Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hot and Cold Game

In the familiar version of this game, an object is hidden from one child and his friends watch him/her bumble around the room trying to find it.  The friends give the person who is "It" clues such as "You're getting warmer" when the person is getting closer to finding the object, and clues like "You're freezing" when the person who is "It" is very far away.

In this Chinese classroom version, one child is still "It" but instead of his/her friends giving clues such as hot/cold, the friends chant the name of the object hidden (or of the target vocabulary word on a hidden flashcard).  As the person who is "It" gets closer to the hidden object/flashcard, the children chant louder and louder.  And as the person who is "It" gets farther away, the children chant softer and softer.

What a great game to get the kids to practice saying the target vocabulary!  Kids remember better when they are having fun!  Also, this is a nice game for helping quiet kids find their voice in the classroom.

I must acknowledge that Nicholas O'Brien, from Kalona Elementary, Iowa showed me this game (here's his blog).

Clapping Game

Clapping Game- Here is a wonderful game to use with young kids who are learning new vocabulary.  What's really nice about this game is that every kid can participate at the same time and they are all actively engaged in the activity.  In addition, this is a great way to encourage children to say new vocabulary several times (which can help them memorize the target).  Not to mention, this is a great way to get quiet kids to practice saying the vocabulary as well.  I picked this up from Mr. Nicholas O'Brien who is the Chinese language instructor at Kalona Elementary, Iowa (here's a link to his blog).

Here's how to play the game- Create a set of flashcards.  You can use a picture of the target vocabulary or the Chinese character.  Make sure the cards are large enough that the whole class can see the picture/character.  Show the class one of the flashcards and say the name of the picture/character.  Have the kids repeat it back to you several times.  Then ask them to chant the name as you mix the target card back into the deck.  Next, hold up one card after another.  Tell them to clap/applaud when they see the target card.

What Does the Wind Blow?- Game

My understanding (and please, correct me if I'm wrong) is that 吹什麼吹? (Chuī shénme chuī?, What does the wind blow?) is a traditional Chinese children's game.  It is similar to musical chairs in that there is a ring of chairs and one child sits in each chair.  There is another child that stands in the middle with no chair.  The child in the middle says, "大風," (Dà fēng chuī, A big wind blows) and the children sitting in the chairs respond, "吹什麼吹?" (Chuī shénme chuī?, What does the wind blow?).  The child in the middle then calls out something that some of the children have in common like a color.  For instance, if the child in the middle called out "," (Lán sè, blue) then every child wearing blue would stand up and try to get to a different chair.  The child in the middle will also find an empty chair so that (hopefully) a new child is left in the middle standing and the game begins again.

This game helps to develop listening skills and practices target vocabulary.  Colors and clothing are natural vocabulary to use with this game, but you could also get creative and call out things like, "有第第得人." (Yǒu dì'dì dé rén, (People that) have a younger brother.)  You could also pass out papers with the target vocabulary (for example, , , (zài, shì, hěn, to be at, to be, very).  Just be sure each vocabulary word is passed out at least twice.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Color Coding Worksheet

This Color Coding Worksheet helps kids focus on the shape of the character or  注音符 or 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn) letter that you want them to recognize.    Choose 3-4 characters or "letters" and assign each a color (see the key in the upper left-hand corner of the worksheet).  Ask your child to color each apple according to the key.

Below is a sample Color-Coded Tree and a blank one for you to create your own worksheet using characters you are practicing in your home.

Color Coding Tree- 注音符
Color Coding Tree- 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn)
Color Coding Tree- Blank

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dragon Lollipop With Caramel Art !

Dragon Lollipop With Caramel Art-  A Chinese street vendor uses melted caramel to make an edible work of art.  This is just so different from what an child in America experiences on a day to day basis, that I felt this warranted culture-exposure status.  I hope your kids enjoy this! 

Want to get an idea about how to create your own sugar art?  Watch this Sugar Art Instructional Video.

