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Teaching and Learning at Prince Alfred College

News Provided by

  • Joyce Chen

  • Daniel Johnson

  • David Leung

  • Tong Li

  • Mani White

  • Greg Zheng

All children in the Early Learning Centre (ELC) participate in two 20-minute lessons of Chinese every week (one 20-minute lesson for 2-year-old children).  In Term 1, children and educators explored key ideas of identity, self-awareness, connection, culture and diversity as part of the unit of inquiry entitled “I Am Unique”. Chinese lessons have linked to some of these ideas by exploring Chinese family and kinship terms, as well as learning how to ask and answer questions about names. Some of the children’s favourite activities have been:

  • Learning to sing songs in Chinese about family members, such as我爱家人 (wǒ ài jiā rén) I love my family by Kim Myoung Hwa.

  • Sharing and talking about their families using Chinese kinship terms using family photos or drawings

  • Exploring how Chinese characters are made with strokes, forming components that have meaning, using water writing fabric and playdough.​

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Students in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 participate in one-hour of Chinese lessons every week.

Reception students began the term by learning about the customs and traditions of Chinese New Year, starting the unit with an exploration of a traditional Lion Dance costume. We learned a rhyming verse from a 数来宝 (shǔ lái bǎo, oral folk poetry) which taught the students key phrases to describe these customs, such as 新年好 (xīn nián hǎo, Happy New Year),拿红包 (ná hóng bāo, receiving red packets),放鞭炮 (fang biān pào, set off fireworks), 舞龙 (wǔ shī, lion dance) and 舞狮 (wǔ long, dragon dance).

Year 1 students have been learning how to ask and talk about age, using their knowledge of numbers in Chinese. We have compared and contrasted English and Chinese sentences to describe age, and talked about our last birthdays, making sentences using word cards and our own writing.

Year 2 students learned vocabulary about describing objects around the classroom, playing online and card-based word games. There were introduced to some positional words, such as 书包里 (shū bāo lǐ, inside the school bag) and became proficient at reading short stories in Chinese, such as 书包里有什么?

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Students from Years 3 to 6 participate in three hours of Chinese lessons per fortnight.

Year 3 students were introduced to the topic of Basic Greetings in Term 1. Our lessons emphasised the similarities and differences between how we address different people to show politeness in Chinese and Australian contexts. We used songs and body language to make the teaching more engaging and fun. Students all participated actively during the lessons.

Year 4 students worked on the topic of 我的家人 (wǒ de jiā rén, My Family). A key concept was learning different Chinese pronouns such as(wǒ, I/me),  (nǐ, you),  (tā, he/him), 他们 (tā men, they/them) and comparing them with the English pronouns to form a better understanding of how languages are structured differently from a grammatical perspective. The images below show:

  • Year 3 students’ Easter baskets made for their siblings and friends

  • Year 4 students’ Family Posters

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Students in Year 5 started the term with the topic of Weather. Students learned expressions to describe different weather conditions such as sunny, rainy or overcast. Students also described the temperature using the key phrases最高温度 (zuì gāo wēn dù, the highest temperature), 最低温度 (zuì dī wēn dù, the lowest temperature), (lěng, cold) and ( rè, hot). To complete their summative task, students learned how to use an online graphic design app called Canva to create an audio-visual “City Weather Report”. This task further developed their ICT and oral skills with its unique design and audio features.

In Term 1, the topic of Animals was introduced to the Year 6 students. Besides the 18 common animals that students have learned, the concept of measure words for animals such as (zhǐ),  (tiáo), 头 (tóu), (pǐ) were explained and included in their summative task “My Favourite Animals”. In this task, students were asked to create an oral presentation by using Canva to talk about the animals they liked. The images below show:

  • Some snapshots of Year 5 and 6 students’ summative tasks

  • chopstick challenge activity for students to do with their families on Grandies Day.

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In the Middle School (Years 7-9), students have four 40-minute lessons each week.


Year 7 Chinese

In the first two weeks of Term 1, the focus of Year 7 Chinese was on laying the groundwork for success by eliminating students’ fear of learning Chinese characters.


Firstly, students read a picture book called “The Pet Dragon”, in which 33 pictorial characters were introduced in an intriguing story. This learning activity built upon the boys’ prior knowledge of pictorial characters learnt in Prep School and significantly increased their vocabulary.


