Thursday, October 8, 2015

Giveaway: An Enormous Turnip by I Theatre

A traditional story from Russia that illustrates what can be achieved with team work, the Enormous Turnip was a production that the kiddo and I enjoyed from 3 years back! I recall fondly how excited she was and how she decided she wanted to go in a "princessy" outfit. The play was also very engaging and interactive; Dumpling was singing and “heaving, yanking and pulling” along with the actors.  

Comes this November, The Enormous Turnip will return as an improved and reinvented version of the sold-out production in 2013. With new songs, a different cast and with different theatre styles coupled with I Theatre’s signature masks, puppetry and theatre magic, the updated production promises a whole new experience.  

An excerpt from I Theatre’s website:

A tiny mouse – and an enormous turnip.
Little Eek the Mouse’s dream is to be noticed. But Eek is SO small.

Diggory the Gardener’s dream is to win a prize – any prize for his vegetables.
And then – in his garden, a turnip grows – and grows – and grows!

Where does it come from?
And who is strong enough to pull this Enormous Turnip out of the ground?

A fast paced, colourful, interactive play, carefully designed for the younger audience, with cute characters, fun and memorable songs, and a clear moral message for everyone.

I am pleased to share that I have a family package of 4 tickets worth more than $120 to give away!

Duration: 55 minutes plus meet and greet.
Most suitable for: Anyone from 3 to 103 years old!
Written and Directed by Brian Seward,
Music composed and arranged by Julian Wong

:: Terms and Conditions
These tickets will be to the 2:30pm show on Saturday 21 November. 

Winner is to collect the tickets directly from I Theatre office @ 27 Kerbau Road.
Tickets are not exchangeable for cash or for other dates.
As the play takes place in Singapore, this giveaway is opened only to Singapore Residents. 

Beanie N UsA Juggling Mom and Dinomama are pleased to bring to you a series of giveaways leading into December! Please remember to share and like our pages to keep abreast of our giveaway lineup!

Disclaimer: The giveaway is kindly sponsored by I Theatre. We are not compensated for the post. All opinions expressed are entirely ours.

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review! Our Music Journey: Piano Trial @ Aureus Academy!

Aureus Academy at Rochester Mall is the organisation’s third centre in 18 months. Conveniently located just outside the lift lobby on level 3, the Rochester centre houses 8 studios and a recital hall, that can sit up to 40 people.

Aureus Academy employs 30 full-time music teachers between its 3 centres: Forum Shopping Centre, 112 Katong (Opening in October) and Rochester Mall. Recognising convenience as an important consideration for parents, all centres are either located near bus stops or within walking distance to the MRT stations. 

The 3 Aureus Academy centres now boast of more than 1000 students, an impressive feat since the Academy started only 2 years ago. Dumpling was invited for a series of private 1:1 trials, a teaching philosophy which Aureus is known for having won the “Best Enrichment and Learning School” for 2014/2015 award by Parents World. 

:: Piano Trial
Besides the Spring Camp which she attended earlier in the year, Dumpling has no prior experience in piano as she has zoomed in, from a rather young age, to the violin. I do think fundamentally, that keyboard experience is important for intonation so I was actually looking forward to the kiddo attending this trial.

:: Lesson time

The lesson was done in Rochester Mall where the private trial is a 30-minute lesson and was with her Aural teacher, Ms Yun Shi who has a Masters in Music Education (read more about Yun Shi below). It is evident that Ms Yun Shi is familiar and at home with teaching young children. From the few months that Dumpling has been attending Aural with her, I have observed that her students are mainly young children. 

Upon entering into the studio, Ms Yun Shi immediately sprung into action and started got the kid to do a bit of warm-up and started singing and clapping together with her. From someone who works in the Early Childhood Education industry, I like that approach as I can almost “see” most children being able to identify with the melody and would likely join in the singing and settle down immediately.

Thereafter, Ms Yun Shi took out a music book filled with colourful illustrations. She proceeded to introduce Dumpling to the various characters in the course book which appear in the book to elaborate on various techniques and activities.

In the half an hour we were there, I felt that Ms Yun Shi managed to cover a fair bit of things. She started off by introducing Dumpling to the various terms / parts of the piano and to observe the right distance.

She then moved on to teaching her on maintaining the right posture and

To also  understanding how sounds are produced from the keys by inviting Dumpling to peek into the piano.

It was a really detailed and meaningful lesson.