And here is another video I happened across that demonstrates the Art of Sugar Blowing. Very cool!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Character Artwork With Tissue Paper

This is a supplementary post for "Getting Your Young Child to Write."

To decorate a character start by creating an outline of the character.  I created mine using Microsoft Word.  After typing the character, I enlarged the character and then (by going to the font tab) I selected "outline".  This created a hallow character my kids could fill in with tissue paper, buttons, beans, or fill in with crayons and markers.

If you are less tech-savvy, you can simple draw out an outline of the character.

For this art project, we glued tissue paper onto the outline.  I recommend that you do this with kids ages 5 and up.  I tried it with my four year old and she tried and had fun, but it didn't come out so well.  My five-year old was more successful.

Remember the point of this project isn't to make a beautiful picture (although that is nice, too).  It's to help the kids focus on the parts of the character.  As you will notice above, we used different colors for the different parts of the character, which really allows us to see the different components (such as 艹 and 人).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Animated Stroke Orders for Common Characters

 Animated Stroke Orders for Common Traditional Characters-  Here's a great place to find out the stroke orders of common traditional and simplified Chinese characters.  This site is maintained by The Ministry of Education, R.O.C. (Taiwan).  The site is available in English or Chinese (you can click on your language choice in the upper right-hand corner).  Furthermore, characters can be searched for through several different input methods including:  radicals, 注音符, 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn), stroke order, or (if you can type characters on your computer) via characters.  It also provides animation on the correct stroke order for 注音符.


This list is from the Bringing up Baby Bilingual blogsite, a record of a mom's efforts to teach French to her children as a non-native speaker.  I'm reposting her list here just in case her blog gets lost.  This is a direct copy and paste.


Friday, January 27, 2012 


Those of us who are doing our best to raise our kids with something other than the community language know that we have to seize every possible moment to barrage them with lots and lots of input in the target language.  (This is especially challenging for those parents who work full-time and have a very limited number of hours most days to share their language with their children.)

When we're at home, we can take advantage of games, books, toys, videos, and the simple fact that we're engaging in face-to-face interactions with their accompanying gestures, expressions, and props--we have a lot of tools to provide contextualized prompts for conversation and activities in the target language.

But what about those endless hours in the car, chauffeuring from one playgroup to another lesson, running errand upon errand?  The parent is driving, facing forward, no eye contact, hands occupied--not ideal conditions for practicing another language with small (or bigger) children.

So here's my challenge to us: let's take advantage of the fact that the kids are a trapped audience to immerse them in our language of choice! Let's brainstorm as many as possible ways to engage our kids in the target language when we're driving them here and there and everywhere!  Here, I'll start:

Music (duh): Listen to songs in the target language--children's music, yes, but also pop music, rap music, folk songs, music from all the countries where the language is spoken.  Sing songs to (or with) your children.  (Griffin, approaching age four, has learned to sing in a round, which sounds so lovely to my ears.)  And don't forget the nursery rhymes!

I still remember the trip Griffin and I took to visit with a friend in another city, a 45-minute drive, when he was about six months old.  I turned off the tape player (yeah, my twelve-year-old Toyota, Earl Grey, is so basic that he doesn't have a CD player!) to see if I could sing French children's songs the whole way there.  To my surprise, we made it to my friend's house without my repeating a single one!

Rhyme time: You say a word in the target language; your kids reply with words that rhyme.  Then let them pick the words to start with.

Counting: Count to 100 together, then count solo and pause for the kids to fill in the next number, then alternating (you count the odd numbers, your kids the evens), then by tens, fives, twos, then backwards (whatever the children are capable of); count objects that you pass (stop signs, cows, blue cars).

Twenty Questions: Play this vocabulary-rich game that involves guessing what object someone is thinking of, where the guessers can only ask yes/no questions.  A child who can't form complete sentences (much less questions) can still show his understanding of your questions by answering them while you guess!  (Unless your interlocutor is like three-year-old Griffin, whose answers tend to lead to things like "something green that's made of metal and bigger than the universe").

