The Secret Tools of a HotH Lao Shi


The Mandarin programme at House on the Hill is one of the children’s favourite parts of their day in school, and this is due in no small part to our team of passionate Lao Shi (老师). Our Lao Shi diligently and conscientiously work to ensure that our students have a robust foundation in the language, with a fun and engaging curriculum designed to keep our young charges focused and excited to learn.

After many months of planning, we finally launched a new afternoon, elective, full-immersion Mandarin programme (天天向上) last month. So far the reviews have been very positive.

For this blog post, we thought we would take a look in the toolkit of our Lao Shi and pull out the secret tools that they use to engage with their students and make their classes so fun and effective.

天天向上 Curriculum

In Singapore especially, many of our students graduate and go on to primary school programs where having a good foundation in Mandarin is extremely important. While our daily Mandarin program is extremely robust, parents who want more dedicated time with the language for their children now have the choice of daily whole afternoon immersive Mandarin environment.

The curriculum takes the children through a combination of games, storytelling, cultural immersion and learning materials, with a focus on 听说读写 (listening, speaking, reading and writing). Our aim is to develop students who can comfortably and confidently use the language, with a strong foundation to build on as they leave us for primary school. They will also have a strong connection with the culture and language.

So, how do our Lao Shi creatively help the children learn?

For many of us adults, learning languages can be a challenge; this is even more so for young, easily distractable children. One of the best ways to learn Mandarin is by making it fun! This starts with the Lao Shi themselves, who approach lessons with a sense of adventure. We know that young children respond best to animation and smiles, and lots of body movement!

This video is a great example of having fun whilst learning with Lao Shi – here she turns herself into the river in a role playing game.

Secret Tool No. 1: Games!

This leads us to the first secret tool in Lao Shi’s toolkit – games!

A popular favourite with the children is learning through games. The Lao Shi employ all manner of games in class, such as action, role playing, music, card and outdoor games. This encourages pure immersion in the language and facilitates becoming more at ease with using it in a casual and informal setting.

Secret Tool No. 2: Music and Movement

Each term, our students will learn songs that relate to the theme of the term, which is an enjoyable way for young children to listen, acquire vocabulary, and for memory retention. This also encourages them to communicate clearly and well.

We usually start a class by cranking up the speakers and having some singing and dancing as a warm up. Families can also have a sing-a-long session by using the song links that Lao Shi share with parents. Children even enjoy doing a little performance for their own families at home.

Secret Tool No. 3: Pens

The best way to encourage good Mandarin writing skills is by constant practice and repetition. Lao Shi employ different methods to keep this practice time fresh, through worksheets and crafts.  Different writing implements develop fine motor skills and prepare students for writing in primary school. Plus, writing with different colours is fun!

Secret Tool No. 4: Printer and Laminating Machine

Lao Shi often use printers and laminating machines to make their own equipment to aid with learning. These help to bring a topic to life for the children, in a simple and easy to understand manner.

Secret Tool No. 5: Glue

Glue is our Lao Shis’ favourite tool in the their toolkit. They are super creative and glue helps them to create all types of fun learning materials to use in class!

For example,  Mandarin Sandpaper Strokes

Drawing on our Montessori background, Lao Shi created a Mandarin version of the Sandpaper letters. Dr. Maria Montessori emphasized that writing should come before reading when learning language, and the same holds true for Mandarin.

Our students first learn to trace basic 笔画 (strokes) and repeat the word to Lao Shi. Tracing the letters gives children the foundation for beautiful penmanship and helps them to learn how the sounds they hear are written.

Lao Shi use crafts to encourage creative hands-on learning. This helps children relate their knowledge from the lessons to their work, increasing their interest in Mandarin.

Secret Tool No.6 : The Great Outdoors

There’s something about being outdoors that makes learning so much more fun! We go out when the weather is good, for water calligraphy, games and crafts.

The children are more engaged and can experience the fun of learning Mandarin in a relaxed and happy atmosphere. Real life experiences and lots of exploration help to bring the language to life!

To learn more about our regular Mandarin programme, please read our blog post: