31 July 2023
Little Skool-House launches first-of-its-kind drama pedagogy teaching guide
Little Skool-House shares its successful strategies for enhancing Mandarin proficiency and fostering bilingualism in preschool children
NTUC First Campus’s (NFC) Little Skool-House (LSH) launched a first-of-its-kind teaching guide titled ‘Exploring the World of Children’s Drama’. The guide contains effective drama-based teaching strategies that LSH has implemented successfully and which has helped improve Mandarin proficiency in its children. The guide is aimed at external educators interested to implement drama pedagogy in the classrooms.
Besides many creative activities and drama-based teaching strategies that the teachers can adopt and apply immediately, such as ‘Teacher in role’ (having the teacher get into the role of the character to spur children brainstorm solutions to help the character get out of trouble), the teaching guide includes valuable insights on the use of various strategies from principals, teachers and parents. The teachers shared useful ways to encourage creativity in children, and parents shared how the schools partnered them to bond with their children through drama-based activities.
LSH is the only preschool in Singapore to apply drama strategies in language teaching and learning. Drama strategies provide children with a fun and engaging way to learn Mandarin, and support the effective development of bilingualism in children. Piloted in 2015, it has been part of LSH’s regular curricula across all its 20 centres for Nursery 2 to Kindergarten 2 children since 2018.
All LSH Chinese teachers teaching N2 to K2 levels are trained in the method and receive continuous mentoring from renowned academic Dr Chen Renfu from the Department of Early Childhood Education in National Pingtung University. Dr Chen has been teaching drama for more than two decades, hosted more than 100 drama-related lectures and workshops in countries such as China, Singapore and Malaysia, and authored books on teaching Chinese and translated books on teaching drama.
The comprehensive guide is written by LSH’s educators and curriculum specialists based on their experience with drama pedagogy in LSH. It includes practical advice from principals and teachers on implementation in the classrooms.
Drama pedagogy is different from traditional Speech and Drama classes. It focuses on children learning during the process through various hands-on activities and critical thinking exercises. Besides language skills, it encourages the development of multiple skills including social skills, problem-solving skills and creative thinking. For example, the children will vote for their preferred picture book which they would like to perform, and convince their classmates to agree with their choice. In addition, the children will brainstorm and produce their own script, and also design and produce props and costumes for the performance.
“At Little-Skool House, we believe that children learn best when they are engaged and having fun. Inculcating a love of the language during a child’s foundational years will help them better retain the use of the language beyond school. We are proud to be the only preschool in Singapore to implement drama pedagogy as part of our core curriculum, which is carefully designed by our curriculum team in close partnership with Dr Chen Renfu. We believe that our innovative pedagogy is one of the reasons our children are highly bilingual,” said Ms Coreen Soh, General Manager of Little Skool-House and Chief Child Development Officer at NTUC First Campus.
A 2019 study conducted by Dr Setoh at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University has shown that 93 per cent of LSH’s K2 children are highly proficient in English and Mandarin.
“I believe that Little Skool-House serves as an exemplary model for promoting drama pedagogy in preschools. Although there have been numerous Chinese books on drama education in the Mandarin-speaking regions in Asia, ‘Exploring the World of Children’s Drama’ is the first book that stands out as it showcases drama pedagogy teaching practices by teachers and children. It not only focuses on practical examples of applying drama strategies, but also contains valuable feedback from parents, principals, and teachers. I believe that this book will be a very useful and helpful resource for anyone interested in learning about the implementation of drama strategies and for the schools promoting drama curriculum,” said Dr Chen.
Nellie Neo, whose six-year-old daughter Sonia attends school at LSH (On-The-Green), attributes Sonia’s competency in Mandarin to the literacy-based curriculum in the school. She also believes that her 10-year-old daughter Ines is good at Mandarin as a result of her time at LSH (At-Tampines-Junction).
“As my husband is a non-Mandarin speaker, our family conversations are mainly in English. I do try to speak Mandarin with my daughters individually, but I am not extremely proficient.
However, my daughters are competent in mandarin, especially in their expression and word recognition, which I attribute to their teachers at their preschools.Sonia is even able to converse with my elderly parents in mandarin!” Nellie said.
“Sonia will often share about her daily experiences at school and since I can see the teachers’ posted photos on the Parent app, we will jointly discuss. She also loves to sing mandarin songs which I absolutely love to hear! In fact, she will teach me and we will sing together! Sonia listens attentively when one speaks in Mandarin and comprehends fully. When I read Chinese books, she can recognise many Chinese characters too,” she added.
She added that her daughter, together with her classmates, learn mandarin through engaging songs, games and fun drama, and that her family joined in to create a costume for their drama characters. They were also invited by the preschool to watch the performances.
Capital 958FM (29 July 2023)
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