Then, they were led through a PPT with an in-depth exploration of Chinese characters to form a better understanding of how Chinese characters are made of components that have meaning, the pattern of Chinese character structures can be roughly categorized into 10 types (single-radical, left-right, up-down, up-right, left-down, up-left-down, etc.), and Chinese characters are made with strokes that are written in a certain order. Students enjoyed this unit of learning and showed significant confidence in learning characters and writing characters.

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With the Chinese program in full swing, students start to make regular use of “show me boards” to practise writing Pinyin, characters and demonstrate their learning in a non-threatening way. Each “show me board” is a laminated sheet with the front side for practising Pinyin and characters and the back side for writing sentences by following a common Chinese sentence pattern STPAO for beginners.

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Year 8 Chinese

In Year 8, we impress upon students the immediate relevance of Chinese to their lives. They learn that Chinese is spoken by more than a billion speakers around the world and is a particular advantage in the Asia-Pacific region.  They explore Chinese culture within the context of improving their communicative competence.

Up to now, the boys have completed a variety of topics on Country, Nationality, Languages, Occupation, Daily Transport, visiting a place, etc. The learning activity culminated in their Adelaide Week, when they made an excursion to Chinatown and watched a Chinese movie called “Moon Man”. For Chinese acquisition learners, Chinatown is a wonderful place to visit, to taste authentic Chinese cuisine, to practise their language skills and to cultivate further interests. From a wider perspective, Chinatown functions as a popular tourist destination, a centre of trade and is considered to be the heart of the Asian culture in Adelaide.

2023 saw the launch of “Language Laboratory”, a great initiative spearheaded by Dr Emily Beattie, Head of Languages, who is a passionate advocate for using interactive multimedia in teaching and learning languages at PAC and beyond. As a result, one lesson per week is scheduled in the Language Laboratory class, where students use Education Perfect online lessons to enhance their reading, listening, speaking skills. Students either work in pairs or individually in a booth to minimise distraction and focus on their own work.

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Students also create multimedia ‘books’ for formative or summative writing tasks by using an Apple app called “Pages”. At the end of Term 1, Year 8 Chinese acquisition students completed a summative writing task to introduce their parents by using “Pages”, in which they type sentences in Pinyin and characters, insert relevant photos or video clips of their family, and narration of sentences for speaking, etc. The final product was a multimedia book, which can be saved in “ibooks” and shared with family.  

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Year 9 Chinese

Our teaching is informed by the Comprehensible input approach, whereby students listen to authentic spoken Chinese on a regular basis and are encouraged to develop familiarity and therefore confidence in language production. By the end of Year 9, students are able to identify, understand and communicate facts, ideas, attitudes and opinions in both written and spoken texts.

Students greatly benefit from a successful Integration of ICT in our teaching & learning. The boys rigorously practise their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills by completing assigned tasks on Education Perfect. Multimedia apps, such as iMovie and Pages, effectively facilitate students’ production of their speaking and writing tasks and make assessments fun.

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The highlight of our Year 9 Chinese program is the Chinese Buddy Activity, which officially kicked off at Wednesday lunch, Week 3. In this activity, background Chinese students and Chinese acquisition learners, who are mainly Australian boys, meet once a week in our beautiful Chinese room. It is a mutually beneficial activity for both groups to improve their communication skills in the target language, cultivate intercultural awareness and establish friendships, to name just a few advantages. This activity has received very positive feedbacks from students and parents.

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Year 10 Chinese

In the Year 10 Chinese second language course, students consolidate their learning from middle school and begin the pivot towards senior school IB Chinese B.


For the first two weeks of Term 1, Year 10 students complete a unit exploring the fundamentals of Chinese literacy and oracy. Students use the phone app ‘Pleco’ to access the sound and meaning of components and characters and then need to identify connections between the parts and the whole across curated word sets (component -> character; character -> word; word -> word set). In our ‘pronathon’ tasks, the students listen for tone, tone pairs, and syllable stress in 2-4 syllable words. Students also begin to explore the inconsistencies of pinyin through minimal pair tasks. By the end of the unit, the students are set up for the weekly tests (10 words + 2 pronunciation questions) which continue throughout the year.