Towards the end of that lesson segment, Ms Yun Shi also introduced the correct wrist movements to playing and these were done through some activities from the coursebook. The kiddo was told to picture herself picking up pebbles and rolling it in her palm to obtain the “right” wrist movements. Dumpling was quite tickled with this as she was giggling throughout while “picking” up her purple and red pebbles. :p The lesson ended with the kiddo learning  to play a melody (read below) :)

:: What we like about the lesson
At Rochester Mall, each studio was fitted with large glass panels for natural light to filter in. That gave the studios a bright and airy feeling which I feel sets the mood for the lessons too. What I also like was that Aureus Academy encourages parents to sit in to observe and take notes as the academy believes strongly in parent-school collaboration.

I was also impressed that the academy and teachers do try and set the children up for “success” through positive reinforcements. For e.g. through a simple color coding method, the kiddo managed to ‘play’ “Twinkle twinkle little star”on her own and was mighty pleased with herself as this was her first lesson. I felt that this would have surely served as a great motivation for most children; that they are able to produce a melody from the first lesson. (See clip below)

From a lesson objective basis, the melody enabled the kiddo to practise what she just learnt: posture, distance and wrist movement. Importantly, it also cemented the understanding that the higher the keys go, the higher the pitch and vice versa.

I thought that the lesson flew by really quickly! I am actually pretty amazed that the teacher was able to introduce the basics to the Dumpling and still had time for the kiddo to experiment on the keyboard and finish off with the playing of a song! It was also interesting to note that during the whole lesson, there was no note / sight reading and this was because the trial was for children who are 6 and below. For parents who wish to introduce your children from a young age to music, this approach will build up the children’s confidence slowly and will definitely work well with these younger children; before sight reading is introduced later.

:: Teacher’s profile 
From my chats with the founders of Aureus Academy, I understood that the academy is known for employing and working with highly qualified teachers and importantly, teachers who are patient and are passionate on sharing that musical knowledge and experience with children.

For the convenience of its clients, most teachers at Aureus Academy travel between the various centres to conduct lessons. Ms Yun Shi teaches both the flute and the piano. 

Keen to experience Aureus Academy's pedagogy and approach? 

Aureus Academy is offering:
a FREE 1:1 TRIAL +
$75 gift card*! 

Terms and Conditions:
- Only valid for new students
- Must be redeemed by 31 Oct 2015
- Can only be used towards music lessons (not for products, etc.)
- Cannot be converted to cash value
* Offer ends 9 October 2015

HOW TO QUALIFY? 4 simple steps!
- Leave a comment on this post on why you wish for your child to learn the piano! (PLEASE LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS!)
- "Like" the post on my FB page here
- "Like" Aureus Academy's FB page here
- Tag 3 friends on the post to share the love and offer!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored series of conversations and music trials between Aureus Academy, Dumpling and I so that we can share our experience and opinions from the sessions. All opinions expressed are entirely our own. 

About Aureus Academy:
Aureus Academy is Singapore’s fastest growing music school with nearly 1,000 students enrolled amongst its 3 centres. Aureus Academy specializes in providing individually tailored piano, violin, guitar, and vocal lessons to students of all ages and abilities. It also believes that one-on-one is the best environment to learn a musical instrument. Recently awarded “Best in one-to-one Music Lessons” by Parent’s World Magazine, Aureus Academy offers free trial lessons so you can experience it yourself!

Aureus Academy is located at the campuses below:
:: Forum The Shopping Mall
583 Orchard Road
#B1-18, Singapore 238884
Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00am – 7:00pm

:: Rochester Mall
35 Rochester Drive
#03-08/15, Singapore 138639
Monday – Friday: 1:00pm – 8:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00am – 7:00pm

:: 112 Katong
Opening in October!
112 East Coast Road
Singapore, 428802

You can also connect with Aureus Academy through its Facebook page!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Primary One - Nurturing a love for Chinese #5: Write it! (小书 Small Book)

From an earlier post where I reached out to a friend, who is also Chinese teacher in a Primary school, on sharing some tips on Chinese Composition, came the suggestion of creating a 书, Small Book. The idea of creating one is to engage the children to reflect and write, and at the same time, in a fun and creative manner!

So I decided to take this on to try with the kiddo and we created 1 so far with another still "work-in-progress". 

For our first attempt, because I did not want it to be so taxing for her, I decided to make it with a 填充 format. To start, we made it as a 6 panel book using this format. I wanted to set her up for success so that she has a positive experience and I made it a fun story with open ended sentences where she can pen down her portion. 

I also cut out a window with a pen knife so that she is able to slot in whichever illustration she fancies for the moment. 

Pages 1 & 2
After jotting down the start of the story, before Dumpling began, I got her to read to me first and we discussed this in Mandarin. I prompted her with questions such as "她是一个怎么的女孩?", "得她会怎么?", etc.

