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The Chinese Zodiac (Chinese New Year Animals) Story

It's the Chinese New Year!

The Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a Chinese calendar year and each cycle is named after an animal. Do you know how this came about?

As in any folklore, legend, or mythology, there are many versions of the story. Likewise, there are also many versions of the Chinese Zodiac story. The versions that you are about to view are based on the great race. These Chinese New Year Animals stories are probably the best versions and are great stories to spark children's interest in Chinese language and culture.

The Chinese Zodiac Story (Simplified Chinese subtitles)

The Chinese Zodiac Story (Traditional Chinese subtitles)

Note: This version is adapted in our Chinese New Year themed BrainyBox.

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PSLE 2020 – New Textbooks for Primary 6 Chinese

PSLE has been evolving and n case you are wondering if this major examination next year will be any different from 2019's, read on.

There is no change to the format but come 2020, we will have new Primary 6 Chinese textbooks (欢乐伙伴) with new vocabulary, new sentences and even new skills to learn.

So parents of 2020 batch of Primary 6 students should know the following by now :-

1) Pre-2020 textbooks, past year test papers and assessment books* are obsolete! Do take note when making your purchases at book stores.

2) Old issues of 新列车、知识报 and 大拇指 may still be useful but new vocabulary will need to be learnt and practiced.

*Oral, listening comprehension, comprehension and composition components may still be of use as they retain the current format.

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4 Fun Ways to Help Your Child Learn Hanyu Pinyin

Hanyu Pinyin is the foundation of a child’s journey into learning the Chinese language.
In Singapore, Hanyu Pinyin is a key concern for K2 and P1 parents because there is a large emphasis on Hanyu Pinyin in P1.
In this blog entry, we share common problems students face when learning Hanyu Pinyin and some secret tips to help kids master it.

Hanyu Pinyin is basically the Romanised form of Chinese words but due to the different pronunciation of English for the same letters, children, especially those from English-speaking families, can find it even more challenging to master Pinyin.

This can result in low confidence and lack of interest in the Chinese language. Many children find learning Hanyu Pinyin boring. Thus, it is important for students to build their confidence and interest in Hanyu Pinyin through fun activities such as:

1. Using Stories to provide meaningful context

Many students perceive Hanyu Pinyin to be just some meaningless sounds which are not associated with meaning. Therefore, having meaningful context can help students make sense of the Pinyin they learn.

BrainyPlay uses a series of stories to achieve this.
The stories impersonate each Hanyu Pinyin letter and give it a characteristic related to its sound. For example, “e” is a goose swimming in the lake.

By using stories to teach Pinyin, it is easier for your child to associate the Pinyin with the correct pronunciation. The funny storylines also make learning more interesting and engaging.

2. Using Songs to reinforce pronunciation

Hanyu Pinyin is closely connected to pronunciation. Students who are not able to specify the pinyin for a word often cannot pronounce it properly. If you think about it, it makes plenty of sense. It’s very difficult to actively remember something if you cannot passively identify it.

We can use interesting songs to reinforce the individual sounds and basic building blocks of Hanyu Pinyin.

Here's a compilation of Hanyu Pinyin songs on YouTube. Rhymes with visuals help children remember Hanyu Pinyin sounds better and practise pronunciation more accurately.
You can play them and have your child sing along - learning is far more effective if your child is actively singing along rather than passively listening.

5. 《鼻韵母练习》


3. Using TPR to teach the 4 tones

Chinese is a tonal language, which means differing the tones will give different meanings to the words. However, mastering different tones can be rather challenging for children.

Quite a number of children find it challenging to differentiate the four tones. They often mix up the second tone with the third tone.

Total Physical Response (TPR) is one of the most established and effective methods in language teaching, by using physical movement to react to verbal input.

At BrainyPlay, we use movements with a rhyme for students to understand the pronunciation of the four different tones. After which, students will get to physically put it into practice by using body movement.

4. Playing Task-based Games

Learning will be more engaging and effective when done in the form of games and children are given tasks or missions to complete.

At BrainyPlay, we do interactive games such as preparing sets of flashcards, with Chinese words and different alphabets, and asking students to help the consonants find their vowel friends.
We also use the set of flashcards for students to practise Pinyin reading.
To create excitement in the games, we compete. Whoever gets the right answer gets to keep the cards. The person with the most cards wins.

