Stars go back to school to try their hand at teaching, adapting their unique skill sets to connect with the children, Xing Wen reports.
Chinese swimmer and Olympic champion Sun Yang high-fives a girl at a recent launch of the new season of A-Class, a reality show featuring star teachers and primary school students. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
On a grassy hillside where, here and there, a flock of sheep and cows are grazing, 30 or so primary school students gather in a circle around actor Wang Luoyong, following his directions to mimic the traits of an eagle, a rooster, a wolf and other animals.
It's not an acting workshop, but a special Chinese class in which Wang teaches attendees of a remote primary school in Hezhang county, Southwest China's Guizhou province, how to understand the animal-related tales from the legendary Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) writer, Pu Songling.
"Students can get closer to animals and better comprehend the texts by doing role-play games outdoors, which will also kindle their imagination and make learning a multisensory experience," says Wang.
"The Chinese classes delivered by Mr Wang are quite different from those I've taken before," says Yang Long, one of the students. "His expressive body language and vivid imitation of animals has sparked my interest in the texts."
Last year, Wang took part in the first season of the reality TV show A-Class, which invited 21 star guests - including actor Pu Cunxin, actress Xu Fan, novelist Mai Jia, Peking Opera artist Wang Peiyu and entrepreneur Feng Lun - to travel to different parts of China and play the role of a teacher of Chinese for three days at a local primary school.
Actress Kara Wai travels to Yunnan province to lead a class as a Chinese teacher and interact with local primary school students in the new season of the show, A-Class. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
The show allows these celebrities to work out innovative teaching methods in class, applying their expertise in different fields.
For instance, Taiwan magician Louis Liu, aka Lu Chen, decided to use magic tricks to illustrate a story chosen from the classic book Lyushi Chunqiu (Master Lyu's Spring and Autumn Annals), a classic text, edited by Lyu Buwei during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).
The story he chose is an idiom called yilin daofu (which literally means "neighbor's axe of suspicion"), which tells of a villager who, upon failing to find his axe, suspects that it has been stolen by his neighbor. To find proof of the crime and confirm his suspicions, he furtively watches his neighbor's every move.
However, in the act of this observation, he accidentally finds his own axe in the woods and recalls that it was he who lost it in the first place, exonerating his neighbor.
"The story implicates that sometimes our groundless suppositions or preconceived notions will hinder us from digging out the truth," says Liu, adding that by revealing the secret to some of his magic tricks, he wants to let students know that they should test truth through practice, instead of simply giving credence to their sense of perception.
Documentary director Chen Xiaoqing travels Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region to lead a class as a Chinese teacher and interact with local primary school students in the new season of the show, A-Class. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Other star guests applied different techniques to lead their class.
For example, Malaysian-Chinese singer, Victor Wong-Pin Kuan, played the guitar and taught students how to chant Chinese poems on a ferry near Xiamen's Gulangyu Island.
Meanwhile, writer Zhang Yueran took her pupils from a school in Heiquan town, Zhangye, Northwest China's Gansu province, to a site of the ruins of ancient walls and asked them to feel its sense of desolation in a bid to help them better understand how to use descriptions of visual images to demonstrate emotions.
All of these experimental endeavors made by the star guests have explored the possibility of blurring the boundaries between academic learning and creative play.
The show has won credit and critical acclaim from the audience, with the show's first season scoring 8.7 points out of 10 on the review site, Douban.
Its second season has already been filmed and will be aired on Zhejiang TV later this month.
In the show, Chinese Olympic champion Sun Yang teaches Chinese at a primary school near Qiandao Lake in Chun'an county, East China's Zhejiang province. As well as acting as a Chinese teacher, he also coaches them in a swimming class.
"The place means a lot to me, as it was in Qiandao Lake where I took my first gold medal at a national swimming contest in 2006," says Sun.
"The responsibility of professional sportsmen is to win glory for our country, and I hope that I can pass on this sense of patriotism to the younger generation."
Singer Cai Guoqing travels to Jiangsu provinceto lead a class as a Chinese teacher and interact with local primary school students in the new season of the show, A-Class. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
He says he also shared with the students how he faced up to criticism from the public when he failed to claim the championship in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2016 Rio Games, and how he overcame frustrations and difficulties along his career path.
"I think it's a precious opportunity for me to interact with students in mountainous regions, to share happiness and create good memories together," Sun says.
Chen Di, chief director of the show, says that all the guests invited by A-Class showed genuine concern for their students and had something to offer them.
He says that the program was designed to document an open class and record how these celebrities gave lessons rather than act as a reality show, which generally tends to expose the private lives of the stars.
Jia Xiuqing, a video and television art professor from the Communication University of China, adds that the program "is original in that it has tapped into the children's natural abilities and built up a bridge to better connect students with families, schools and society".
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