Nursery Rhymes Assist Chinese Teaching
I’m sure you won’t believe that I started learning nursery rhymes when I was in my sixties! I am neither in my second childhood, nor do I read with my children. The most interesting thing is that when I read these rhymes using some animated body language, kids listen to me. This, to me, is very surprising!
I am currently teaching Chinese at a high school in Turkey. It is not an easy job, especially when I teach the grade 9 class. As soon as I start writing on the blackboard, over 30 students begin to mutter amongst each other in class. I have to figure something out to capture the students’ attention. Sometimes, I must reveal my magic weapon. During a teaching exchange, a volunteer Chinese teacher named Xiao Jingfen read a nursery rhyme called “Three Ducks, Four Chickens and a Bird” to the class. It worked. The catchy rhythm attracted the students’ attention very easily. Each time that I tell the students in grade 9 to sing the rhyme, it’s easy for them to learn and remember the Chinese characters for words such as bird, chicken and duck.
Another example is when I first explained the Chinese character for ‘hand’ to students. I wrote some characters related to the character, and after that we read a Chinese nursery rhyme called “Hand and Figures”. My rhyme-reading approach is a nice confidence booster for students when they are learning Chinese. This rhyme was uploaded on the internet by teacher Zhu Libin. I have never met Zhu Libin. The woman would probably never imagine an aged Chinese teacher reading her work to a flock of Turkish children.
In addition, we also read “The Tiger-Fighting Rhyme” in class. Students can master more and more Chinese characters through these rhymes.
One should never dismiss the potential of short nursery rhymes. It creates a win-win situation when you are teaching Chinese with rhymes, not only for the teacher but also for the students. These days I am almost in my second childhood! (Zheng Qiwu)
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