Need extra help?
If you would like some extra help, BrainyPlay is conducting a Hanyu Pinyin Mastery camp during the upcoming Dec holidays for K1-P2 children. The camp runs from 16 Dec to 20 Dec.

The camp will reinforce Hanyu Pinyin fundamentals, with particular  focus on common difficulties like vowel tones and blending faced by children entering P1. The camp will also include vocabulary activities covering common words to help children get accustomed to the P1 syllabus.

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4 Ways To Learn and Improve Your Chinese (At Home or Just Anywhere!)

As the academic year comes to an end, it’s almost time for you to take a good break. Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to acquire useful Chinese skills during the school holidays? Well, if you have, I have a piece of good news for you — it is absolutely possible! In fact, learning can take place anytime and anywhere. In this blog entry, I am excited to share with you 4 fun ways to learn Chinese beyond the four walls of a classroom!

1. Listen to the radio

Since the radio is readily available online, you can immerse your child in interesting Chinese broadcasts everywhere you go. Whether you are at home doing household chores or commuting to the shopping mall, take the opportunity to enhance your Chinese listening skills by tuning in to the radio! There are many Chinese radio stations that play Chinese songs and share interesting talks on different topics such as sports,  entertainment and current affairs. Hence, by listening to these talks and songs, you gain exposure to a wider range of vocabulary and sentence structures.

Furthermore, when you listen to accurate Chinese conversations consistently, you will also be able to hone your Chinese pronunciation by learning the right intonation and enunciation. Last but not least, the talks and news shared by the radio stations shed light on what is happening around us, which aids your child in gaining useful general knowledge for components like Oral and Comprehension.

Some of the most relevant Chinese radio stations you can check out would be LOVE 972 and YES 933. You can also refer to this website for radio stations available in Singapore.

2. Watch Chinese programmes

Is your child a Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig fan? Let your child watch these favourite cartoons in Chinese! You don’t have to limit them to just dubbed shows; shows with Chinese subtitles are helpful as well as they strengthen your child’s listening and comprehension skills. For post-show activities, engage your child in a Q&A session to recap what your child has watched. This also acts as a platform for you to gauge your child’s understanding of the programme. Getting your child to sing along to theme songs can also boost vocabulary retention. These activities not only enhance family time, but also help your child gain more confidence in speaking Chinese in the long run.

Qiao Hu (Smart Tiger) 巧虎 Chinese language series includes Hanyu Pinyin, radicals, the origin of Chinese characters and even idiom stories. Junction Tree, Singapore’s first-ever bilingual show for preschool children, can also be accessed easily. Its English-Chinese version is a lot less intimidating than the Chinese version of Sesame Street, while using the same kid-friendly mix of fun songs and friendly puppets.

3. Learn Chinese through comics

Comics are fun. However, other than being a form of entertainment, they serve as a great resource for learning Chinese too. Here are some benefits of learning Chinese through comic books.

  • Shorter chunks of text that are easy to understand

    • For children who dislike reading lengthy texts, comics are a great alternative. The language used in comics is generally easier to comprehend, which makes it easier for children to understand the story and learn useful sentence structures at the same time.

  • Vocabulary expansion

    • Even though the language used is simpler, there is still impressive vocabulary, including idioms, that you can master.

  • Pictures to provide context

    • The greatest part about reading comics is being able to appreciate the drawings at the same time. With pictures drawn to serve as the context, it helps you to better understand the story events and sentences, even if you may not know all of the words used.

    • The presence of images also assists you in visualising written expressions. For instance, you will get to see the facial expressions of the characters, which correspond to their feelings during a particular event (e.g. “Le Le was furious” -> the drawing shows Le Le gritting his teeth in anger).

  • Different writing techniques

      • Comics present an array of writing techniques that you can learn. Some techniques include dialogue, personal voice and show-not-tell description.

Take note that not all comics are equally beneficial and applicable to you as a student. Hence, do be very discerning when it comes to choosing books that are suitable for your learning. Some comics that you may consider getting your hands on include Nao Nao Comics Street 闹闹漫画街, Old Master Q Happy Idioms 老夫子 快乐成语 and Le Le Brainwave Comics 乐乐计转弯.

4. Introduce hands-on activities

Hands-on activities are key to building a child's enthusiasm for learning Chinese!

A good educational experience engages many senses and provides context for the materials at hand. New words will be deemed interesting and remembered in a positive way.
And the best part is...anyone can take part - preschoolers, primary school-aged children, and adults!  There is no upper age limit.