She then started to fill the book on her own. 

I also left the illustration half completed so that it has room to allow for creativity and she can doodle what she likes.

Pages 3 & 4
As part of the objective of this exercise was also to encourage her to converse in Mandarin, I got her to write down dialogue too. It would then allow me to be able to gauge her sentence structure, the high frequency words knowledge (if she is able to recall), as well as to expand her vocabulary range.  

Pages 5 & 6
For these last 2 pages, I wanted to make it fun for her. Because we have loads of stickers at home, I cut out a plastic sheet and drew the face of the girl on. With the plastic sheet, Dumpling can then paste on whichever dress she fancies for the moment, making this activity an interactive one too as she can change the dress design any time she wants to. We also made a "closet" where she cut out dresses for the girl. These dresses can be "worn" by slotting them under that same plastic sheet. :)

If you are keen to make one too, here's what you may need for materials:

- A4 paper (if it is a 4-page book) / A3 (for 6 pages book). I prefer using construction paper as it is thicker
- Colourful pens / markers
- Scissors (may need pen knife)
- Glue stick
- Scotch tape
- Old magazines where you can cut out pictures from
- Optional: scrapbook materials (I bought 2 made-to-go albums for this purpose!) 

So there you have it! Our very first 小书 (Small Book) which is not unlike the lapbooks we have made in the past, only just in Chinese. :) I hope to share our next book soon!

This is an ongoing series on documenting my learning and Dumpling's Primary one journey

This is part of a 5-part series:
Part 1: Read Read Read (books of a different kind)
Part 3: Watch It!
Part 4: Play It

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Primary One: Chinese Compositions

I am blessed because in my circle of friends, I have many educators whom I am able to reach out to, to clarify and seek for advice / opinions. Though I was a part time tutor years back, there have been many changes to the Primary school syllabus over the years. I even had to do "investigative" work to understand the Stellar system and learn about the English curriculum again.

Importantly, there has also been a total change in the Chinese syllabus where the course materials have been updated and the focus is now on communication/oracy skills. (I have previously shared a post on helping your child to prepare for Show and Tell.) While working with the kiddo on Chinese oracy (will share in another post), one other thing that came up was composition.

To be able to write, it must mean that the children need to be able to string sentences together, have the right vocabulary and write the right words. Hence I reached out to a friend (a current Chinese teacher) to ask more about Chinese compositions in Primary schools.   

Q: Based on the current system with the change in P1 syllabus, which year is Compo needed?

A: Currently schools are doing 4-picture compositions from Primary 3, and 6-picture compositions from Primary 5. For some schools, they may start earlier with a 4-picture composition; these all vary slightly from school to school. 

Q: How do we support our children in writing? There seems to be a jump from just "fill in the blanks" (Tian Chong) to suddenly needing to produce a piece of work?

A: Basically, activities like Tian Chong in Paper 2 test on the pupils' reading and comprehension ability. To do so, they need understanding of vocabulary which is taught via textbook. Of course the new textbook teaches beyond vocabulary. Since at the moment, with the new syllabus, we only have P1 textbook, I would say that for P1, focus of the textbook is really more on oral and listening interactive skills.

Q: In terms of flow / content, is there a suggested format? (Say for lower primary?) Are there specific areas to watch out for?

A: Writing at young age is more about writing sentence or short story - 写句/写. Importantly good sentence structure is very important for the Chinese language: 句式练习. The progression should be in this manner: 从字、词、短语、句、段、.

I engage my child (who is in lower primary) through the making small books (). I also use picture books to build up my child’s comprehension and inference skills. Hence, my child is very quick in Q&A sessions after being read a book.

With the picture books we read, I will then encourage my child to work on writing. To start off, it can be something that is related to the book we just read but progressively, my child has started to work on writing which is not related to the books we read.

To elaborate, for e.g. after reading 我爸爸,you can design the small book in the form of a大嘴 to express what your child wants to say to his/her father. Also, for this book, there are many repeated sentences that begin with 我爸爸真的很棒,他像什么一样。So in my child’s small book, the same sentence structure (句式) was adopted. You can build up slowly – at first my child only started with drawing, then I guided on the writing slowly.

You can also do thematic topics too, like festivals or special days. Here’s one we did on National Day. 

(Above sample provided by "interviewee")

(If you like to know more about this approach, I adopted it from a Taiwanese master teacher, 林美琴, in her book: 阅读到写作).

As for Primary 3 to 6 picture composition format, many schools train their pupils in having 头,内容,结句,结尾.

结局 is the ending of the story, as in what happen to the character(s) in the end, but 结尾 is commonly expected in Chinese compositions when character reflects on the lesson learnt from the incident.

