The International Conference on the Teaching and learning of Chinese as a second language is the largest conference held by the local organizer on Chinese teaching. The conference is held every two years by Singapore Centre for Chinese Language(SCCL) and provides a platform for local and worldwide scholars and educators to share their latest research findings on teaching and the participants are mainly MOE teachers and local educators.

The Chinese team attended the conference in 2016 which was very fruitful and impressive for us, therefore we decided to attend again this year. It is also our first time to present at this local conference. The conference was held from 8 to 9 September. Due to COVID-19, it was conducted online.

This year we have presented on two research topics on the conference: Support students with reading and writing difficulties: From Curriculum-based teaching approach to Secondary school Chinese learning by Chien Ling and Li Dong and The Impact of a Structured Chinese Literacy Programme for Dyslexics: Character Reading and Writing by Yun Rui and Mei Yu.

Although it is the first time the conference goes online, it is well organized with clear flow and timeline. We have recorded our presentation from home before combining the video together. However, as there is a strict time limit of 15 mins for the video recording, we have to record many times to meet the requirement. It was also challenging for some colleagues to find a fully quiet environment at home for recording. The conference is comprehensive with a range of research topics for different levels and streams in Singapore. As most of the participants in the conference are teachers from MOE, it also focuses on teaching strategies and outcome. It was insightful as we were inspired by new methods of teaching introduced and the theory behind it. There are points and strategies that one could take away from the conference and apply them to classroom teaching, at the same time, let one reflect on our current curriculum and teaching. We are especially interested in the topics on reading comprehension and writing as it is a challenging area that most of our students struggle with.

Understanding more in new methods and strategies used allows us to reflect on how we can integrate into our classrooms to help students with higher literacy skills and help us to continue to develop the curriculum in-depth. At the same time, we could also observe how lessons are conducted in classes through video clips shown during the presentations by teachers. From there, we could also understand what are the difficulties that students in schools are facing, in turn, investigate the help that our students need from us. Hence, we can continue to improve our curriculum development to be more structured to help our students overcome the challenges that they may face in class. Likewise, there are also insights gains from researches that are presented. The kind of research methods and ways to collect data are knowledge that we can refer to. Hence, one feel that the insights and knowledge gained from this conference are quite applicable to one’s role and the organisation. In the teaching aspect, we could see that there are some strategies which are taught in DAS are also taught in school. This could mean that the direction of our curriculum is on the right track. On the other hand, while doing the research and listening to others’ research presentation, it has broadened our perspective in terms of how can we manipulate with the findings we already have to come out with another research question.

The participants were interested in our strategies used to teach students with dyslexia. They labelled our strategies as "secrets" or "magic code" to teach dyslexics. This is in line from questions from teachers in school when we conducted awareness talk. We highlighted that apart from our step by step strategies, our Educational Therapist played an important role in class by understanding the needs of students and creating a positive environment in class. I reflected on whether there are really "secrets" or "magic code" when we teach in the classroom, or if it differs greatly from school. As we break down steps and incorporate multisensory methods for our students to learn and provide ample opportunities for revisions, it became easier for dyslexics to learn. We believe that this is not exclusive for learners with dyslexia, but for any students who have weak literacy skills. Teachers in school may be limited by time and space to do so. We should continue to spread and raise awareness of dyslexia, and at the same time highlight that strategies used are useful, but not exclusive for dyslexics. We could encourage teachers to continuously explore and exchange knowledge to help students with different abilities.

In summary, it is a very fruitful and enjoyable experience for all of us. We are looking forward to attending the next conference with more findings in the future and also hope more colleagues can have the chance to attend the conference.

Written by: Loo Chien Ling, Lee Mei Yu, Li Dong & Kong Yun Rui
Learn more about the Chinese Programme here.