In general, the ideal activity is:

  1. Quick and easy to set up
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Reusable
  4. Sparking discussion in Chinese
  5. Promoting literacy
  6. Fun

Check out our hands-on activities for ideas on how to use play, games, art & crafts to encourage Chinese dialogue and teach Chinese reading.  The activities are categorized by theme.

In summary, we have looked at some easy ways to sharpen your Chinese listening, writing and reading skills while you are enjoying your school holidays. Remember, learning goes beyond the traditional classroom setting - never restrain yourself within a tiny box! Have fun learning!


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Benefits of Chinese Speech & Drama

Apart from being a fun and entertaining activity, Speech & Drama classes actually have long-lasting benefits for your child’s development. Regardless of age, and whether your child enjoys the limelight or tends to shy away from even a small audience, there are elements of Speech and Drama classes that are bound to engage them and help them develop life skills that give them an edge over others.
Let's look at some of the benefits of Speech & Drama.

1. Improvement in Chinese Language skills

The most apparent benefit of attending Speech and  Drama classes would be an improvement of your child’s speaking and presentation skills. Even without putting up a heavily-rehearsed performance in front of a large audience, your child would be consistently taking part in engaging activities that train and enhance his speech, improving on his diction, pronunciation, clarity and tone. With a rich vocabulary that he would be exposed to, his language proficiency would also be enhanced. Together with the confidence that builds up in these classes, it is natural to expect that his presentation skills would definitely improve as well.

2. Increase in Self-Confidence

Fear of public speaking and anxiety of being the centre of attention is not uncommon among adults. Many of these adults would not have had the opportunity to have these very natural fears challenged while they were children. Speech & Drama lessons help children to express themselves in a safe environment where they do not feel judged.

This boosts their confidence and encourages them to think out of the box, take risks, experiment with new strategies and engage actively with their peers. Children benefit greatly from being given an opportunity to work in groups. In an atmosphere that is conducive for exploration and collaboration, children thrive and overcome their fear (if any) of being in the public eye.

3. Expansion of Imagination

Albert Einstein has suggested that imagination is even more important than knowledge. Imagination makes it possible for children to picture a whole world inside their mind. It fosters their ability to look at a situation from myriad points of view, while it enables them to travel both into the past and the future.

As children engage in Speech & Drama activities and allow their imagination to lead them in their creative problem solving, they will be inspired to imagine the impossible. We know that the creative power of imagination has a pivotal role in the achievement of success in any field.

4. Ability To Empathise

Empathy has been referred to as the most important 21st century skill that our children need as they face an increasingly globalised world. Empathy is the ability to identify with others and to think and feel in the shoes of the people around us. As children learn to integrate other people’s perspectives with their own, they will be able to form deeper connections with people, hone their leadership skills and collaborate with a greater sense of self-awareness. This can lead to the realisation of a shared vision that brings meaning and purpose to the lives of many people.

In a Speech and Drama class, children are invited to have a deeper understanding of the characters and situations these characters encounter through exploration of a spread of rich literature. Facilitated role-play and dramatization activities will continue to hone the children’s ability to develop empathy and tolerance. Each and every child has the capacity for empathy. Drama activities enable children to practice empathy and have the courage to display it in real and imagined scenarios.

5. Better Interpersonal Skills

The famous English author, John Donne expressed the profound truth that “no man is an island”.  No one is self-sufficient and each and every one of us relies on another. One of the greatest assets we can develop in our children in the ability to have good interpersonal skills, so that they will be able to effectively communicate with people from all walks of life.

Interpersonal skills include verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening, positive teamwork and conflict resolution skills. Drama develops the creative ideas and abilities of children through the collaborative process of discussion, brainstorming, making choices, negotiating and rehearsing. Drama games and improvisation activities allow children to express a range of emotions in a controlled environment.

This becomes a valuable part of their journey towards nurturing effective interpersonal skills. Social interaction and risk-taking within the realm of a drama experience can also have a lasting impact on children and free their mind of prejudice and intolerance.

When children are empowered to be lifelong learners and effective communicators, they in turn will have a positive impact on their community. It will open doors, hearts and minds and empower children to be the best that they can be as they journey through life.

Find out more about BrainyPlay's Speech & Drama programme.
Contact us at or call/Whatsapp 88292934.