Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Great Moscow Circus Singapore 2018

Boasting the world’s most dangerous and death-defying acts, including the Wheel of Death and the Motorbike Sphere of Fear, THE GREAT MOSCOW CIRCUS sees the mighty red and white circus big top transformed into an astonishing, high octane, fun-filled entertainment destination.
The above was taken from The Great Moscow Circus website and truth to those words, it was an absolutely stunning and magnificent show ever!  We know it because we were there on their opening night on 25 October 2018!  Be prepared to sit at the edge of your seat, feeling tensed, excited and experiencing moments where your heart is in your mouth.  And remember cheer your lungs out for the great performance by all the superstar artists~

This circus is THE talk of the town because it is back after its last appearance here a decade ago, bringing along 16 acts from Russia and beyond!  So all eyes are on the artists who are expected to give their best during the 2 hours show (excluding 15mins of interval).  We were not disappointed!

On that day, we went to the circus feeling excited and full of anticipation, here's us with our exited grin, posing in front of the Big Top Tent.

Look who I spot while strolling in after clearing the security post?  My favourite local artist Ms Zoe Tay doing an interview and posing for photo with a few circus artists.

After snapping that photo we proceeded further in to take photos with some of the props around the small area.  Now that DinoBoy is older, he doesn't like to pose in front of photo props or wall, but he will do it to "entertain" this Mama thus we only have this one photo to share.

We quickly went into the tent and settled down on our seats while waiting patiently for the show to start. We were sitting near the ring entrance, sort of the back of the ring, we realized that we aren't getting the best view of the ring, this means that we will be looking at the back of the artists most of the time *bummer*.  Due to this reason we will only share with you videos and photos of best shots we took on that day.  Nonetheless, there are a handful of bloggers who attended the opening night, they are seated at different part of the ring so do a search and you will be able to see some of the other acts that we did not post here.

So, let's go!  Take a look at some of the acts you will be seeing at The Great Moscow Circus!

Stars from TV show 
You probably watched how Britain’s Got Talent contestant Sascha Williams with his Rolla Bolla balancing act and America’s Got Talent contestant Sixto and Lucia with their quick changing of clothes act stunned the judges, now you have a chance to see them up close and personal. 

Here's Sascha and part of his act on that day, or rather the back view of him (lol).  Now you understand our "plight"?

I have always like the wardrobe changing act since I was young and will glue my eyes to the TV to see if I can catch any flaws or see any loopholes during the act.  I never once managed to catch it, they change the clothes in a fraction of nano seconds.  In Sixto and Lucia's act they pulled it off without a hitch, a few shakes of the curtains and VOILA~ clothes changed!

The Catwalk Trampoline
The show started off with these acrobats jumping off the huge transparent structure onto the 2 huge trampoline to the upbeat music brought us immediately into an anticipating mood.  They wowed us with their acrobatic stunts, bouncing gracefully and effortlessly onto the trampoline in somersaults and flip while nimbly weaved through the structure. Bravo act!

Wheel of Death 
When these double giant wheels or Wheel of Death were pushed out into the ring, every one was in awe!  After they finally secured it and started to raise these wheels up I had a feeling that I am watching an Autobot transforming right before my eye!  I was too excited beyond words that I forgot to take a video of the process.

Here's a teaser of their act in the 2nd video, looks simple and easy but we were already cheering out loud for them (yupe that mad wow-ing was us in the background), wait till the acrobats get to the climax of their act, you will be so light headed from watching their dangerous stunts!

Globe of Death 
If the double wheels are Autobots than this 6.5 ton of steel, The Globe of Death feels mighty and indestructible like Jaegers in Pacific Rims. Just look at how it make its way out into the ring in a painstakingly slow pace.  This metal cage has to be a strong and sturdy to withstand the sheer speed and force caused by 5 motorcycles zipping round and round in high speed.

I didn't managed to catch all their act on video, this partial video was all I got and it definitely did not do justice to it.  You really have to be there on site to feel the adrenaline rush and the nail biting danger these riders went through.  

A note of caution, from where we were siting we can smell a strong whiff of petrol during and after the act, it wasn't choking but just an irritate to the nose.

Mega Skippers 
Some of us are skipping the rope as a form of exercise, we know it is takes a lot of stamina and persistent to continue skipping for that long to burn off some fats in our body. Imagine having to perform stunts while skipping to at least two ropes at the same time!

In this series of photo below you can see The Mega Skippers jumping with THREE ropes!  Not only do they have to swing the rope around for other team mates to jump, they have to jump to another rope too.  Amazing!

The Mega Skippers makes skipping as a big group looks so easy but we know that timing and coordination is an important factor, I bet they have to keep their eyes glued to a few things to ensure they don't mess up the act.

The Contortionist 
The only act that I can't bear to watch is The Contortionist.  I mean, it is one thing to be ultra flexible physically but it is another thing when a person can dislocate joints from all parts of his body easily and strike a pose with it. 

Here you can see The Contortionist coming out from what seems like a 2 feet fish tank to me.  How could some one so tall and *ahem* handsome fit himself into that small space???  This act was, as DinoBoy said "too cringingly painful to watch" thus I did not take any more photos or video after this short clip.  If you want to see more, go search for his act in the web, you will definitely be able to find some video of it.

The Ringmaster and the Clowns
The most important people in a circus is not the acrobats or jugglers, it is the Ringmaster and the clowns.  The Ringmaster plays an important role to keep the show going on smoothly and introducing the act before it starts.  Moscow Circus Ringmaster Stanislav Knyazkov did a wonderful job on that, together with his sidekick Vas  the funniest clowns Dmitry Shindrov and Bella, they kept the audience entertained with their witty act and the atmosphere lighthearted  in between acts or while equipment are being set up.

Stan and Vas

Dmirty and Bella
Everyone should go to the Moscow Circus
What makes The Great Moscow Circus a show not to be missed besides death-defying and daredevil stunts is that each act was performed without any safety rope attached to the artists nor safety net below them to "catch" them in case they miss a step and fall.  Such daring move only meant that the artists have absolute confidence in themselves and their team mates to execute their acts in 100% perfection.