An example:


However, with so many model compositions available in the market, I feel that this has also led to pupils (even for Higher Chinese pupils) writing only in this genre/way. To write about life experiences, however it requires a different skill set. 

This will require parents to read to and read with your children and engaging them in meaningful conversations so that they are sharing their thoughts and views. Through small books, children can then write whatever that is on their mind or apply their experiences into these stories.

This is an ongoing series on documenting my learning and Dumpling's Primary one journey

Disclaimer: the article is a sharing based on my friend’s observations and it does not represent the teaching fraternity / education system.

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Our Music Journey - So long farewell, I hate to say goodbye

It's not even the crack of dawn yet. Time check shows that it is before 5am. It has been big day, a big 24 hours for us as I made a big decision earlier (at least it feels that way for me!). Dumpling took her ABRSM exams earlier and in under 3 hours after the exams, I took a leap of faith and withdrew her from the school.

It has been at the back of my mind for a while. More than a year to be exact. But I got sucked into the "everyday busy-ness" and within the same year I changed a job, and she spent 9 months prepping for her exam. It has been a hard decision mainly because I love the teachers at her music school. But I ended up making the decision to leave to take a break as well as to trust my gut feel. 

Over these years and having taken 2 exams, there are a few things that I learnt about myself and my views on her music journey. In short, I would like to:

1) groom a more well rounded musician
2) minimise taking exams as much as possible and certainly not for every grade 
3) spend more time focusing on her foundation and cementing the roots 
4) spend time working with her on some theory aspects where she can understand and interpret the pieces better

In short, I am looking more for an all-round approach to this journey. 

If you are new to this, in the ABRSM violin exam how the children are graded are based on:
- Music pieces (3 from a set of songs) @ 90 marks total
- Arpeggio and scales @ 21 marks
- Aural @ 18 marks
- Sight reading @ 21 marks

Total to marks to pass is 100 with 120 to achieve a merit and 130 to achieve a distinction. So while there is a focus on being able to play (a hefty 111 marks out of 150), aural and sight reading are important aspects too. 

Exams are not a bad thing and it is from the exams that I got a sense of what Dumpling's strengths and weaknesses are. She is a mostly visual learner so when it comes to sight reading and musical knowledge, she is good. She can read something new and is able to interpret the piece and play on her own. In the same breath, I have also learnt that she is not confident in the echoing back of songs. This is linked to the training of the ears. 

Violin, as it is, is a very hard instrument. I play the organ and have basically completed all the necessary grades during my younger days. Keyboard instruments are "easier" in a way that as long as you place your fingers on the right keys, there is no chance of bad intonation. Because I studied organ so my ears are trained where I can spot a bad note being played on the violin during Dumpling's practice. 

Now, for children who are not trained and not exposed to how that note is supposed to sound, they won't know better! It's like me being asked if I like to eat chicken rice and I won't know better if I have not tasted it before. 

Essentially I feel that the approach should be where the students are taught techniques, musical knowledge and exposed to things in their grade / for their level before they take the exams which showcase those knowledge. Certainly not the other way round where the focus is more on the exams and the foundation still needs work. I also feel that there should be time focused on training the ears as being able to play by ear as a musician, to me at least, is an important skill.

Akin to creative writing, I liken this to the approach where if we were to read to and read with our children from young, speak to them properly, discuss a wide variety of topics and build up broad vocabulary through books, there is no need to do tons of worksheets to drill on grammar and comprehension. The child would have naturally picked up language and the child will also be able to write in time to come without having to complete sheets and sheets of worksheets.

And so, I made the decision to trust my gut feel, to stop, and explore other options down the road. I have been blessed as Dumpling has been enjoying her Aural lessons over at Aureus Academy where she enjoys clapping back and learning to pitch her tone and enter at the right time to "sing" a tune. Over these past 2 months since she started her Aural lessons, I have seen subconsciously how she is much more alert to the dynamics of pieces, "pulse", etc. On a few occasions, I saw Dumpling tap / clap to some songs we heard while watching movies and she turned to me and told me the time signature. She was also able to hear some of the notes and told me accurately what they are.

It is a bittersweet and somewhat unsettling decision for me. But I trust my gut feel and I believe that I know my child better. We have both come a long way and I guess it is time to change the game rules a bit. This video clip was taken almost 3 years ago:

This clip was one of her exam prep videos, taken a few weeks ago:

So while her current school has been doing some good stuff, the educator in me wants a different kind of journey for my child. :) It will be a hard journey for us both but I know that it will be a better move for her.

Please wish us the very best of luck in our new journey! 

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 
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