While helping your children to learn Chinese, are you curious about how children learn in China?
What does the beginning of the semester at Chinese elementary schools look like?
Chinese elementary school is very important for students. It lasts a long 6 years, and it marks the start of their compulsory education journey, even though most students have already been attending a pre-school. The school day usually starts at 8 am but most students will arrive at the school at 7. The days starts with drop off and goodbyes, most students are used to school so they don’t cry. Since this is the first day, it starts with a ceremony where the flag is raised, though normally this happens every Monday. Then at 8 am, all students take part in a school-wide communal physical and eye exercise. (we will talk about this later!) After this, the real school day starts.
Normally, each school day is split into 45-minute classes with 10 minutes of break in between. In some schools, students may even have nap time in the afternoon. During the week they focus on Chinese, mathematics, and natural sciences, with some physical education and art classes mixed in depending on the school. Most school days’ finish at 3 pm. But some students will remain behind until 5 or 6 pm for extra-curricular activities. This kind of activities is getting more and more popular in recent years as schools emphasize more on students’ overall development rather than academic performance only.
A Typical First School Day in China
Can you still recall some memories from your first days back to school when you were a child? For me, there are still many fresh memories from those days. This is because the first day back to school is always so much fun! After a long summer holiday, children are often looking forward to sitting in the classroom and playing on the playground, again, with their friends. Kids in China share the same excitement. But what will actually happen on the first day of school in Chinese elementary schools?
As far as I can recall, every time when school begins, a few things will definitely be on the schedule: a flag-raising ceremony and several speeches.
Normally, all the students and teachers will gather on the playground, and the day starts with a flag-raising section. After that, the head teacher, teacher representative, student representative and sometimes a parent will give speeches.
This will usually last for about 2 hours, and as you can imagine it’s not fun for the children. But since it’s the first day and they are there with their friends and classmates, with their excitement the two hours pass quickly.
The core theme of this ceremony is to encourage students to begin the new semester of learning with enthusiasm and to get themselves actively involved in the school life. It also creates a sense of togetherness and prepares the student for the upcoming year.
After this, the students will go back to their own classrooms and their teachers will handout the new books. Many teacher will have a set classroom seating plan already laid out, so that kids can seat with different classmates and make new friends each semester (many will adjust monthly or biweekly).
Then there will be a time for students to exchange their holiday stories with each other. After all, they haven’t seen each other for quite sometime and each has a lot share!
There won’t be any formal class on the first day. Teachers of different subjects will chat a bit with the kids and let them share what they want to. This is a very relaxed first day in comparison to how difficult classes can be. Since this may be the first time that these teachers are meeting the students it also allows them to introduce themselves.
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The above is what will typically happen on the first day of the semester every year. It can be a little boring as it’s always the same.
However, in recent years some schools have come up with some new ideas to liven up the students first day. Among this, is there any other ways that are more novel than a traditional worship ceremony of Confucius? In the time of the emperors, scholars, high-level students and officials did this to pay tribute to the Grand teacher, Confucius.
Participants all have to dress in Hanfu, the traditional Chinese cloth and conduct a very formal worship dance following along to traditional music. This ceremony is not only about Confucius, but also the god of literacy, and other related gods in the Chinese culture.
To maintain this cultural tradition and to enrich children’s school life, recently many elementary schools in China begin have begun to hold this activity. So kids get the chance to experience what their ancestor have done and to learn about their cultural heritage.
Compared to a relatively dull speech assembly, this is more fun for children. Through the use of the clothes and dance equipment the children are able to experience and appreciate traditional culture first hand.
Of course, there are many other ways that schools try to make this first day special, but no matter what happens the students feel lucky and excited to reunite with their friends!
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