Be captivated, charmed and wowed by jugglers, illusionist, bad ass bikers, aerial acrobats and clowns.  These amazing artists either come from generations of circus performers or are international performers. 

Dance to the lively music performed by a 3 man live band, which is something you rarely see in most circus.  The band provide music to all the acts throughout the 2 hours show, they even had a snippets of interactive performance with the Ringmaster. 

If like me, you have excitedly watched circus only on TV or internet you will be thrilled to see them in real life!  Trust me, nothing beats seeing these astounding performances happening right in front of your own eyes!

A truly fun-filled show that the whole family will enjoy, not forgetting making it a memorable day for every one. DinoBoy and I were cheering and screaming in excitement on top of our voice throughout the whole 2 hours.  This just show what great performance these superb artists gave!

Grab your tickets before it is SOLD OUT!

About the Big Top Tent
Wipe the image of a HUGE breath taking Big Top that you saw in the movies, or in other circus you have seen in real life, The Moscow Circus Big Top Tent is nothing of that sort.  It probably look tiny as compared to those tents.  However, the size of the tent does not mean compromising of sitting comfort and viewing pleasure.

The full air conditioned BIG TOP TENT stands at a circumference of 40m and about 18.5m high, the seats are elevated, and tiered, enough space to guarantee that when you raise your arms to cheer you do not land your elbow on your neighbour's head *ouch*.

The fully air-conditioned tiered tent can accommodate 1,600 people a show, with no audience member being more than 11m from the action in the ring.
- Straits Times

Even though the Big Top Tent promises a good view for every one but there will be some seats with restricted view either because of the steel poles that holds up the tent or the seating arrangement.  We were seated at Section G and there was a steel pole on our right (as you can see in our videos) we pretty much have a small window to watch some of the acts.

Take a look at the seating plan below and decide which section you want to get. If you have the money to spare and wanted a once in a life time experience of watching the act up close and personal then I strongly suggest that you go for ringside seats.

Seating Plan taken from SISTIC

Things to do before heading to the Big Top Tent

  • Have you dinner first unless you can survive on expensive popcorn and drinks for the next 2.5 hours.
  • Visit the little boys or little girls rooms at Marina Bay Convention Centre; unless you don't mind doing your business in those portable toilet that can be found near the Snacks Bar.
  • The air condition system in the Big Top Tent is strong, you may need a jacket if it gets too chilling for you but I doubt so because you will be too pumped up with adrenaline to feel the cold.

Things to note

  • Infant in arms and children below 3 years old may be admitted without a ticket.  Patron 3 years and above must purchase a ticket for entry
  • Show starts on the dot at 7.30pm so arrive early to avoid missing part of the act.
  • No Flash Photography, Video recording and Audio recording are permitted for this event.
  • No outside food or drinks allowed

Show Details
The Mighty Big Top,
Bayfront Avenue,
next to Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Show Date
25 October 2018 to 25 November 2018

Show time
Tue - Fri: 7.30pm
Sat & Public Holidays: 12pm & 4pm
Sun: 11am & 3pm

Tickets Pricing
Standard : S$155, S$145, S$135, S$115, S$95, S$85, S$65
Child [3 to 12 years old]* : S$135, S$125, S$105, S$85, S$75, S$55
Senior Citizen [60 years and above]: S$135, S$125, S$105, S$85, S$75, S$55
Restricted View : S$85, S$65
Restricted View (Child) [3 to 12 years old]* : S$75, S$55
Restricted View (Senior Citizen) [60 years and above] : S$75, S$55

Online Booking
Visit SISTIC for booking

Disclaimer : We were invited to the opening night of The Great Moscow Circus by Sliding Doors Entertainment for the purpose of this post, no other compensation were received. All photos and videos in this post belongs to The Dino Family, you may not use them without our prior permission.  All opinions in this post are 100% ours and based on our experience during the show.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Be better prepared for PSLE with My English School

These days, our Sundays have gotten busier with DinoBoy attending support lessons at an English school. Thus far we have been coaching him on our own. However, we realized that there are some components in English for which we need to seek professional help.

Earlier this year we were given an opportunity to connect with My English School, and after attending a full term we decided to continue with them. This was mainly to help DinoBoy prepare for the last leg of Primary school – the PSLE or Primary School Leaving Examination.

Why did we make this decision now?
As far as language is concerned, the schooling system in Singapore has a bilingual education policy. This means that kids are taught both English and mother tongue: Mandarin, Malay or Tamil. English is also officially the main language of instruction in all subjects (except for mother tongue, of course). So, if a child doesn’t understand the fundamentals of English, they would probably struggle with other subjects as well.

Have you seen the primary school science and mathematics open-ended questions? Some are so complex that they could even confuse us adults. Kids who are weak in English have to struggle with understanding the language first before they can even attempt to solve these questions! It is undoubtedly an exasperating experience for them.

I feel that to master a language we must be able to articulate our thoughts using the right vocabulary to form logical and grammatically correct sentences. This is where DinoBoy struggles. Although he is articulate, he is not great at penning down his thoughts.

That is why I decided that it was time to get some help.

Why My English School?
My English School teaches children aged 2.5 to 12-years-old mainly at two levels – pre-primary and primary. Children are taught a variety of subjects including phonics, reading and primary school English.

They have their own in-house materials written by experienced curriculum writers who are former Ministry of Education (MOE) teachers. Therefore, we can be certain that their materials and classes are aligned to the current MOE syllabus.

Pre-primary classes
Younger children are taught through a systematic, structured reading programme to cultivate their phonemic awareness – i.e., the relationships between letters and sounds in the language.

Phonics is more than just knowing to pronounce a word. Knowing how to pronounce a word does not necessarily mean that the child understands the meaning of it, or its application. My English School recognizes this and have designed four levels of phonics classes to help students as they progress.

Primary Classes
After kids have gained confidence reading independently, they are promoted and prepped for English in Primary school.

My English School Primary programme provides ample support to children to ensure they have a good foundation before they enter Primary One.

