How Chinese Characters Are Taught: An Analysis of Three Popular Textbooks Used in Macao

Tien Ping Hsiang, Steve Graham, Zhisheng Wang, Yang Gong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In language arts programs in the Greater China Region, textbooks are the primary materials used to teach children to read and write. Learning to read and write in Chinese is particularly challenging because elementary grade students are expected to learn, recognize, and write thousands of characters (the basic linguistic unit in Chinese). Recognizing Chinese characters or words made from a combination of characters provides access to word meanings, which in turn leads to comprehension of text. Likewise, production of Chinese characters and words are essential to writing a meaningful message or text for oneself or to share with others. The current study examined three language arts textbook series approved by the Hong Kong Education Bureau which are used by teachers in elementary schools in Macao, focusing on how character recognition and production (i.e., handwriting) are taught. Across the three textbooks, new characters are first presented in text and characters are taught as words along with their spelling in Pinyin. The total number of characters taught during the elementary grades, however, is less than the number commonly recommended. The number of instructional activities in student textbooks for promoting character recognition, handwriting, and the use of these skills in reading and writing, including reading comprehension, varied considerable across the three series as did the number of instructional recommendations provided to teachers for promoting these same outcomes. Recommendations for instruction and future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-381
Number of pages27
JournalTechnology, Knowledge and Learning
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Chinese
  • Handwriting
  • Instruction
  • Reading comprehension
  • Word recognition
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


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