Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chinese Magnetic Poetry- Part Two

This is a follow up of a post called "Chinese Magnetic Poetry."

So you've purchased or created a set of Chinese Magnetic Poetry (with the pronunciation included as necessary).  NOW WHAT DO YOU DO?

I just started using my magnetic set with my kids this week.  So bear with me as I sort through what works and what doesn't and expand this post.

I decided to start with a question/sentence that they have had lots of experience with lately, the  . . . . . .  (yǒu. . . yě yǒu. . .; have . . . also have . . .) grammar structure they've been studying at the heritage school.  This is something they have heard a lot about and is a structure they've repeated back in sentence form, but it is not one they have been successful generating verbally independently.  For example, they can repeat the phrase "我有小狗.  我也有貓." (Wǒ yǒu xiǎo gǒu. Wǒ yě yǒu māo mī.), and they can fill in the blank in the example 我有____.我也有____., and they understand the meaning of 有 . . .也有 . . .; however, they can not use the grammar structure 有 . . .也有 . . to answer the question "你有什?" (Nǐ yǒu shéme?;  What do you have?).

  1. I decided to introduce the magnetic characters by creating my own sentence using the 有 . . .也有 . . grammar structure and leaving them on the board.  I also made sure all the other magnets were off the board so that my kids could easily focus on the sentence without being distracted by other magnet pieces.  Then I had each of them individually come look at the "really cool" Chinese magnets.  I pointed out that most of the characters on the board were ones they had seen before and that the pronunciation was next to each character if they need it.  I also pointed out that some of the characters did NOT include the pronunciation because some of the characters were very familiar to them (ex. (xiǎo, small).  This was a nice way of reinforcing to them that they were making progress in learning the read Chinese!
  2. Then I had each child read the sentence I had made.  I listened to his/her ability to sound out the characters using the pronunciation guide when it was necessary.  I found that the first time they read the sentence it was very slow; I know from my education background that when children read slowly, their comprehension decreases.  So after my child read it through once, I read it out loud to them and then checked my child's comprehension.  If you notice that your child's reading speed is slow, you will need to read the sentence for them to him/her before asking comprehension questions.  If s/he has difficulty with comprehension you will need to think about whether the vocabulary or the grammar structure is giving them difficulty and address this before moving on to the next step below.
  3. The next step is removing some of the support.  In the case of the 有 . . .也有 . . grammar structure, I left the phrase "我有___.我也有___." on the board and left spaces to be filled in.  Then I placed several familiar and appropriate words that could be placed in the blanks.  I asked each child to read the sentence fragment on the board and then find two words to fill in the blanks.  Then I asked him/her to read the sentence s/he had made.  After s/he read it, I repeated it using as native-like speech as possible (meaning that I read it like someone would really say it--with intonation and without over-exaggerating the tones).  Then I checked her/his comprehension of the sentence s/he had made.  Make sure to stay on this step until your child understand what the 有 . . . 也有 . . . means.
  4. In step three, you continue to remove support.  Leave all the words necessary to write the sentences "我有___.我也有___." on the board (including several words choices to fill in the blank), but scramble the words so that they are not in the correct order.  Then ask your child to make a sentence about two things they have using the "有 . . ., 也有 . . ." sentence structure.  Ask her/him to read the sentence s/he made.  Does it make sense?  Are the words in the correct order?  If not, stop and show her/him how to fix the sentence; then have her/him make another sentence.  Before moving on to the next step, your child should have good comprehension of the sentence they made and be able to arrange the words in the correct sentence pattern.  Continue modeling correct pronunciation and intonation to your children.*
*I'm making this note here since this is the first time in my blog I've addressed sentence formation.  Particularly for children learning Chinese as a second language, it is important for them to hear correct intonation.  Intonation is how voice pitch changes throughout a sentence.  Intonation can convey important information about how a person is feeling or (in the case of English) whether the sentence is a question or a statement.  For example, in English when someone asks a question their pitch raises from the beginning of the sentence to the end.  When they make a statement the pitch drops at the end.  If you're not sure what I mean, try saying the following sentences out loud.
  • Did she really go to the store?
  • Yesterday, I went to the store.
 Now try saying the two sentences above as if you are angry.  Now try it as if you were excited.  Notice how your intonation changes.  Chinese does similar things when reading with emotion and even when forming questions.  Without learning correct intonation, a person's speech can sound stilted.  However, you probably don't need to teach this explicitly; just modeling will go a long way.  If necessary, enlist a fluent Chinese speaker to help you (a teacher, a neighbor, a friend, etc.).  You can also expose your children to correct intonation by letting them watch movies in Chinese or by listening to Chinese stories on CD.

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