I Spy: Another fun and easy game that involves sighting an object (inside or outside the car) and giving clues so that the others can guess the object.

Un truc dans un machin: "A thingy in a whats-it" is what I call this activity, where I pretend to misunderstand something Griffin said, repeating it back to him as inaccurately as possible (and making it as silly as I can).  For example,

Griffin: Regarde, Maman!  Il y a un chien dans la camionnette!  (Look, Mommy, there's a dog in that pickup truck!)
Maman: Quoi?  Il y a un dinosaure dans ta poche?  (What?  There's a dinosaur in your pocket?)
Griffin (giggling): Non, il y a un chien dans la camionnette!
Maman: Quoi?  Il y a un extra-terrestre dans l'arbre?  (What?  There's an alien in the tree?)
And so on; Griffin usually joins in and makes up other strange combinations.  We can do this for a good ten or fifteen minutes before one of us (okay, moi) tires of it.

And a related activity: sing a familiar song but insert other silly words here and there.  For instance, "Au feu, les pompiers/Voila la maison qui brule/Au feu, les pompiers/Voila la maison brulee/C'est pas moi qui l'ai brulee/C'est la coccinelle/C'est pas moi qui l'ai brulee/C'est l'arraignee" (instead of "la cuisiniere" and "le cuisinier").

Storytelling, of course!  I find that listening to audio books in French in the car is too challenging for Griffin at this point, unless it's a story he's already very familiar with because I've read it to him multiple times and he's seen pictures illustrating it.  (We have a small handful of stories-on-tape like Boucle d'or et les trois ours.)  Rather, I'll pick a story he knows much less well and tell it to him, simply at first, then   gradually adding details and length.  Changing my voice for each character helps him follow along (Occasionally I change it up to see how quickly he notices the differences, a la "Boucle d'or et les trois girafes.")

What To Do In The Car?

What To Do In The Car?-  So many of us lead busy lives and much of that busyness is spent shuttling people between events.  How can we use that time spent in the car as a language opportunity?  Here are some ideas:

Travel Bingo

Here's a way to practice Chinese in the car- Travel Bingo!  Print of one of the sheets below and then have your child look for the various items on his/her sheet.  Reminder him/her to call out the items as he/she sees them so you can verify it's correct.  Then let your child cross it off her sheet.  Try to find three in a row (up and down, across, or diagonal) or try to find everything on the sheet.

Here's several options for checking off the items.
  • Reusable:
    • Place sheet on a small magnetic board and use large (kid-safe) magnets to check off various items.
    • Place sheet inside a plastic coat and use a dry erase marker.
    • Got an iPad?  Save your Bingo card as a pdf file and then open it on your iPad using the app "pdf-notes."  It's free!
  • One-Time Use:
    • Check it off with a marker directly onto the sheet.

Travel Bingo- Blank  Draw in your own items to be found around town.  Don't forget to include the Chinese characters at the bottom (This is good exposure even if your child isn't reading yet!) and the pronunciation guide if they have learned that.

Stuck for ideas?  Check out the examples below:
Travel Bingo-Sample with 注音符
Travel Bingo- Sample with 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ni Hao Kai-lan

Ni Hao Kai-lan is a good resource for young children who are just being introduced the Chinese.  Not only is some Chinese introduced, there is also an attempt to familiarize viewers with the Chinese culture and traditions.  Check out the website for a complete list of the activities they have available.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Go Fish & Memory

Go Fish
What kid can say no to Go Fish?  Please, read the entire first paragraph before printing!

Download the file below and print off the pdf file four times (you need a set of four identical cards to make a match).  I suggest that you print on card stock or thick paper so that the players cannot see through each others' cards.  You could also print on regular paper and glue it onto cardboard (like empty cereal boxes).

You can play this game to practice sounds or characters.  If you are practicing your 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn) or 注音符 sounds, keep in mind that you do not need to play the game with all the sounds in the language.  My preference is to use 5 sounds that my child knows very well with 2-3 sounds that s/he need to work on.  I'll use a total of about 8 sounds/sets, which makes about 32 cards.  Cut out the sounds that you are going to play with and set the others aside for another day.

