Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Let your KidStartNow to learn Chinese! (Giveaway)

With Isaac attending the Primary School that he is attending, he would be taking Higher Chinese straight from Primary One. The thought of that is enough to make me shudder. For those of you who knew me from my schooling days, you would know how abysmal my standard of Chinese was. I took my O Level Chinese paper three times, and A Level Chinese paper twice, in order to scrape a pass so that I could qualify for local university. 

I must say that my standard of Mandarin is now better than ever. And for that, I credit my dear hubbs. He, as some of you would know, is quite the cheena uncle. I say that with affection, and thanks :p as he credited to be the most important factor in improving my Mandarin speaking skills. Immersion is the key! And thus, he has been trying to encourage me to speak Mandarin to the kids too! I confess that I have been very reluctant to do so, the reasons will be forthcoming in a separate blog post... But suffice to say, that when KidStartNow offered to let Isaac, Asher & Shawna attend a Chinese Camp during the recent December holidays, we jumped at the chance and immediately blocked off the dates in our calendar.
Underwater Universe theme @ KidStartNow - what crabby kids I have!
KidStartNow is located at CT Hub at 2 Kallang Avenue. This is brand new building (just TOP in 2013) which has 2 floors of retail and F&B, and the rest of the building is light industrial and office. As such, when we turned into the carpark and announced "Yes, we're here!" The kids looked at us and said "Are you sure?! Chinese Camp is here?!" and then it struck me that they thought they were going camping - like we once did at Pasir Ris Park Beach! We quickly explained to them, while walking from the carpark to the unit, that we weren't going camping per se with a tent and all...

But once we got to KidStartNow, the kids were entranced by the colourful Underwater Universe theme  the whole premises was decked out in, that they stopped grumbling about not going "real camping". They were each handed a crab hat to don, and proceed into the room to start the session for the day. Giggling at how silly each other looked in a crab hat, they went into the class (with Isaac walking in sideways)... it struck me how simple this was as an icebreaker to make the kids feel at ease in a new environment...

The holiday camp was three half days long, on three consecutive days.  On the first day, they allowed parents into the room with the kids so as to ease the kids in. It was hardly necessary for us though. The kids had a whale of a time, having fun from the go, and hardly turned around to check if we were still there. It could be because all three of them were in the same class. So having their older brother Isaac there was a solid emotional support for the twins. As it was a Chinese camp (as opposed to a term of enrichment classes), the camp's aim was to make learning Mandarin fun - so KidStartNow felt it was not necessary to segregate according to age. Besides, they have a policy of a small class size (4 - 6 students per class), so catering to an individual's level was not a problem at all.
Love the fact that we can observe everything going on without being physically in the room with the kids! :)
Each day, there was a short 10 minute break for the kids, roughly midway into the day's session.It was a toilet break cum a mini-snack break. Hubbs and I took this opportunity to leave the classroom, and go for breakfast downstairs. When we came up, we sat at the sitting area at the lobby of the centre where there was a large screen on the wall. This screen actually screens live - the going-ons in the classroom! Love it! We could see and hear exactly what the kids were doing and saying, without being physically there! Fantastic!
Initially, when the lessons first started, we had slight misgivings when we realised that KidStartNow were going to use videos and e-books in their programme. We were firm proponents that kids should not be exposed to too much TV/iPad and the like. However, after experiencing the programme for three half days, I must say I like the KidStartNow methodology, and they have executed it very well. 

Apparently, KidStartNow has developed their own proprietary e-Books and interactive computer programmes that incorporate the Chinese language and make it seem fun. The teacher constantly stops the video/e-book and talks to the class, posing questions and taking queries. Thus it is not the case whereby your child comes to class just to "watch TV". No. Instead, there is a lot of interaction, with the teacher asking leading questions, and clarifying with the children to make sure they understand what is happening and going on. I was very impressed. It occurred to me that "This is how technology should be used!" For KidStartNow has managed to integrate the use of technology very seamlessly with guided and assisted learning, to form fun and engaging lessons for the young ones. They essentially use it as an attention hook. Wow. 
Sing and dance @ KidStartNow
In their proprietary Underwater Universe programme, they also allow the children to choose a character to be themselves, and each child/character would have a "coin bank" reward system to encourage good behavior, class participation, and helpfulness toward one another. At the end of the days, children can use their coins to redeem stickers for themselves. Small stickers cost less coins than the bigger stickers did. Thus, if you wanted a bigger sticker, you had to save enough coins for it. The kids loved it, and it was one of the highlights that they never failed to talk about when we ask the kids how their camp that day went.

Other than using their proprietary e-book/system, KidStartNow also uses Chinese children song videos to teach the kids to sing Mandarin children songs, along with actions. So there is much singing and simple movement dancing in the class, mostly, I feel to act as ice-breakers and let the children feel relaxed and at ease. Oh and to make the class fun, of course - all while doing everything in Mandarin. Like in one song, it was a "hello, my friend!" song, that ended with the kids going around shaking hands with one another. and saying "Ni2 hao3" which is "Hello" in Mandarin.

In addition to this, the children would often be called on to stand up at the front of the class to speak. It can be something as simple as introducing yourself, to something slightly tougher like to give your answer to a question. This is a simple way of instilling confidence in a child about speaking Mandarin, and gives them a mini-taste of "public speaking". Sure, it's only to an audience of about 5 other kids plus the teacher - but for a child young child below 7 years old, I'd say it's certainly like public speaking.
The children were also engaged in simple art & craft in line with the theme of Underwater Universe such as making a colourful fish, and a paper plate shark. All in, KidStartNow has managed to include quite a varied number of activities for the kids during the Chinese Camp, all of which were conducted in Mandarin. From our viewing of the class while in the class, as well as outside through the Skype enabled TV - we could see that the kids were rapt with attention throughout the class. They have certainly been successful in immersing the children in a Mandarin speaking world.
Art & craft segments too!
I remember, while we were traveling to the place on Day 2, I started asking the kids how they find the camp on Day 1, etc. They said it was fun, but in typical young children's fashion, couldn't really describe much about it. Instead, they wanted to quiz me, test me, to see if I knew the names of certain sea creatures in Chinese!
Isaac:"I want to test you, Mummy! Do you know the name of dolphin in Chinese?"
Mummy Me:"I know! Hai3 tun2"
Asher:"Mummy, I want to test you! What is Big White Shark in Chinese?"
Me:"I know! da4 bai2 sha1 !"
Asher:"Yes, correct!"
Isaac:"This one you sure don't know! What is stingray in Chinese?"
Me:"Errr... is it hung herr? hahaha..."
Isaac:"No! hahahaha..."
Me:"So what is it?"
Isaac:"Hong Mei Laoshi says it's huang2 diao1 yu2 !"

After our Chinese Camp ended, for many days afterwards, the kids would still be singing the songs they had learnt and talk about the stuff they had done during the Chinese Camp. I was suitably impressed because this hardly happens after an event, for with kids, it's quite out of sight out of mind. Incidentally, just yesterday morning, Shawna remembered a song and was singing it, and she turned to me and said "Can we go Chinese Camp again, please Mummy?" :)

Overall, I would say KidStartNow achieved their aim of immersing the kids in a Mandarin environment, and making Chinese fun. My only complaint is - I wish it were 3 full days of camp instead of half days!!! :p
Top right: The art & craft work done by the kids @ KidStartNow

Now, would you like your child to try out KidStartNow's programme? If so, you're in luck! We're conducting a giveaway! The good news is, there won't just be one winner, there will be three winners! :) One N2 child, one K1 child and one K2 child! And each winner won't just win one lesson - the winners will win 4 lessons each! However, as their sessions are all quite full already, the only available timeslots are those indicated below. Please only participate in this giveaway if you can make it for the indicated timeslots as alternative timings are not available.

N2 winner attends Tuesday 3.45pm - 5.15pm from 11-Feb-2014 to 04-Mar-2014
K1 winner attends Thursday 1.30pm - 3.15pm from 06-Feb-2014 to 27-Feb-2014
K2 winner attends Saturday  1.30pm - 3.15pm from 08-Feb-2014 to 01-Mar-2014

KidStartNow are also running a competition right now! They are asking readers to send them their best parenting tips/stories on how they help their kids develop interest in Chinese, and they will be sharing the top ten tips/stories in a blog post (with proper credits given). In addition, the reader who sends them the top tip/story will win a prize of $100! If you are interested, please send your entries to dan.tang@kidstartnow.com with the subject "[Parenting Tips Competition - #01] before 9th Feb 2014". Good luck!

12 comments:

  1. I would like to join for K1 class. Thanks for hosting this great giveaway with very detailed review! I've come across the name of this school so many times but never knew what they are offering.

    Shirley Yong
    shirley@yong.sg

    ReplyDelete
  2. Would like to win K2 sessions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. N2 for my boy! Thanks!

    Jingxian
    j_xian@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. 8f m lucky...
    K1 for my twinkle twins...
    Marcia_267@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hope I'll be lucky to win N2!

    Mailmummyed @ gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hihi

    Thank you for this great giveaway! Really hope to win this for my son who is in K1 now.

    Cheers

    Audrey Soo
    sweetsweethalo@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi I would like to win the K1 giveaway, thanks.
    Gordon
    ngiamkm@yahoo.com.sg

    ReplyDelete
  8. K1
    Cynthia
    edenie98@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. THANK YOU EVERYONE for taking part in this giveaway! Stay tuned for more! =)

    ReplyDelete

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