If you’re looking for a way to support your child’s oral and public speaking skills in Chinese, then Vitamin M might be the online platform for you. It’s an innovative new concept for learning Chinese targeted at primary school students. Vitamin M blends online modules with weekly live teaching sessions, with an aim to spark joy and motivation in speaking Mandarin.
This review shares what it’s been like for my daughter learning online with Vitamin M for the last five months.
What is Vitamin M?
The concept is simple – they have high-quality online interactive modules for kids to play, coupled with a weekly one-hour small group coaching session. The online content is a combination of short videos and choose-your-own-adventure-style games. Children use their Chinese skills to solve mysteries and go on a playful journey, which is broadly based on the Singapore MOE syllabus.
All the content is created with a ‘story universe’ in mind, so there are familiar actors throughout the activities, videos, challenges (a bit like an ongoing soap drama). The weekly coaching sessions are conducted via Zoom, by fun loving and dramatic teachers, most of whom have serious acting backgrounds and street cred. The child can earn points by completing classes and exercises, and exchange these in an online store for plushies, erasers and cute stationery. A winner with the target tween audience!
The weekly Vitamin Hours is held at set times each week, with 6 children maximum in a class via Zoom. The children will watch short videos and then share their views on the topics in a highly interactive format. The classes contain interesting games, you’ll need a second device, as most of the class involves quizzes which are facilitated using ClassPoint app concurrently throughout the hour. My daughter gets really competitive and enjoys these games. There’s also a writing component (fairly minima), which is done in a specially provided exercise book from Vitamin M.
The teachers largely come from drama, radio and film backgrounds, and have a collective aim to bring the language to life. To give you an example of this, a few times when we have been eating out as a family at a hawker centre – you know the kind with the TVs on endless loops – and my daughter has suddenly announced “oh, that’s such-and-such from Vitamin M in that show”. She thinks it’s normal to see the actors pop up around the place.
Why we like it?
Vitamin M kindly offered a place to my daughter to join their classes for ten weeks when they were first launching their product. Despite my initial reluctance to let her join the live classes (I told them that our schedule was already packed and moreover weekends were no-class times for us), I was curious enough to check out their online content with my daughter. She fell in love almost instantly, and when Term 1 started for 2022, I ended up eating my words and we indeed joined their weekly classes. At the time of writing this review, we’ve used the service for about five months.
A few good reasons why it’s appealing to me and my daughter:
- Singapore-based content: the stories, the scenery, the curriculum really resonates and helps to engage the child
- Fun: This is not textbook, but real life, and useful applications (like learning about poverty in our neighboring countries, Down Syndrome, or the value of hard work, etc) in a light-hearted manner
- Engaging: it’s not simply watching videos, but each of the modules requires active involvement from the child, and is a combination of quizzes, or uploading video clips, commenting on performances or video of other children in the class, etc.
- Bite-sized content and practical content: for ongoing learning which appeals to a child’s interest and attention levels. Each week there is generally a short video to watch about a world events/issues (eg poverty, disability awareness, sports like tchoukball) and then an interactive dramatised ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ story video with familiar characters. Plenty of practical phrases to be picked up from this.
- Excellent customer service: All Singapore-based, and you’ll be in whatsapp contact with them. It’s also possible to talk directly to the coach (in English or Chinese) after the weekly classes, and there is regular feedback and discussion online with the parents. They also host a few webinars for parents about managing exam stress, or oral exam tips, etc. Several times when my daughter hadn’t lodged her homework in time, the teachers have gently called to ask me where it’s at and encourage my daughter to complete the projects, which is also appreciated.
My daughter (in fact the whole family) really enjoyed the concept. During the school holidays, they take a break from regular scheduling and even host some online party hours (Mega Vitamin Hours) with great prizes to be won.
During the March school holidays my daughter was so keen not to miss the VItamin M party that she took her laptop to a playdate and logged in from her friend’s house. That’s not the only time we’ve have some drama over missing Vitamin M….. on the single weekend when we needed to miss a class (we went to Sentosa for a day), there were tears (but thankfully there was a recording we could watch to catch up).
Who is Vitamin M best suited for?
Vitamin M started in in 2021 and content is currently designed specifically for P4 students though they’re not strict about age criteria. We do know of P5 students who are currently enrolled in the program, as it’s a great way to brush up on spoken Chinese, and amazing way to get feedback for oral exams. It’s probably most relevant for P4 to P6 level at the moment, however there is a new program targeting lower primary students planned for launch in last quarter of 2022.
I think the Vitamin M model of online education is best suited for a child who needs a fun avenue for learning Chinese, and isn’t interested in cramming or rote-learning, but has a good sense for self-directed learning. It’s great for a child who who wants to use the language more actively outside of school and outside of a formal classroom. The child needs to be able to navigate through the online content (which is really enticing) and also attend the weekly online classes, and complete a few home activities (eg videoing themselves reading an oral passage and uploading it). For a child who is competent in using a computer, this is a great way to direct their energies.
Vitamin M is designed for students studying in Singapore, and whilst it would be appealing globally, it’s worth noting the timing for the weekly Vitamin Hours are set for Singapore timezones.
To find out more or book a free trial, check out the Vitamin M website.
How does Vitamin M compare to other online Chinese classes and learning platforms?
I did a previous post comparing Vitamin M against 7 other online Chinese classes targeted at children which we’ve also tried. Honestly, if you are interested in Vitamin M, just try it out yourself. They usually will give a trial class or a demo, and even some trial access to their online content (which is how my daughter got interested in Vitamin M initially). Sometimes they even offer a free bubble tea with the trial 🙂
There are increasingly more services offering online learning options for Chinese which are specific to the Singapore curriculum. In terms of the blended learning concept between online content and live classes, the most similar education platforms to Vitamin M would be:
- Dim Sum Warriors Bilingual Learning System: targeted much more towards literacy and reading, but similar to Vitamin M in that it’s promoting the joy of the language. Vitamin M do it through drama, and Dim Sum Warriors do it through art and cartoon doodling. Both are a light-hearted and fun approach to using Mandarin. Much like Vitamin M, it has a very sound pedagogy and the team behind the concept are themselves authors, actors and academics specializing in Chinese language.
- GenieBook Chinese: targeted more at grammar than live speaking when compared to Vitamin M, and GenieBook lacks the small group intimacy as the live classes are more like online lectures/presentations that interactive discussions. It’s more a mass market offering, and a much lower price point.
- LingoAce: who offer a blended learning program for upper primary students, combining online materials with an actual in-person small group class. This is targeted at mastering oral, composition and comprehension components, and is obviously a much higher price point due to the in-person tuition.