K has been attending KidStartNow for two years, and the centre deserves lots of credit for her consistent results and her great interest in the language. It was one of her best subjects in school this year, and just yesterday when my cousin was asking her about her first year of primary school, she said “I like Chinese.” Yay and phew.
So when KidStartNow asked about reviewing their Holiday Camp (2 hours daily for four days), it was a resounding yes! To get kids excited about the camp, a postcard arrives in the mail about a week prior to that, with a cute activity. There was a little maze to complete, and K drew a picture of how she thought she could get the gem back from the big bad wolf! She drew it free hand from looking at the front of the postcard, and I thought it was a really good effort!
The centre at Bedok Central (7 min stroll from Bedok MRT) is nicely done up, with invitingly decorated study rooms, and large pictures of the key characters from their animated story books.
There’s also a mini library corner, stocked with good Chinese books, that students can borrow to read at home.
So what are their holiday camps like?
There are two broad categories – a class focusing on conversational Chinese for 3-6 year olds, and another focusing on show-and-tell as well as word recognition for 6-8 year olds. This time, the animated story revolves around the baby panda who cried wolf, an interesting twist to the old tale. Children learn alongside baby panda, as he realises how important it is to always tell the truth.
Here are some screen-grabs I took – love the cute characters! During class, the teacher pauses every few scenes, to ask the kids questions, and to reinforce certain terms with them. So the cartoon is effectively used as a learning tool. There are also two levels of cartoons – one with simpler terms for the younger kids, and another version with more idioms for older kids.
A link to the animated story book used that day is also sent to parents daily, so that they can watch it again at home to reinforce the learning. During term time, the animated story book links come with a quiz, so students can practice on their newly acquired vocabulary. Upon completion, the kids chalk up an electronic ‘gold coin’, which is a great motivator!
Here are some more details of the various classes.
ROLE-PLAYING AND CONVERSATION CAMP (3-6 YEAR OLDS)
- Focus on role-playing and oral conversation and not on word recognition
- More fun and less academic vs regular enrichment classes
- Develops interest in reading and learning Chinese through animated storybooks
- Max of 8 students to a class ($295 per child, early bird and group discounts available)
This was particularly fun because apart from interesting songs tied into the theme of the camp (B came back singing a really catchy “狼来了,狼来了” song and another called ” 变变变”). She also regaled us with stories of how one day, she wanted to be “机器狼” because she didn’t have to ‘freeze’ during the acting, and could display some kung fu moves. The next day, she told us that she wanted to be “熊猫妹妹” again! She certainly sounded like she was constantly engaged.
I signed B up since she’s still not very fluent in the language, but she’s always interested in Chinese sticker books that are one of our mummy-daughter activities. Sometimes, she’s hesitant in going to a new class by herself, but the warmth and great enthusiasm shown by Teacher Lee meant that she settled in very quickly. Overall, this camp definitely gave a boost to her vocabulary, and improved her confidence in speaking the language.
SHOW AND TELL AND WORD RECOGNITION CAMP (6-8 YEAR OLDS)
- Prepares kids for show and tell in primary school by boosting oral confidence and vocabulary
- Show and tell presentation in front of classmates on the last day together with fun role-playing activities
- Boosts vocabulary and builds interest in reading through animated storybooks
- K2 kids who join this camp must have a requisite level of spoken Chinese
- Max of 10 students to a class ($295 per child, early bird and group discounts available)
There was some writing practice, games on one day, and craft time on another day. K loves craft, so this was one of her favourite aspects of the camp. The top scorers (who answered the most questions during the camp) with the most ‘gold coins’ were rewarded with cute jewel stickers too. K came back toting a little sack of stickers and was very proud that she had earned the most number of gold coins.
I chatted with Teacher Liu, who comes across as a very experienced teacher. From her, I learnt quite a bit about how the class is structured and received feedback on K and her learning. Glad to hear that she’s learning well.
What I like about the centre is its sincere approach towards helping children embrace the language, instead of being very commercial, as some centres tend to be. I think this is largely due to the fact that its founder (Dan Tang) is actively involved in running the centre (we always see him there), and his ethos in setting it up.
Here’s a short email interview with Dan, so we get a closer understanding of what makes KidStartNow tick.
1. What inspired you to start up KidStartNow as opposed to any other business?
I was raised in an English-speaking family and found learning Chinese a big struggle growing up – I often questioned why I needed to learn Chinese (a language I hardly used outside class) and it wasn’t until I lived and worked in Taiwan that I began to enjoy learning Chinese. With KidStartNow, I hope to help kids like me, kids who are raised in English speaking families enjoy learning and using Chinese from a young age and help them excel in school.
2. How does KidStartNow differentiate itself from other Chinese enrichment centres? What additional value do you think KidStartNow provides?
- We hire only the best teachers – English speaking kids tend to require more encouragement and activities that interest them, and we only hire teachers that are extremely passionate and experienced.
- We are the only centre that produces our own animated storybooks based on the MOE syllabus – we believe reading is key to language acquisition and our stories help our students learn vocabulary and sentence structures in a fun way vs memorising word lists.
- We are the most advanced Chinese enrichment centre – we create our own analytics software to track each child’s progress, so teachers are better able to target each child’s weaknesses and help them improve faster.
3. How do you come up with holiday camp themes and how does a typical holiday class differ from the usual enrichment class during normal term time?
We try to ensure all our classes are both educational and fun for kids – however, typically regular classes are slightly more academic, while holiday camps are slightly more fun. The difference in focus affects our workflow – with regular classes, we start with categories of words and idioms we want to teach kids, and then brainstorm about potential stories. With holiday camps, we start with a moral message we wish to impart, then we think of what sort of stories and words can we teach (this camp is about “Honesty” while the last camp was about “Sibling love and cooperation”, etc). In addition, typically there’s greater focus on oral activities and role-playing during holiday camps, while for regular classes, more weightage is given to word recognition, writing, examination preparation, etc.
4. What are your aspirations for your own children, when you have them in future?
My girlfriend wants our kids to dare to dream and be happy, while for me, I want our kids to not fear failure and keep improving every day. It would also be really cool if our kids enjoy coding so I can build robots with them 🙂
So if you’re looking for an place with teachers who can enthuse your child about the Chinese language, drop them a call, or PM them on their Facebook Page to ask for more details – responses are always friendly and prompt!
Address: 209 New Upper Changi Road, #03-649
Tel: +65 6481-1932 / 98207272
Note: KidStartNow generously extended an invitation to participate in the holiday camp for the purpose of this review.