You might agree that there are a few components in the English syllabus that kids struggle with – namely comprehension, comprehension cloze, composition and oral. The PSLE preparation classes aim to hone the techniques in these components so that they have greater confidence in tackling them during the examination.

DinoBoy seen here with the Centre's Manager
Here's what I particularly liked about MES:
Small class size
My English School classes are conducted in a classroom that can comfortably accommodate nine to 10 students and the teacher. I like this small student-teacher ratio because the teacher gets to know the kids better and is able to effectively help them in their weak areas.

Parents aren't allowed in class so this Mama had to take photo through the small window at the door
Lesson Structure
According to DinoBoy, his teacher first checks the previous week’s homework. She then helps the kids if they have any queries pertaining to the homework. The day’s lesson follows. DinoBoy further shared that classes are not boring nor rigid. Instead, they are “fun” and engaging, and sometimes games were played to help them learn new words or phrases.

Teacher guiding DinoBoy on Comprehension
MOE aligned curriculum
This is very important to me. The classes are made up of the following three categories:
  1. Productive Skills : Writing, Speaking, Representing
  2. Receptive Skills : Reading, Listening, Viewing
  3. Language Skills : Grammar, Vocabulary
Each week the teacher focuses on a different area, and I like that every component is given equal attention. Kids also have ample opportunities to practice and master their “answering techniques”.

How My English School helped with our challenges
Below is the examination format taken from SEAB or Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board, indicating the marks allocated for each component of the English paper. In DinoBoy's case, his challenges are composition, comprehension, comprehension cloze and oral: these carry the most marks.

I strongly believe that if he is able to improve his score in these components, his overall English marks will improve significantly.

Challenge #1 - Writing
Having difficulties transforming his ideas into written words becomes a problem for composition and comprehension for DinoBoy because these two components require him to write fluently. Without the ability to write confidently he is not able to produce a creatively crafted composition, nor answer the comprehension questions in logical sentences.

Language learning comes easy for me but I face difficulty when it comes to teaching. I tried to guide DinoBoy to expand his thoughts on composition story lines such as using the 4W1H method but failed miserably.

How My English School helped
At school, DinoBoy learnt to use the 4W1H method together with plot graphs and suspense indicator graphs to create an outline for his composition. However, I felt it didn’t work well as he scribbled (see below picture) words/phrases on the graph with ideas and story lines etc.

I also realized that he sometimes misses certain points written down on the graph which makes him veer off the topic. This causes him to not be able to resolve the problem or conclude the story.

My English School's simple helping sheet - my composition plan - lists out the necessary components required for the writing. This enables him to visualize his story better. There is also a section for him to write "power words" that he thinks should be used in his composition. These power words or phrases will definitely fetch him some extra marks!

Another plus point is that the teacher requests the students to read comprehension passages aloud. This not only gets the kids’ attention, but also allows them to practice for oral as she asks them to pay attention to their pronunciation, speed, pitch/tone when reading.

DinoBoy shared that his teacher encourages them to find the answer, but doesn’t point it out to them.

Challenge #2 - Oral
At school, DinoBoy has English read-aloud programmes per term, for which he scored level 4 out of 5 for both read-aloud and stimulus-based conversation. His form teacher commented that this is because his reading is not smooth, and that he hesitates.

During oral examinations, the examiner not only expects the student to speak confidently, but they also focus on good pronunciation, clear articulation, expressiveness and rhythm while reading and conversing.

I have tried to help him but it hasn’t proven to be successful as our ideas never match. I feel he needs someone to guide and coach him in this area but the school is unable to do so due to their tight teaching schedule.

Last year I shared briefly that DinoBoy has a mild stammering issue, which added to the problem. This not only affects his oral fluency – especially when he is in an exam-induced stressful situation – but it also has a major impact on his overall score.

How My English School helped
Upon starting classes at My English School, I informed the teacher about DinoBoy's slight stammer. I love that she took note of the problem and worked to help my boy.

To this day she keeps me updated about this, and recently mentioned that the stammering has reduced quite a bit. Her advice to him was to calm down, gather his thoughts and talk slower during a conversation or when answering questions.

Now that he has the guidance of a professional, I am confident that he will be better prepared in his oral exams when he sits for PSLE later this year.

DinoBoy's 1st Oral assessment
Continuous assessment progress reports
I received My English School’s term report before the end of the term. The students were graded on six main criteria.

We also had a parent-teacher meeting and I am heartened by the teacher’s feedback. She said that based on the two class tests done this term, DinoBoy is a strong middle B student. She added that if we continue working hard together he can easily push his mark to an A!

Final thoughts – kudos to teachers!
I believe that a child learns faster and better if they are able to connect with their teachers. Besides ensuring that the teachers are qualified, how they interact with students are of upmost importance too.

I remember asking DinoBoy about his first class at MES. All he said was, "ok lor, same as school." However, when I asked him about his teacher, his face lit up immediately. He excitedly told me that his teacher was friendly and approachable and that he loved to listen to her interesting stories.

She seems to be a big part of why DinoBoy is doing well at My English School.

But what was most touching was when he said that she encouraged him when he was unable to articulate his ideas and praised him for trying.

Despite having to wake up early on weekends to get ready for class, DinoBoy never protests; instead he looks forward to his class!

Even though there was no significant improvement in DinoBoy's results at his mid-term continuous assessment, I decided to let him continue with My English School mainly because I see tremendous potential for improvement if we continue on with the school.

I noticed that:
- When he does his school work, he no longer struggles with story line construction as he uses My English School's method of composition planning.
- He takes time to read through the comprehension cloze passage twice in order to understand the passage.

Back then with about five months to PSLE preliminary examination, we really do not have much time left. But I am confident that with the support from his teacher at My English School, DinoBoy's English results will definitely improve.

If you are interested to know more about My English School, check out their centre locations and give them a call. Alternatively, if you would like to let your child start their learning journey with them, simply just book an assessment with them.

Disclaimer: We were given a complimentary one term lesson at My English School for the purpose of this advertorial post. All photographs in this post belong to My DinoFamily, you may not use them without our permission. All opinions in this post are 100% based on our experience with My English School.

PS: For privacy purpose DinoBoy's My English School classmates were told to look down or hide their face when photos were taken so it is not that they are sloppy or uninterested in their lessons. On the contrary, they have excellent learning attitude!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Conquering Chinese Comprehension

Okay, raise your hands if your kid scores badly for Chinese.  *sigh* we are in your shoes too. Chinese is not DinoBoy's strong subject, when he failed the subject in Primary 2 we thought he would have put in more effort to work on the subject but apparently the effort is not enough.  His score averagely 60 marks through the years.  A 2nd bomb dropped onto his lap when he failed the subject by 2 marks earlier this year in CA1.  I almost passed out and disowned him!  When I laid my hands on Paper 2, my heart stopped a second time..  he scored 7 out of 22 marks in comprehension.  How in the world does someone score that kind of marks???

I realized that we have to do something about it otherwise the consequences will be disastrous!  

We attended the PSLE Chinese workshop earlier this year; you can read about it here, I decided to put the tips we learned on that day to good use.  And I am happy to share that DinoBoy scored better on his school's Chinese practice papers and passed SA1, not in flying colors but with a good grade.

I am heartened to see that he scored more marks in his comprehension, one of his weakest section and pulling down his overall marks.  I am sharing the tips I learned with you, hope it will help your child fare better in comprehension.

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When tackling comprehension I am sure the students know the drill very well but not many of them do it even though it has proven that those who did score higher marks than them.

Things to do before attempting comprehension questions
1. Read the passage carefully, preferably at least 2 times during this stage.
Most of us do not like to do this because we think we understand the passage with just one reading.  Well, that is true but for comprehension we are reading the passage with a purpose.

1st time reading - understanding the passage, identifying the theme/topic
2nd time reading - identify the 4W; Why Where When What of the passage or each paragraph.

2. Regardless of the comprehension passage story line, there is only ONE main theme or topic, once you have identify that answering the questions will be easy.  Here are some of the theme/topic as shared by the trainer (my English translation may not be exact but the meaning is still about the same).

- 热于助人 Being helpful to others
- 孝顺父母 Being filial to parents
- 为别人着想 Thinking of others
- 尊敬他人 Showing respect to others
- 团结合作 Cooperation & teamwork
- 做人要诚实 Honesty

Things to do while attempting comprehension questions
1. Read the questions at least 2 times, yes even for the questions.

1st time reading - understanding the question being asked.
2nd time reading - highlight important information such as "question. type", "character" and "keywords/sentences" either with different colored highlighters or by drawing lines, squares or circles.  Use this method while reading comprehension passages and questions.

See example below where circled words are "question type", underlined words are "character" and  squared words are "keywords/sentences".

Question example for notes/email/sms writing

Question example for comprehension
2. Read the passage; this would be your 3rd time reading it, to have a rough idea where are the answers.

3. Identify the answers by highlighting or underlining it with a different colored pen and indicate question number beside it.

Here are 2 example of DinoBoy's work on the comprehension passage.  He uses different colors to represent different important information every time, depending on his mood at that moment.

If you make it a habit to do all the above, you are already half way to success in conquering comprehension.  

Next, it is the answering part that will determine whether you succeed or failed miserably.

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Scoring marks are as easy as 1-2-3
Frankly, it is not difficult to answer and score comprehension but students find it challenging because most of them are not strong in this language thus they have problems understanding the passage or unable to form logical answers with grammatically error free sentences. Well, I have a good news for you, unlike English comprehension, students are allowed to lift the whole sentence or paragraph when answering Chinese comprehension questions. That makes scoring so much easier!

Having said that, you must also ensure that you have written ALL the answers to get the marks. How to be sure that you have given all the answers?

Number #1 - Marks allocation
A good gauge would be by looking at the marks allocated for each question. The rule of thumb is for a 2 marks question you have to give 2 VALID points/reasons as answers, a 4 marks questions may required AT LEAST 4 points.

Now the keyword to the above bold sentence is VALID, this means the answer will have the key points, no marks will be given if unnecessary points are given.

Number #2 - Finding the answers
Kids are taught by their teachers to find answers by looking at similar words that appeared in both the passage and question, this may probably help you in getting the answer but they have to understand the context of the passage to pluck out the correct answers.

Do bear in mind that sometimes answers for a question can be found in different paragraphs, the reading & highlighting you have done during the earlier stage would have enabled you to identify all the answers.  Read the passage again; 4th time reading the passage, to be sure that you have highlighted all the answers.

If answers for a particular question are all over the passage, it will make things easier to indicate question number with an extension, e.g Q38.1, Q38.2.  Once you have written that sentence in the answer put a tick against it so that you know you did not miss out anything.

Number #3 - Answering Techniques
Now that you have highlighted all the answers, it is time to organise them and present them in a correct and orderly way to get those marks!  Since we are able to lift the whole sentence off the passage, half the remaining battle is won so try not to use your own words to reconstruct the sentence.  Also check you answer after you have written to ensure the answers are there, sentence construction makes sense etc.

Here's how to tackle a few common questions that earn u full marks if you answer them correctly.

Common Question 1
During my time I was taught to answer question in full, such as the 1st part of the following question "我认为礼貌在我的生活里很重要。" instead of just answering "重要。" but DinoBoy told me that his teachers told them it is fine to just answer the latter, on the other hand I also hear from friends that their kid's school do not accept that.  Therefore, I strongly suggest writing a full answer, it doesn't cost much to write those extra words but it will cost us precious marks if we just write the one or two word answer.

Common Question  2
One of the frequently seen comprehension question is to ask the kids to give their life experience in relation to part 1 of the question; as seen in the above and following questions.
Most of the kids are stumped when they encounter such question because they are not exposed to enough life situations (let's face it, we pamper and bubble wrap them too much) to give example.  I tell DinoBoy that even if he did not experience the situation just make up some stories, if it sound logic or morally correct  he should score some marks.  Again, use the marks allocated to gauge the length of answers, take a look at DinoBoy's answer to have an idea on answering the question.

An important thing to remember while answering 2 parts questions is that both parts must correspond to each other.

