Furthering our students’ interest for Chinese at the Secondary level

Over the past few years, the DAS Chinese programme has developed a range of comprehensive programmes and curriculum to support our students in learning Chinese at the Secondary level. In this write-up, I would like to share on how the learning takes place in our classrooms, as well as our framework and teaching approaches that are specially designed to help further our students’ interest in the language.

DAS Secondary School Chinese Programme

DAS’ Secondary School Chinese Programme (SSCP) was started in 2017 for the Secondary 1 and 2 levels. In order to provide further support for our upper Secondary students, the Secondary 3 Chinese programme was trialled in 2021.

The SSCP focuses on cultivating our students’ language skills through a range of real-life scenarios and materials. It is also intended to continue fostering our students’ interest in the language while equipping them with the necessary higher order literacy skills such as reading and writing, to better help them assimilate into secondary school learning.

Secondary 4 Short Term Programme (STP) – Exam Literacy Skills Preparation

In 2022, the Secondary 4 Short Term Programme (STP) Exam Literacy Skills Preparation was established to help prepare our students for their national examination.

The Secondary 4 STP focuses on our students’ exam literacy skills preparation. The curriculum is designed based on a thematic approach and follows the Orton Gillingham (OG) teaching principles. Regular reviews of the vocabulary and contents taught are also incorporated into the lessons and tasks are designed with differentiation in mind, to meet the different needs of our students.

With reference to the Cambridge Normal and Ordinary Level Chinese syllabi and past year papers, as well as the needs of our students, we have established our own topical framework. The framework encompasses various components such as vocabulary, listening, speaking, reading comprehension and writing. Based on the feedback received from the Secondary 3 Trial programme, we have also incorporated more reading and writing practices, such as techniques to answer analysis, evaluation or creating questions, as well as writing practices for email writing and composition.

An example of analysis and evaluation question type, with visual cues and framework to guide our students:

The Orton-Gillingham Teaching Approach in STP 

The Orton-Gillingham (OG) teaching approach is highly recommended for learners with dyslexia, which incorporate teaching practices that are multisensory, cumulative, and sequential with explicit instructions.

OG Teaching Approach  Adaptation in Chinese Learning
  • Included visual cues in slides, especially when learning vocabulary (analysis of phonetic and semantic radicals to promote efficient reading and spelling)
  • Use of online learning platform such as Quizlet, Kahoot (Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic)
Structured, Sequential and Cumulative
  • Step by step guidance to grasp reading and writing skills
  • Introduce reading activities that leads to writing
Emotionally Sound
  • Encourage positive classroom atmosphere and safe space to learn
  • Differentiated worksheets provided to students of different ability
Diagnostic & Prescriptive
  • Adjusted curriculum based on first 3 years tracking, included more reading and writing tasks
  • Considers student difficulties while designing tasks (e.g.: concretising abstract concepts)

Differentiation in the Classroom 

The teaching materials as well as the tasks assigned to each student are designed according to the abilities of the student. In terms of the contents of the teaching materials, more scaffolding and visual cues are provided for students who would need more guidance whilst students with stronger abilities can attempt the tasks more independently.

An example of hidden slides for Educational Therapists to use in class:

 Educational therapists will also assign tasks according to students’ abilities where students can produce work in different formats, such as fill-in-the blanks for students who need more prompts and guidance or fill in part of the paragraph in writing tasks.

Reviews and Revision for Students 

Regular reviews of the contents taught in class will help to reinforce our students’ knowledge hence, to facilitate our students’ revision outside of classroom, a revision list of the contents covered in class is provided at the at the end of every lesson. Additional reading materials such as news articles relevant to the lesson’s theme are also given to our students. Similarly, parents and educators alike may also wish to encourage your child/student to pick up reading materials according to their topics of interest.


At the end of our first 2 runs in 2022, our students have reported that they have gained more confidence in using Chinese to communicate with more contents and examples to incorporate into their oral practices. Students also express confidence in their abilities to apply the reading and writing techniques taught to help them cope with the examinable components, such as close passage, reading comprehension, email writing as well as composition. Moving forward, another run of STP will be introduced in 2023 Term 1 to give our students an earlier head start to prepare for their national exams.

Do look out for more updates on our website at https://das.org.sg/services/programmes/chinese.html

This article is written by Ong Yun Mei, DAS Senior Educational Therapist (Chinese). Yun Mei is a core team member of the Chinese programme and leads the curriculum development and enhancement of the Secondary Chinese Programme. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Education (Chinese Language) at the National Institute of Education (NIE).