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  • Writer's pictureXin Rong

Exploring Lunar New Year at Astor through Mandarin Enrichment Classes

At Astor, students enrolled in the Mandarin enrichment class have embarked on an exciting journey to explore the significance of the Lunar New Year. 

Students drawing at the table for Lunar New Year at Astor International School

Throughout Term 3, the focus is on the twelve zodiac animals. This has sparked lots of curiosity amongst the children about the origins of these symbolic creatures. The students have delved into the intriguing story of an emperor's birthday celebration, a race, and the unique way in which each zodiac was assigned to a year. They learnt about the origin of the twelve zodiacs and wondered if it is a true story or a fable. 

In the captivating narrative, the emperor invites animals from his kingdom to participate in a race, and the first twelve to cross the finish line earn the honor of having a year named after them. The sequence of the victorious animals unfolds as rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, chicken, dog, and pig. This narrative provided a perfect opportunity for students to look deeper into the characteristics of each animal, bringing them to life through discussion.

Seizing the moment, the students engaged in creating masks representing the various zodiac animals. This hands-on activity served as a platform to explore specific details about each animal. For instance, they explored the Mandarin names for rats and learned about their dietary preferences. Additionally, the class discovered an interesting linguistic connection between the ox's horns (jiao 角) and legs (jiao 脚) in Mandarin. Students sang ‘head, shoulders, knees, and toes’ in Mandarin to familiarise themselves with the body parts too.

To further enhance the learning experience, students immersed themselves in Mandarin by singing familiar songs. The classic nursery rhyme "Two Tigers" accompanied the creation of tiger masks. The song, which humorously features tigers missing body parts, reinforced the students' understanding of Mandarin words related to body parts. This multi-sensory approach aimed to create a more immersive and enjoyable learning experience. This helped to reinforce what the students have learnt about body parts from the previous lessons. Listening and using words in varied contexts help students explicitly see how words can be applied and used in different settings. 

At Astor, the emphasis is on creating a holistic learning environment. Through varied activities like singing, crafting, and discussing animal characteristics, students not only absorb Mandarin vocabulary but also learn to apply these words in diverse contexts. This approach aligns with educational research highlighting the effectiveness of engaging students in hands-on, intellectually challenging, and meaningful activities for knowledge retention.

The exploration of the Lunar New Year and the 12 zodiac animals at Astor has proven to be an enriching and enjoyable experience for students taking Mandarin. By combining storytelling, hands-on activities, and language immersion, teachers aim to foster a deep understanding of Mandarin language and culture. As the journey continues, students eagerly anticipate uncovering more about the rich traditions associated with the Lunar New Year and its symbolic zodiac animals.

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