Common Question 3
Sometimes the students are asked the "Before-After" question, such as the one below.  This type of question indicates that a major event happened that caused someone's behaviour/opinion/action or a situation to change drastically. 

Identify the "before" and "after" events in the passage, do take note that the answer will usually be from at least 2 paragraphs.  Pick up the points from these paragraphs and answer them in separate paragraphs; the "before" and "after" paragraphs.  For this question lift as many words as possible from the passage, even if its a whole paragraph.

Common Question 4
Passage could be written in 1st or 3rd party view, the questions will also mention the same.  When answering such questions remember to use the same character name, e.g. 作者 author or 我 I/Me or  小男孩 little boy.

If the character is 我 I/Me, when answering question remember to put apostrophe on it - "我", such as the question example below as marks will be deducted if you did not add that to the word.

With that I have come to the end of my sharing on tips for conquering Chinese comprehension.  I hope they are clear to you.  If you have any questions do leave a message either at the comments section below or in my facebook page.

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Last but not least, as with other subjects "practice makes perfect".  The tips looks easy to follow but to be able to identify the answer(s), lifting it and writing answers in logical sense needs practice too.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Learning from the best during Secondary School Open House @ Primary 6

Remember we went for secondary school open house last year November when DinoBoy was in Primary 5?  If not, you can read it here.

Singapore Secondary schools host their open house in April/May and October/November every year, click here to see Open House Dates of Secondary Schools 2018.

Since we missed out April/May open house last year, I was determined not to miss them this year, especially for the school that DinoBoy set his mind on since Primary 1.  

With our experience last year we did not attend the Principal's Talk in both schools coz it's a bit dry and boring we already have specific target/aim in mind - to feel the vibes of the school and it's environment thus we start off with a school tour led by the students.   After that we made a bee line to where the action and activities were; the school hall or field for various clubs and uniformed group simmersion.

We do not encourage you to follow our footsteps, we skipped the talk because we weren't interested in understanding or knowing about the school, their achievements, the curriculum they are offering etc.  We had gather all these information either through word of mouth or on their website, some schools also have goodie bags for every one who comes to their open house where they will have such information in it too.

Like before, I let DinoBoy take the lead to walk around the school to see things that attracts him, trying to gain more understanding of the CCA through interactive and hands on activities.  Besides playing a couple of Chinese chest games (again! lol), checked out the Science and Robotics club he tried his hands on some "manly" sports such as shooting and fencing, got to know a bit more about NCC or National Cadet Corps which he did not have a chance to do so last year.  It was an eye opening experience for him.

This school has a showcase filled with items about our late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Wushu or martial art is DinoBoy's passion, even though this is not a niche for this school but he decided to check it out.  He did some tumbling, kicks, flips with the other boys under the instruction and guidance from the older boys and their coaches.  This is the first time I see him do those stunning wushu stuffs and I am impressed! 

I was curious about the daily schedule of students who got into the school through wushu Direct School Admission or DSA so I had a chat with the teacher in charge.  She shared that on top of the regular CCA days these students have extra training on a few certain mornings (I forgot how many days) just before the school starts.  Wow~ sure more hard work for these students.  

PS : I am not going to touch on DSA, you can click the link I provided above to read more detail about it.

DinoBoy felt wonderful after this try out, he learned something new that day and did some new stunts too.  I hope he will be able to continue pursue this passion when he is in secondary school.

WAH! He can jump so high!

Important : Information on changes to the DSA announced in March 2017 can be found here.

Learning from the best
This seems like a usual open house visitation day as before but something happened that made this an extraordinary experience.

When we reached the hall, I left DinoBoy and started to wander around the area before finding him at the same spot a while later, chatting with some students.  When I approached them, one of the boys turned to me and said "Madam, actually you don't push your son so hard.  Ya, he has to revise his work daily but he also gotta have time to rest too.  Don't stress him to much otherwise he may not do well in PSLE."

Well said boy!  

Curious by the boy's remarks, I asked DinoBoy later what were he and the boys discussing, he replied "Nothing much, just some chatting", casually mentioned that he asked them the following questions before reiterating their conversation.

How did you study to get into this school?  Was it by grades or DSA?

That small episode may seem like a normal conversation between kids but it revealed something else to me.

Raising an independent son means he gets to decide on many things, especially when the decisions are about him, so far DinoBoy has always shown us that he is clear and confident on taking such responsibilities.

The conversation with the boys showed me that DinoBoy has matured a little bit more in his thinking and planning skill.  By gathering information from those Secondary school boys who had walked the PSLE path before him, he can better plan his studying techniques and tactics. 

I believe these boys had changed his mindset too because during the June school holiday, he did not utter a single word of protest, whined or gave any excuse when I threw him past years test papers and assessment books for revision.  He diligently did the correction by copying the model answers, he even did 2 Chinese composition and let his teachers go through (I will share this in a later post).  We got a lot of work done during that month and both of us have a sense of achievement, it was the only school holiday that we didn't feel that it went to total waste.

School has started for 3 weeks, school work has piled up and we only managed to read 2 Chinese model composition passage but its better than not able to do anything. 

With 2 weeks left till Prelim Oral, I feel my anxiety kicking in, I am trying to stay as calm as a cat but it is getting difficult to control it.  I didn't want to transfer these anxiety to DinoBoy because we know he is feeling very stressed up as the exam day draws nearer.

With my heart in my mouth I will bravely fight on with DinoBoy till we slayed this PSLE demon and emerged in victory!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Marshall Cavendish Education PSLE Students' Chinese Workshop - Comprehension and Oral

This year DinoBoy will be taking his PSLE or Primary School Leaving Exam, a crucial year for him but our friend seems to be taking it lightly, he hasn't been doing his revision like he used to too.  When CA1 or Continue Assessment was near, he told us he had revised his work, confident in scoring good marks but when he received his results and saw that he flunked his Chinese he wasn't upset (because he was 2 marks short of passing), I couldn't believe my eyes, neither can his teacher!  I almost want to hold on to his shoulders, shake him so hard that his bones rattles in order to make him wake up his idea and to put in more effort on this subject.

