Resource Review: Primary School Chinese (Elementary School Chinese) - Books 1-3 and online

Tags: Review

Resource title: Primary School Chinese/Elementary School Chinese    

Author:                Marcus Reoch and Anne Martin

Price:  £13.99 per textbook.  Online games area included.

Available from:  Dragons in Europe’s websites

Reviewer: Simone Haughey

Description:   Primary School Chinese/Elementary School Chinese is a series of 3 books, teaching Mandarin at Primary level/Elementary level. It is aligned to the ISEB Certificate of Achievement (Foundation) qualification,  Asset Languages Breakthrough and the Common Entrance Assessment curriculum.

It has four characters throughout the books, Dalong (Big Dragon), Xiaolong (Little Dragon), Mike and Candy. The books are broken down into Chapters. Each chapter has activities, either explaining different elements of Mandarin, practising pinyin and tones, writing the Mandarin characters and new vocabulary. Each chapter ends with stickers to be put on the Great Wall matching to the vocabulary the children have learnt and with a certificate about what the student has achieved in the chapter.   The CDs that accompany the books are pronunciation guides spoken by native speakers and go through each piece of vocabulary introduced.  The online activities are broken down into the chapters from the books and has activities like drag and drop, put in the correct tones, listen to the tones, battleships, mazes, colour coordinated activities that then told you if are successful. You can either repeat the activity or continue to the next one.  There was a homework section testing the knowledge learnt in the lessons that the children could complete at home and email to the teacher.   The authors ‘Dragons in Europe’ also offers online support with videos, breaking down the various elements of the book. IPhone/IPad apps called ‘Funtime Chinese 1 & 2’ are available to accompany the series.

Things I liked about the resources:  I liked the way the books were broken down into easy to learn elements that were then built upon in each chapter. The vocabulary introduced in Book 1 is then put into sentences in book 2 and 3. The progression was easy to follow building more complex Mandarin in Book 3. It didn’t give you too much too fast. The way the authors have broken the complex components of the Mandarin language makes it easy to understand and fun for teachers and students.  I love the online activities and the CD pronunciation support, the native speakers were very clear and the children enjoyed repeating after them. The online activities were simple and fun. I really like the homework section to be completed at home and emailed to the teacher. I found this great because the hardest part of learning a language is doing at least a little bit everyday and sometime the children would have one lesson and forget about Mandarin for the rest of the week until the next lesson. I also like the support videos, Marcus has a great delivery and would inspire any teacher.

What could be improved with the resource:   For the online activities, I think there were a lot of drag and drop activities and the same type of activities repeated. We have a high level of technology at Robin Hood and the children use a variety of programmes to enhance their learning from to the Wii and Nintendo DS Lites.  Each Year 3 and 5 child has a netbook that they are able to take home, I feel the children may need more engaging activities.    I think some sound effects and a big well done when they completed the task would enhance the activities and some songs.   I might only use some of the online games with the Year 2 class I teach as the level of Mandarin are a bit too advanced for them.

Why and how did I use this resource?  I used this book, online and CD resource to teach Year 4 Mandarin. The children loved the characters and the interactive activities. I used the examples used in the book to make phonic or pinyin displays in my classroom. The children in my school had the CD support on iPods for assisting with listening and speaking. The improved their confidence with listening, recalling the Mandarin and speaking it.  I used the idea of the tones as a visual idea in my teaching and my own presentations.  I will use the video support for my own teaching and to show other teachers in the school how to teach Mandarin and have it broken down into fun ideas and delivery. I have not had the chance to use the homework section but I am excited to get that started in my class. The children in Year 4 each have netbooks and should be able to access this part from home.

Why may others use this resource?  This is a welcome resource that has filled a gap in the primary market which is not as well developed as that for older children taking exams.  Teachers like resources that are easy and straight forward to use. All the activities are self explanatory and build upon previous knowledge learnt. It is a great 'pupil' book that children would feel a sense of achievement as they progress through it. The online games reinforce this knowledge and the homework section means that language learning continues through the week. For schools making a commitment to Mandarin, I would recommend these books as the progression across the books develops the knowledge by building on previous knowledge. For the schools that are looking for a taster of Mandarin, or have less time to dedicate to Mandarin, Book 1 would be a perfect support for those lessons.  It would work very well as an after school club resource and private lessons also.  Some previous language teaching and Mandarin knowledge would help for using this resource.

Conclusions / other comments:  It would benefit from some songs, level indicators, the online resources to be titled so that teacher could dip into them. In the books the quick search at the end could use some Mandarin characters.  I am not sure that it could be used lower than Year 3. Maybe a teacher book with lessons plans for the future would be a good addition.  In conclusion Primary School Chinese a great resource that is child friendly, with simple and fun activities, with a clear progression. Children and teachers will love to use these resources to enhance the teaching and learning of Mandarin. It addresses visual and auditory learning styles and the children feel they have achieved something in every lesson. I await Book 3 Games Area with baited breath.

POST REVIEW NOTE:  Dragons in Europe has just finalised a project to create auto-marking for all homework in the three book areas of the  website.

What does it do?

 It will allow students to:

-  to complete their homework online, using pinyin, tones and characters.

-  to instantly see their score (Pass, Merit or Distinction a/c to the ISEB Certificate of Achievement guidelines)

-  to instantly see their correct answers as well as their mistakes.

-  to see their score for each part of the homework (pinyin/characters)

-  to see their total score

-  to see their historical score

-  to complete their homework at various sittings

-  to amend their answers at any time

-  to receive comments from their teacher

It will allow teachers to:

-  to receive notification by email of a student’s headline scores i.e. Mark (Fail, Pass, Merit or Distinction), overall percentage, breakdown (pinyin/characters)

-  to access the pupil’s completed homework to see his/her mistakes

-  to see all homework for all schools that they teach in

-  to see all homework for a particular school

-  to see all homework for a particular class in a school

-  to take all data into Excel to filter and to further analyse the data

-  to send comments to their students on completion of the homework.

How do I get access?

Teachers and students can access the homework area by  logging on as usual or alternatively (if you are not registered),see a demo at:

The demo of teacher’s area can be viewed at:

Access to this resource is free of charge with the purchase of the relevant textbook which  can be bought direct from the Dragons website . Alternatively, you contact Dragons on 020 7228 8501 or info [at] dragonsineurope [dot] com to place an order.