Our first major unit is on Self: Representation + Education. A focus for this unit is the school timetable as an encapsulation of cultural values. At the end of the unit, the students write an email to a pen pal introducing their school and comparing their friend’s timetable with their own. The first two weeks focus on addressing lingering errors (STPAO, 和 for listing nouns, omitting 是 in noun + adj constructions) and the remaining four weeks are dedicated to the new comparison language (比,和/跟,有/没有). Students are given a variety of narrowly scoped tasks (deducing language patterns, identifying errors, arranging slips, gapfills, translation, ‘battleships’, reading races) to help them handle the new language.


At the tail end of Term 1, we begin our second unit on Other: Relationships. This unit has a strong oral focus. Students are given character pairings (e.g. parent-child, teacher-student, two strangers) and then produce a spoken dialogue which involves a conflict and a resolution. We start this unit by reviewing and then extending our understanding of questions before moving onto short dialogues (2-5 lines) where we look at meaning in context. These dialogues are based on everyday interaction between teenagers such as trash talking a friend at basketball and texting a girlfriend. Students complete a second ‘pronathon’ focused on chunking, sentence stress, tonal value, and sound blends. Before presenting their dialogues, students need to annotate the spoken features onto their script and work them into their performance. This unit enables students to engage with more colloquial Chinese; the use of spoken features to enhance meaning, and the relationship between context and meaning.


This year, we have a number of students of Chinese background in our class. These students complete the same program but are extended through additional texts and activities focused on a wider range of language forms. Background students of higher proficiency are offered a list of ‘extra assignments’ (such as exploring the lyrics to a song and surveying the international students), which they tick off to earn 100 points a term. These activities relate to the theme of current unit and are designed so that these students can share their insights with the rest of the class.

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Year 11 & 12 Chinese

Students in Years 11 and 12 pursuing IBDP or SACE, attend six 40-minute lessons per week. IB students either choose IB Chinese A Literature or IB Chinese B, where as SACE students are able to study Chinese Background Speakers or IB Chinese B as a language acquisition course.

Students studying IB Chinese A Literature focus exclusively on literary texts, adopting a variety of approaches to textual criticism. They explore the nature of literature, the aesthetic function of literary language and textuality, and the relationship between literature and the world. Students are exposed to several classic literature texts from different cultures, literary forms, and periods, such as 《局外人》,《推销员之死》,《玩偶之家》,《茶馆》,《活着》,鲁迅白先勇、张爱玲、严歌苓等作品选. Students are constantly engaged with inquiry, critical thinking and reflection as they explore how meaning is generated in texts. They develop literary analysis skills to convey their views and opinions through both oral and written form.

IB Chinese A Literature students also have an opportunity to undertake independent research into a topic of special interest to them in the areas of Chinese and world literature and Chinese language as their Extended Essay (EE). The EE promotes intellectual discovery and creativity and enables them to develop advanced research, logical and critical thinking and essay writing skills.

SACE Background Speakers students explore the most current issues related to China and the world, including the relationships between China, Australia, America and the rest of the world, policy changes across all sectors of Chinese society, and the impact of social media and AI on the development of intellectual property. Year 12 students complete substantial work for their folio and Year 11 students complete several research projects in their areas of interest and presented their findings through oral presentations, 1-on-1 Q&A sessions, and article writing. Students develop an awareness and understanding of how Chinese and Chinese culture shapes their attitudes, perspectives and identity. Students appreciate the cultural diversity and intercultural experience where they study and live.


IB Chinese B students make significant progress across all micro-skills. The journey in the IB Chinese program began with a modal self-introduction from the teacher, which provides an opportunity for them to get to know their teacher by reading a self-introduction letter. This activity also helps them to comprehend the cultural and contextual knowledge behind each sentence through active listening and communication. Overall, it was an excellent start to the year for them. The main plan for the Chinese B students is to complete several rounds of speaking, listening, reading, and writing within six lessons in one week. They strive to combine all aspects of their prior knowledge and skills to communicate effectively on a specific topic in various ways. They have explored several topics where they have accessed units on social relations, dietary habits and culture, as well as health and wellbeing. Although IB Chinese B is challenging, our enthusiastic students are inspired to discover more areas that the course will offer.

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