After going through the CA1 paper together we realized that he is still not scoring good enough for comprehension, he shared that sometimes he does not understand the passage or his sentence construction especially for the last Open-end Question is incomplete thus unable to score marks.   We agreed to work on this area and since then he has been diligent in doing at least one comprehension a day if time permits (homework and CCA takes up much of his time), we are making slow but steady progress.

Our usual strategy to perfect DinoBoy's understanding on topics and answering questions are to do revision with assessment books and past year papers, however we know that these are not enough, we have to study smart too! 

Studying hard means more than memorizing work, format or formulas, we have to grasp the concept and familiarize with the answering techniques too.  How can we do that?  We were clueless too but we managed to learn a few tricks from Marshall Cavendish workshops where their workshop trainers shared examinations tactics and great studying tips.

Recently we were back at Marshall Cavendish Education to attend their 2 days PSLE Students' Chinese workshops held on 2 Saturdays with trainer Ms Cha Pei Pei.

Ms Cha Pei Pei is one of the selected few trainers who is not an ex-MOE teacher. She is very experienced teacher with more than 10 years’ experience tutoring primary and secondary Chinese. Her students gave very positive feedback on her teaching styles, use of technology and activities to create engaging lessons. She is an accomplished scholar herself, being a former ASEAN Scholar, a top performer in HSK Certificate of Chinese Proficiency and currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education.

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During this 2-day Chinese workshop, we touched on the following:
  • How to prepare for the oral exam
  • Comprehension answering techniques
  • How to take notes for a language subject
  • Ways to improve your command of the Chinese language and be ready for PSLE
  • Exam tactics
PS : Marshall Cavendish Education hold a separate workshop for composition because it requires a workshop on its own to learn the strategies and useful tip to score Chinese composition writing.

The first day of the workshop were spent going through the PSLE examination format and strategy in tackling comprehension.  I am sure the students know the drill very well when it comes to comprehension; things such as read the passage twice, highlight important information, read the question and try to find the answer from passage first before writing etc, but not many of them do it even though it may help them understand the passage and making it easier for them to answer the questions.   Ms Cha stressed on this "drill" and went through with the children again.  I believe that once you have make it a habit to do it,  you are already half way in conquering comprehension.

If you have been keeping close tabs on our education system, you would have come across this term "higher-order thinking" or HOT, seems like a big scary term but it is a concept education reform based on learning taxonomies.  In simple terms, it means the ability to process text at the level of evaluation, synthesis, analysis, and interpretation.  Below is an example of Bloom's Taxonomy that was being used during the workshop to help student decipher comprehension questions.

Let's take a look at a couple of the skills mention in the taxonomy and apply it on comprehension questions.

Remembering - this would refer to questions that ask about the 4W1H; Who, What, Why, Where and How.  Answers can be easily lift off the passage.

Who saved the dog?  How did the children solved the problem?

Evaluating - this would most likely refer to questions that carries more than 2 marks as they want the students to infer from the passage and derive with an answer.  Students must understand the theme or topic of the passage to answer the 1st part of the question correct.  They must be able to lift off the points to support their answer for the 2nd part of the questions.

After reading the passage, what do you think about Jack?  Why do you think of him this way?

For the above questions, it may be difficult for students who is weak in Chinese language or lack of vocabulary to describe a person's character, I know DinoBoy faces this problem.  Ms Cha gave a generous list of words for a person's character and shortcoming such as 和蔼可亲  乐于助人  坚持不懈  嫉妒   吝啬   喜欢批评别人 , the children can memorize a handful of it and use it in the answers.

The 2nd part of the day were spent putting what they had learn earlier to use by doing the situational writing and a comprehension passage.  After Ms Cha went through both the passages and questions with the children, they were given some time to complete it.  Once they have finished they can go up to her to have their work marked, just like in school they are required to do corrections and get it marked too.  All the trainers takes their job seriously so no slacking here, even if its just a workshop!

We went back the following Saturday to learn every thing that needs to know about oral.  If you are unaware, students are given 10 minutes to prepare for their oral, this includes reading the passage and watching the short video.

The workshop started off with the children taking turn to read aloud 2 passages, while one of them is reading the rest have to catch the mistakes that their friend made.  Mistakes such as misreading/mispronouncing words, missing out a word, tone & volume of their voice, reading fluency.  We are picking on these mistakes because during oral examination, students are assessed on the following : -
  • vocabulary
  • pronunciation
  • articulation
  • fluency
  • rhythmn
  • expressiveness
We still have to put in more effort to perfect DinoBoy's reading, he is still stammering a bit and he can't pronounce some of the words correctly.

Next, Ms Cha shared with the children the 12 broad topics that will has come out for stimulated-based conversation in the past years.  In the photo below you can see some example of broad topics with their sub-topics, here are some more example : -


I have concern on oral examination as I do not know the format nor the questions that will be given, I mean it is not Math or Science subjects where there are topics or concept that we can practice.  These 12 broad topics are definitely a great tips to us!   As DinoBoy's Chinese vocabulary is not as strong we can use these topics to practice more by having a short conversation or discussion, introducing any specific terms relating to the topics to him too, for example for 反恐演习 relating terms will be  全副武装的军人手持冲锋枪, 武装部队, 装甲.

As if the character strokes for some of the Chinese characters are not complicated enough, we also have to deal with Chinese polyphonic characters.  This is a challenge to the children and for the ones who are weak in this language it added on another level of learning challenge for them.   Ms Cha took some common examples of polyphonic characters to share with the children during the workshop so that they are familiar with it and do not mispronounce them during oral.
The last part of the workshop is a mini Chinese test that stressed all the children, this simple test is to see if they have put what they learned during the workshop to use. 

With that the workshop comes to an end.  Like before, Marshall Cavendish Education did not disappoint me, I left the workshop with new knowledge on PSLE examination format.  I am now less nervous about the oral examnination and have a vague idea how to prepare him for it.  Now that I know how the oral examination is being conducted I am also going to get the Chinese Oral Exam Guide for PSLE to help us.  You can purchase this online over here.

If you want to learn more about the strategies to help your child ace their exam I strongly suggest that you sign up and attend Marshall Cavendish Education workshop.  You can look at their workshop schedule over here.

