Situational Games, Animated Videos… Fascinating Ways to Teach Chinese Online

[Source]    People's Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2020-04-15 17:32:50 

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the world, many countries have upgraded prevention and control measures and suspended work and class. Affected by the pandemic, many Confucius Institutes and overseas Chinese language and culture schools have moved their Chinese courses online and introduced various forms of teaching, realizing the goal of “ensuring learning undisrupted when classes are disrupted” in the interaction with students.

Success Achieved in The First Online Teaching Class

After about one month’s discussion and training, teachers from Aihua Chinese School in Madrid, Spain (Colegio Chino Aihua De Madrid) officially launched Chinese Online Course on April 4. On the first day of class, the teachers chatted casually with students before the class began.

Wu Yiwei (in the middle of the top row) and students in online Chinese class at Aihua Chinese School in Madrid, Spain

Zhang Yu, who is teaching at Aihua Chinese School, said it was her first contact with online teaching. “To be honest, I was quite excited but also a little nervous before the first online class. I was afraid that the children would not cooperate and worried that I may not be skillful at using the teaching software. But after one class, I found that as long as I have confidence and internalize each knowledge point, class would go much smoother. Students found the online class amazing and their brains ran very fast. Though the first class only lasted for two hours, the knowledge points it covered were more than the three-hour class offline.”

Zhang Yu, a teacher of Aihua Chinese School in Madrid, Spain, is giving an online Chinese class to students.

Chai Runze, a first-year junior school student at Aihua Chinese School, is learning to adapt to online teaching. “If you have any questions, you can ask the teacher directly online. Although I miss being in the classroom with my classmates, I can as well see my teachers and friends in the online class.”

For the teachers and students at Aihua Chinese School, it is their first time to take part in online courses, and they can only explore the teaching mode gradually as they move forward. “In order to ensure the quality of teaching, it is very important to pay more efforts in the teaching plans”, said Huang Xiaojie, Principal of Aihua Chinese School.

Considering that online class cannot be exactly the same as offline in which students can have face-to-face interaction with teachers, Aihua Chinese School adopts a small-class system of less than 10 students, aiming to ensure the teaching effect of online class. “From studying the teaching materials to selecting the course time, from making the courseware to be novel and attractive to highlighting the key points in teacher-training, from the teacher's voice, appearance and affinity in online class to skillfully operating the online classroom teaching software ... we have discussed for many times and tried to do the best. Thanks to all those efforts, now I can quickly solve the software-related problems for students in my class, though I’m just a starter in online teaching,” said Zhang Yu.

Diversified Ways of Online Teaching

How to make students stay focused in online class? This is a big challenge to Chinese language teachers due to the lack of face-to-face interaction between students and teachers.

Chen Liangyu, a teacher at the Phuket Campus of Prince of Songkhla University in Thailand, is giving an online Chinese course to her students.

Chen Liangyu, who has been teaching Chinese courses online since the Phuket Campus of Prince of Songkhla University launched its online Chinese course in February, presented her experience. She said: “Sometimes I inspire students’ thinking by showing pictures of Thai stars, and sometimes I attract students’ attention by displaying situational games. For example, when teaching the lesson of ordering meals, I ask students to take turns to act as waiters and customers and ask each other questions.” Chen's online class attracts students not only from Thailand, but also from Vietnam and Laos. Although we are far apart, we get together because of the Chinese language.” This is impossible for offline courses. Though some students do not understand Thai, they will actively join in us when they see me and my Thai classmates go into the role-play phase and ask each other questions,” said Chen.

Wu Yiwei, who is also teaching at Aihua Chinese School as Zhang Yu, summarized his own tips for online teaching: “I will display some videos of Chinese culture or historical allusions related to the text in advance before explaining the text in detail, so students can have an intuitive understanding at the very beginning”. In Qingming Festival, Mr. Wu leads students to learn the famous ancient Chinese poem Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night. He not only explains the background of this poem, but also introduces the origin of Du Fu's Thatched Cottage, so that students can have a better understanding of the author Du Fu. For younger students who are more interested in Chinese food, Mr. Wu would discuss the diet customs of Qingming Festival with them.”

To stimulate students' interest in learning, Zhang Yu not only makes constant adjustments to the content, but also maximizes multimedia. “Compared with offline teaching, online teaching is more flexible in time, method and place. I will supplement textbook knowledge with interesting video animation and cartoon pictures to make learning more attractive.”

Tactfully Review Courses After Class

For online Chinese courses, teachers also face such challenges as how to let students consolidate their knowledge learnt in the classroom and how teachers can keep abreast of the progress of students' studies.

In view of the limited online teaching interaction, Chen Liangyu took the course he taught as an example and said: “we have our basic Chinese course three days a week and two hours a day at the Confucius Institute. Since there is a relatively short contact time with students in online class, I have set up a learning exchange group with my students after class. At present, there are more than 50 people in the group. Apart from discussing questions such as Chinese grammar, we will also carry out impromptu Chinese tongue twister contests in the group. For example, since it is not easy for Thais to tell the difference in pronunciation between the Numbers “4” and “10”, we have challengers sent their tongue twisters to the group to challenge one another. It not only enlivens the studying atmosphere, but also makes everyone feel that Chinese is everywhere around us, even in online class.”

Most of the students in the group have already attended work and they come from different industries in Southeast Asian countries. Some of them have learned Chinese for a period of time while some are at the entry level. Every day students will exchange simple Chinese sentences in the group, and those with basic Chinese ability will help students at the entry level to get started as soon as possible. Discussing and helping each other, students are happily moving forward together.

“Students love the Chinese interactive learning group very much, which inspires me that I can retain this group even after the pandemic ends so as to diversify the Chinese language teaching method,” said Chen.

“I like the way that we learn online together interactively. For me, online learning has the great benefit of allowing me to review what the teacher has taught through the software anytime, anywhere”, Said Ningning, a Thai student studying Chinese at Chen’s online Chinese class.

(All photos in this article are provided by the interviewees)

(Story by Wang Shuchen, People's Daily Overseas Edition, Page 11,April 10, 2020)

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