We learn Chinese by making popcorns

Sunday, July 05, 2015

This was L's Chinese homework from his enrichment class. Did you manage to spot his mistakes? 

Like many typical Singaporean kids, L does not have enough exposure to the Chinese language as we seldom speak the language. This is probably one main reason why the Chinese enrichment centres are booming in their business here. It doesn't help that we also read more English books than Chinese ones to him. Furthermore, L didn't have a Chinese teacher for a few months back in K2, so he was very far behind others in his Chinese proficiency. 

To supplement L's Chinese language learning, I bought a Chinese comic book on the Monkey God and read it with him. I also signed him up for weekly Chinese enrichment classes. I'm glad the enrichment lessons have been interesting enough to engage him, and the centre adopts a multi-modal approach to learning language. In this particular lesson, the children were given a worksheet to fill in adjectives to describe their eyes, ears, popcorn etc. The teachers showed a video of the popcorn making process, and they were also given some popcorns to bring home. L happily showed me his popcorn treat and ate them on the way home. 

However, after L completed this piece of homework, I realised he didn't retain the learning from that interesting lesson! He couldn't remember the meaning of the words and how to use them appropriately. I am quite sure it wasn't a failure of the lesson. Instead, it could be because he only looked at this piece of work one week later. 

So, my teacher-instincts prompted me to do this... 

 We made popcorns!

I know that popcorn making is easy and I've seen my mom do this when I was younger. But somehow, I have never made popcorns with my own kids. L's eyes brightened up when I told him that we would make popcorns that day. This boy is a snack-junkie, and he loves popcorns, so this impromptu idea might work on him. My only condition to L was that he had to do most of the cooking himself. He agreed immediately because IT WAS POPCORNS that we were talking about! L read the recipe, followed the procedures systematically, measured the ingredients carefully and did most of the cooking. 

Throughout the process, I repeated the phrases from his worksheet and got him to use the Chinese words that he was supposed to learn. Like, when I asked him to describe the popcorn kernels, he had to say 黄黄的玉米。And when the popcorn kernels were popping in the pot, he had to describe the sound by saying 噼啪噼啪的声音。 I also sneaked in some Math concepts.  

Slow and steady in measuring out the honey
Look at THAT face! Wonder what he was thinking about.
Popcorns almost done! 
Enjoying the fruit of his labour

Learning a language is like this, isn't it? Use it more, and it will stay on longer. Doing it himself also helped him relate the experience with the sentences on his worksheet again, and he managed to correct his mistakes on the worksheet.

Other than language literacy, cooking with children is also one of the best ways to train children to understand and execute the recipe systematically. With enough opportunities, they will be able to plan ahead and their cooking process will be more efficient. These skills also help them greatly in interpreting Science practicals, starting from primary school. You will be very surprised to know that a large number of my secondary school students lack the skills to understand Science experimental procedures properly, so they usually score very poorly in that component. And when I probe further, many of them have never helped out in their kitchen. 

You can get that original recipe we followed for this popcorn making process hereWe tweaked the recipe a little to include more honey and less salt as we prefer a sweeter version. Believe me when I say this is really super duper easy to make, and you get a pot of buttery, crunchy popcorns within 10 mins!

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  1. So fun! makes me want to go and pop some corn now!

    1. Great! Do you have a special recipe that you follow? I need one that makes popcorns that stay crunchy for a longer period! Please share your recipe/ tips with me if you have any!

  2. What a fun and interesting way to learn Chinese! Maybe I'll try it with Noah, since he loves popcorn as well. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh My Goodness! I was planning to make popcorns Friday or Saturday! But I didn't research on recipes and was considering buying Garrets instead actually. hahahah I may just attempt this then! How timely!

  4. We too make popcorn at home but mostly salty one with more butter for kids and this is a great idea to teach them too.

  5. It's such a great idea to rope them in and spice up teaching ! Im sure they have lots of fun!

  6. I read somewhere that children learn not from just textbooks and flash cards, but daily routines such as these. Kudos on you, mummy! The popcorn idea was really awesome!

  7. This is so fun! I wanna pop popcorns too while learning!

  8. Creative and fun, I'm gg to try make popcorn at home

  9. What a creative way to teach chinese! I am having issue with my boy's chinese name as he sound like an ang mo when he speak chinese. Thanks for sharing! And the popcorn look great!


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