Marshall Cavendish Education upcoming Chinese Workshops
14 April 2018 Effective Strategies for Chinese Comprehension 
21 April 2018 How Your Child Can Speak His Way to An A* in Chinese Oral Exam 

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Marshal Cavendish Education has generously sponsor slots in their How Your Child Can Speak His Way to An A* in Chinese Oral Exam workshop and a copy of Chinese Oral Exam Guide for PSLE to 3 lucky fans.

The trainer for the Chinese Oral workshop is Ms Shi Bin.  She is an ex-MOE teacher. She has over 20 years of teaching experience and is awarded MOE ‘Singapore Model Teacher of the Year’ in 2007.

Scroll down further to see our giveaway details.

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Giveaway Details
Prize : x3 bundle set of Marshall Cavendish Education parent workshop "How Your child Can Speak His Way to an A in Chinese Oral Exam (P1 - P6) on 21 April 2018" + Chinese Oral Exam Guide for PSLE
Contest Ends : 16 April 2018 @ 2359hrs
Open : Singapore
How to Enter :
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You May Also Like

A few of my mummy blogger friends have also attended Marshall Cavendish Education workshops, read about their review on different subjects for different primary level.

Disclaimer : We were invited by Marshall Cavendish Education to attend the PSLE Students' Chinese Workshop for the purpose of this post, no other compensation were received. The opinions in this post are 100% ours. All photos in this post belongs to The DinoFamily, you may not take it for personal use without permission.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Visiting Secondary School Open House @ Primary 5

On certain months every year, Secondary schools in Singapore will host open house for the 12 years old & their parents to visit so that they can take a peek at the school's facility, culture, environment, the CCA offered for DSA or Direct School Admission enrollment (there may be some changes next year so look out for the announcement from Ministry of Education), courses and options available after 4 years with the school.

Besides hosting open house we understand that different Secondary schools will visit Primary schools to introduce Secondary school life to the P6s with more in depth details where subjects, CCAs, programmes - Applied Learning or Learning for Life programme, etc will be covered.  We would like to leave this to the respective schools because I am sure they can provide all the necessary information to the kids.  Sure saves me the trouble of running around to gather the information (can slack must slack a bit hahaha!) but of course we still have to read up about it so that we can give advise to him when the time comes.  

Couple of few years ago I have heard friends with their then P6 or Primary 6 kids exclaimed that they should have went for Secondary school open house a year before because there are so many secondary schools and only a few days within the year to visit as many as possible.  

I took a mental note on that last year and THINK we probably should be a little bit kiasu and follow the crowd to attend as many Secondary school open house as possible this year since DinoBoy is in P5.  Months passed and guess what, I have forgotten about it till now!  Just shows how oblivious and forgetful Mum I am *opps!*  Luckily all is not lost coz some schools are hosting open house in November and we managed to go for it *phew!*

For those who are not familiar with Singapore education system you must be wondering why the kan cheongness or anxious feeling from the parents on selection of Secondary schools besides being a major exam for our kids and another phrase in their education journey.  With a few uncertain factors such as the deciding T-scores and COP or Cut Off Point, we really do not know where our kids will stand in the whole cohort of P6s in Singapore until the day they receive their PSLE result slip.  The feeling of uncertainty of the future can be really daunting especially when we cannot do anything to it till the very last minute.  The worse part is to shortlist 6 schools based on the result and submit the Secondary School List within a short time frame!  How not to have a nervous breakdown?

To settle this uneasy feeling of uncertainty, we create the "What-Ifs" scenario such as "What if I suay suay scored below 200?" - spend 5 years in either Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) lor, then "What if the Lord blessed or Guan Yin Ma or Tee Kong por-pi us and I scored over 290?" - the top schools will be fighting to have you in their school, the news media will want to interview you, your family and even your pet if you have one!  Errmm... the news media thingy most likely won't happen since the top scorer details are kept secret by MOE.

Okay okay, jokes aside.

Hence the hard working, ever so resourceful parents try to find out all about the Best/Better/Good/Average schools lest that small piece of paper throw us a curved ball, we will be well prepared to hit the ball back hard and move forward without breaking a sweat.

Regardless what news that small piece of paper brings, do remember that your child has did his or her best and you should celebrate the end of a tough 6 years journey you have walked through together and reaching the Finish Line together, side by side.
Why did we go ahead with Secondary School open house visiting?
During my time I didn't have the opportunity to go to any Secondary school open house, thinking back I wonder if they have such thing back then or not, anyway it was never a MUST or a concern to our parents who left it basically to us to decide.  I remember I "anyhow" picked 6 schools, clueless about the COP and every thing.  Of course I did not get into the top 3 choices and landed in my Secondary school, much to my Mum's dismay (Ya, she didn't think the school is a good school).  Fast forward to now, these open house are suddenly a matter that must not be taken lightly.

Whatever the reasons the P5s parents have for attending the open house, I believe every one of them has the best interest in their heart for their kids.  For us (IF we were able to attend the open house through the whole year) it is not to make a beeline to the schools that we want him to get in and make the decision for him.  Instead we went forth with one mentality and that is to just look-see look-see, this is because I think at the age of 11 and at this stage of his life, DinoBoy still does not know what lies in future for him.  To him its just going into another school to "study further", something that he dreaded since P1. He still does not know the importance of the 4 years secondary school life and that a good school or even a school that caters to his interest or preference will path a better way for his future. 

We wanted to let DinoBoy have a feel how Secondary school life will be for him 2 years later, to experience the different vibes & culture happening in both a SAP/elite school and a neighbourhood school, thus helping him in shortlisting a few schools that he feels strongly about and wish to further his 4 years Secondary education with in due time. 

Yes, the ultimate decision will come from DinoBoy.  We have groomed and raised him to be independent in his thinking and decision making, seeking us for advise when he is unsure.  So, as much as this school selection is a HUGE decision that can't be messed around, we still prefer to let him handle it.  We will of course provide advise and guidance or clear his doubts and queries on this issue but we will not interfere with his decision.  Wouldn't it be too much a risk for that?  Of course it is but we believe it is important that he feels comfortable and has a sense of connection with the school because he is going to spend most of the day, 6 days a week in that environment with his peers, gaining the necessary secondary school knowledge, supporting his interest and preparing for the future.

