Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gauge It and Celebrate!

Gauge It and Celebrate!-  All too often we, as parents, make the assumption that if we teach something, our kids will remember it.  But how many times have we needed to remind our children to put away their toys, eat their meal, and say please & thank you?  If we thought about it like this then it might be obvious to us that showing them a character or a ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin sound once is not enough.  The teacher might be you or someone you have hired, but the universal truth is that kids don't learn things the first or even the second time they see it.  They need multiply exposures over a period of time and the more places they are exposed to the idea, the better they will be able recall the idea.  So, below is a good idea for gauging how many characters your child knows and a great way to reinforce memorization.

What you will need:
  • Something to decorate (T-shirt, canvas bag, etc.)
  • Fine-tip Permanent Markers
  • Cardboard or Newspaper (so the marker doesn't bled through)
  • Square stencil that is large enough to write a character in but not too large (you can make this out of cardboard).  This is the "grid" your child will write the character inside; so make sure it is an appropriate size for your child to write in and for the project you have in mind.
  • List of characters to write
  • Optional:  scratch paper and pencil for you child to practice writing the characters

    • Decide what you want to gauge/measure.  Is the goal for your child to identify the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin sounds, to recognize characters, or to write characters?  Once you've decided on the goal, figure out a way to evaluate your child's progress.  This is important because it helps you identify if there is something your child needs extra help with.  Evaluating periodically means you don't spend 6 months trying to teach the next step before an earlier one is mastered.  An easy way to evaluate is to use flashcards and ask a child to say the sound/word for each card.  If this is difficult for your child, break up the cards into easier pieces.  Check their mastery of only 5-10 cards a day and then do the other cards a different time.  Note:  Each child is different.  You may need to find something more engaging to hold a child's attention and to see their best performance.  Check out the blog titled "Balloon Extravaganza" to see a fun and innovative flashcard solution.
    • After the evaluation is done, let your kid know that you are proud of their achievements so far.  Now they get to display their success to their friends!  Set up the T-shirt/canvas bag with a piece of cardboard or newspaper between layers so the permanent marker won't bled onto the other layers.  Lay the square stencil on top and have the child write the character they've mastered inside the square.  If they have mastered identifying it, but haven't written the character yet, you can choose to write it or give them a chance to copy the character.  You can also choose to write the English underneath the character; this presents a fun conversation starter around the community.
    • As your child masters more and more characters based on the goal you set-up, add them to the shirt/bag.  Seeing their progress as they add new characters every week will encourage your child and show them that they are making progress.  Remember to celebrate each success and keep practicing the characters that are mastered as well!   They'll love it! 

         Extension Activities:
        • If your child has already learned ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin and is learning to recognize characters, you can write the character for him/her, but then see if s/he can tell you the ㄅㄆㄇ for that character.  Then you can write it next to the character.
        • If your child has learned how to say the colors, practice asking for different colored markers as s/he writes the characters.  Parents can ask, "你要什麼顏色的?"  (Nǐ yào shénme yánsè de bǐ? What color do you want?)
        • If you choose to have students copy the characters, first show them the stroke order and challenge them to write the character in the same order.

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