching of Chinese language and principles with English and Western pedagogy are an integral part of our curriculum and what makes our school so unique.


How did students celebrate Chinese Literacy Week?
Our students took part in poetry recitals, ‘Battle of the Books’ and ‘Story Teller’ competitions, ‘I Read, I Show’ demonstrations, ‘Letters Challenge’ quizzes and ‘Fun Learning Chinese’ activities.

How did students and teachers prepare?
Students didn’t do anything special to prepare for the week’s activities. As the point of Chinese Literacy Week was to show off their everyday learning, we drew upon the lessons they’d had earlier in the semester to devise the activities. Our Chinese teachers just made sure when selecting activities that they picked exercises appropriate for each of our two distinct Chinese language learning groups: Chinese as a First Language (CFL) and Chinese as an Additional Language (CAL).


Activities selected for our Chinese as a First Language (CFL) student aimed at demonstrating the depth of their study of poetry composed by Chinese authors, the breadth of their vocabulary, and their eloquence and confidence in public speaking. Our CAL students’ tasks were focused on demonstrating their Chinese language comprehension, practical daily language skills and ability to express their thoughts and feelings in Chinese.

Why is this event important?
Initiatives like Chinese Literacy Week are important because they teach our students to appreciate the beauty of the Chinese language and culture. Dedicating a full week to uplifting and highlighting our Chinese programme deepens our students’ respect for their Chinese studies, by demonstrating the importance we place on this learning and providing their parents with an opportunity to visibly and publicly support their children’s efforts. Plus, initiatives like Chinese Literacy Week help us exhibit and reinforce our bicultural and bilingual learning practices.


What would you say were the highlights of the week’s activities?
The ‘Fun Learning Chinese’ activity was one of the most light-hearted and engaging events we held. In this activity, CAL students put their spoken Chinese skills to the test providing improvised, on the spot, dubbing for muted film scenes. It was fun and funny, definitely amongst the highlights of the week.

I must say, though, the best highlight of the week was seeing the effect the students’ performances had on their parents and even some of the teachers. I saw real tears shed.


What most surprised you during the week’s celebrations?
The emotional impact on the parents of watching their children demonstrate their Chinese literacy skills was the most surprising thing for me. I was really shocked to see such emotion on their faces, and so many tears of pride and joy shed, by both Chinese and Western parents.


What advice can you offer parents working to strengthen their children’s Chinese literacy?
My advice for parents of CFL learners would be to keep reading with your child. Reading is vital, and your participation is essential. For CAL parents, I’d advise that you ensure your child practices their Chinese language skills outside of school. Encourage them to translate for you when interacting with native Chinese speakers. Ensure they have Chinese language cartoons and movies they enjoy to watch in their free time. Download Chinese language learning apps on your smartphone and/or tablet and let them practice on these devices. Finally, let them take the lead at story time and read to you in Chinese from time-to-time. While you might not understand the stories, having you there attentively listening will be very encouraging for them, and this will build their confidence and literacy skills.

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