So, a few days before the open house date in November 2017, we short listed 3 schools to visit, 2 of them have wushu or martial arts as a niche CCA because DinoBoy has a passion for it and wishes to continue learning it, the other one is a reputable neighbourhood school.

What we did and noticed
It was interesting to see how the schools look so different the minute you stepped through the gate, it is not simply a building(s) that houses students for most part of the day as perceived from the outside any more.  The 3 schools that we visited were totally different from each other, from the school's environment, their students' behavior & attitude, the layout of the school.  You could say that we experienced culture shock 3 times all over again when we entered each school.

The schools hosted the open house with guided tour where their students will bring the parents and kids to designated spots around the school, introducing the school's history, the building, the size ("our school is one of the biggest in Singapore, it's about the size of 9 football fields." "O~kay~ so???" I thought to myself, me bad...), of course letting us know the school's achievements, the numerous trophies they won by different clubs and CCA.  After the tour you are free to roam around the school compound and visit any CCA rooms or booth or watch any CCA performance at the scheduled timing.

I let DinoBoy took the lead during the open house since this is all about him and his future, he asked the students questions if he has queries, tried his hands on a couple of things such as robotics, Chinese Calligraphy, science experience in a science lab etc.

What surprised me was that he actually sat down to play a game of Chinese Chess, double surprise that he beat the student in the game!  I knew he played Chinese Chest with DinoPapa these few years and since it was Father-Son bonding session I did not joined in nor know how well he played.  I told him that "the korkor pang zui lah~", which means that older boy probably did not put in 100% effort and gave him chance to beat him.  Trying not to make him get too big headed because the other boy supposedly to be way better than him.

Of course he watched the wushu performance too (how can we miss that!), he was wide eyed  and amazed by one of the school's wushu team performance, I think he would have jumped in to join them if there were no barriers separating them.

One of the school hang student's paintings on the wall along the corridors, these paintings are so exquisitely drawn with well presented specific themes that I think they are all talented painters or artists.  I understand later that school does not offer Arts as a course, too bad, I think many students would thrive in it.

At the end of the tour or before you leave the school, you will be required to do a feed back on your experience. We did ours or rather DinoBoy did his review using in iPads (so high tech), I have no idea what the questions are because I have no chance of even seeing it.

Our Conclusion
DinoBoy enjoyed all 3 school's open house, taking in every thing he saw and experienced, a few days later he told us firmly that he changed his mind about the Secondary school he wants to attend, he now wanted to go to one of the school we went to that day.  He hasn't visited the school he had his eye on since P3 though, so I will try to bring him to that school's open house if I can, see whether he will have any change of heart again or not.

Me?  "How come my secondary school don't have this back then?" "Why my secondary school not so cool as this?" "What! they have THIS (3D printer) now???"  These are some of the things that went through my mind through that day.  Ya I know, a bit mountain tortise right!  However, it has also broaden my mind and sight, allowing me to see how far secondary school and our education system has evolved.  They are more interactive, interesting and engaging as compared to my time.

Do I encourage Primary 5 kids to attend these open house?

Sure!  It is always better to be prepared and plan early for a new chapter in your life, to set your sights far enough so that you have a goal in near future to fight for.  A peep into the secondary school(s) your child is interested may provide more information than their pamphlets, website or that dreadful COP (the higher the marks does not mean the school culture and environment is good).  

You can revisit the school again a year later to see if you still feel the same as before or take the opportunity to visit other schools that you may have interest now.

Useful Links
If you and your child are clueless on the secondary school that he or she would like to attend, I find that the following websites helps to give an insight on the schools and helps to narrow down a handful for consideration at later date.

School Information Service - It is a website run by MOE, over here you can find all the basic information about all the schools in Singapore; primary, secondary and junior college.  You can search to find out the schools that are within certain distance from your house or based on the CCA available in the schools etc.

Secondary School Ranking (based on cut-off for 2017 intake) - Unsure of the school's COP? Click this link to find out the rank as at November 2017. There are some minor changes on the COP after the secondary 1 posting exercise but it there should not be a huge different, if you want to know the exact COP of a particular school(s), do a search on the web and you will probably get it.  Or you could wait till the school distribute the Secondary Schools handbook by MOE (or whatever they are being called) to the students sometime during the later half of the year,

Secondary School's Open House Dates
Besides the major open house exercise in November every year, the secondary schools will host their open house on individual dates too.  You can either check the school's website or join a forum or facebook group to be kept informed of the dates.

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Last but not least, primary school journey is not an easy one, PSLE should be viewed as important examination as it's a "test" to further separate the kids into different path, a start of another chapter in your kid's life.   I shall stress once again that as parents, we should stand by our kids, support them in every way we could.

And please try to set a realistic target for your kids to achieve based on their academic.  If for the past 5 years they are the above average score student please do not try to pump them with more tuition in hope to push them to be A-Star students within the next few months, I agree that it works on some kids but it also do not work on some kids.  Know your kid's ability before wasting precious time and money unnecessarily.

With so many kids suicide cases we have heard or read in the newspaper these couple of years, we really have to be mindful of our actions and words, we even have to keep our emotions in check too because kids can pick up our negative emotions like with a snap of the fingers.  Do keep an open communication channel with your kid, involve them in every decision that has to do with their study and education, listen to them when they voice out their worries or concerns, let them know that you are there for them.

Before I end off, I have a couple of things to say...

To all kids taking PSLE this year, do you best, don't let that small slip of paper beat you down!  If you did not do well, move forward and make it better in the next chapter.  Perhaps Fate seen a potential inside you that you are unaware and has planned out something for you.  

To all the parents with kids taking PSLE this year, be nervous, be unsettling, be lost but allow these negative feelings to invade your heart and mind for a short period of time.  After that, cast them out of your body, get out from that dark corner and brace yourself to face the challenges that this crucial year will throw at your way.  Fight them with your child!

All the best to 2018 PSLE Parents and Kids!