  • Use the "Go Fish-Blank" file to create your own sets.  For example, for whatever vocabulary you are currently working on.  Remember to print the file enough times to make 4 copies of each word. 
    • Consider whether you want to include the pronunciation on the cards.
  • When considering how many sets to use (one set is 4 identical cards), keep in mind your child's age and skill level.  
    • Young children may have a difficult time holding many cards.  Check out how to turn an egg carton into a card holder (see picture).
    • Mix challenging vocabulary (new) with mastered/familiar vocabulary (old).  This way your child can succeed sometimes and enjoy the game while still being challenged to use the new vocabulary to play.

Go Fish-ㄅㄆㄇ
Go Fish-Blank

How to Play:  Shuffle the cards and give each player 5 cards (you can use less cards if you have only a few cards in the deck).  Spread the remaining cards face down on the table between the players.  The first player can ask one person (anyone who is playing) if they have a ____ card; however, the first player can only ask for a card that they already have in his/her hand.  If the person asked has the card, s/he must give all the cards of that type to the first player.  If the person asked does not have the card, s/he tells the first player "Go Fish."  The first player than selects one of the cards that is face down on the table and it is the next person's turn.  Continue playing clockwise around the table.  When a person has 4 identical cards, they have a match and set the match down next to them.  The game ends when someone matches all the cards in their hand and no longer has any cards.  The winner is the person with the most matches.

  • Do you have ______?  
    • 你有沒 _______?
    • Ni3 you3 mei2 you3 _____?
  • I have it.  有.
    • You3.
  • I don't have it.  Go Fish.   
    • .  Go Fish.
    •  Mei2 you3.

Use the same files as for Go Fish, but you only need 2 sets of cards.
 How to Play: Shuffle the cards and then turn all the cards face down, so that you can't see the pictures.  Take turns trying to find the matches.  The first player turns over any two cards.  If he/she turns over two cards that go together, he/she can keep that pair and take another turn.  If he/she turns over two cards that don't go together, then he/she turns the two cards face down again after the players have seen them.  Then it's another player's turn.  The player who has the most pairs when all the cards are gone wins the game.  Note: ask the players to say the name of the card each time it is flipped over.  This helps with recall later and is great practice for pronunciation.

 Memory 2
You will need to make your own cards for this version.  Write a list of two-word phrases such as:

小狗(xiǎo gǒu, dog),  (shuì jiào, to sleep), and (diàn nǎo, computer).  Next, from this list write only one character on each Memory tile so that you split each two-word phrase in half.

How to Play: Be sure the learners are familiar with each two-word phrase.  If needed, keep the list handy to refer to throughout the game.  Shuffle the cards and then turn all the cards face down, so that you can't see the characters.  Take turns trying to find the right combination of tiles to make the two-word phrases.  Proceed just as you would for a normal memory game.  Bonus:  ask the players to make a sentence using the two-word phrase they turned over.  Extra Bonus:  Can the learner make a sentences using two or more of the two-word phrases they uncover?

Thank you 登蔭 for introducing me to this alternative Memory Game!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mini-Book 3- 我的朋友

我的朋友 (Wǒ de péngyǒu; My Friend)- is the third book in the Mini-Book series.  To locate other Mini-Books, click on the "Mini-Book" label on the right hand side of the web page.

This book supplements the teaching of the words 我的 (wǒ de; my) and 他的 (tā de; his).  It discusses a boy who is Chinese and his friend who is American.  The book discusses how to two boys are alike and reinforces the idea of friendship between cultures.

This Mini-Book file is much smaller than the first, so if you had difficulty downloading the first you may be more successful with this one.  Also when you print, print on both sides of the paper.  Page 2 prints on the back of page 1, etc.  Then stack the pages so that when they are folded along the center line, the page numbers proceed in numeric order.

我的朋友- traditional characters with 注音符
我的朋友- simplified characters with 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn)