A study of the effectiveness of a school-based Chinese characters curriculum for Non-Chinese speaking kindergarteners: HongKong experience
The number of non-Chinese speaking (NCS) young children learning Chinese in HongKongisincreasingyearbyyear.Chineselanguage teachers in kindergarten badly in need of Chinese characters teaching materials, teaching methods and assessment designed especially for these young children. This study with reference to Integrative Perceptual Approach (IPA), second language learning theory, HongKong early childhood or all anguage development research results, and to consider the learning needs and difficulties of these NCS young children, designs a set of school-based the Chinese character curriculum, teaching materials and teaching methods. In order to prove the effectiveness of this curriculum, textbooks and teaching methods, this study invited a kindergarten which mainly serves NCS young children to participate in a teaching experiment. There are a total of 35 NCS young children (studying in high or low class), and 2 of their Chinese language teachers participated. All young children receive pre-, mid- and post-tests, and the items include “matching pictures to characters”, “matching characters to pictures”, “matching characters to sounds”, “audio mental vocabulary”, as well as “free writing Chinese characters”, to evaluate how well they identify Chinese characters' shape, sound and meaning, as well as the ability to write Chinese characters. In addition, the low retention rate of NCS young children is the mainly focus of this study too. As a result, a longitude study has been conducted to monitor the Chinese character learning performance of low class NCS young children one year after the end of this study (conducted two additional post-tests). Research findings (including mean, effect size and paired samples T-test) confirm a significant learning progress of these young children, particularly in “matching pictures to characters” and “matching characters to sounds”. The results prove that the curriculum is effective to enhance NCS young children's Chinese listening and speaking ability, and ability to recognize Chinese characters. For the ability to write Chinese characters, most of the young children in this study can write some Chinese characters to express themselves independently. This also proves that this curriculum play a role in the initial development of NCS young children's ability to write Chinese characters. Longitude study found that the Chinese language ability of NCS young children in low class develop continuously even after the end of this study. The problem of low retention rate seems to be resolved. Furthermore, their performance in “matching characters to sounds”, audio mental lexicons, total score of audio mental lexicon, and total scores of the whole test are higher than those in high class. The results further indicate that this curriculum has remarkable effect to enhance NCS young children's Chinese characters ability, resolve the problem of low retention rate, and also state that the early the children learn Chinese characters, the better performance they will have.
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