Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chinese Magnetic Poetry

I strongly recommend purchasing a set of Chinese characters like this one particularly if your child is learning Chinese as a second language (as opposed to a native speaker who just needs to focus on reading and writing).  Consider this . . . when learning a second language (think back to high school) how many things did your mind need to juggle in order to form a correct sentence:  vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, inflection, meaning/semantics, etc.  This is just the broad parameters of what you need.  Now, ask yourself, "What was easiest to do: speaking, listening, writing, or reading?  Most people would say reading was the easiest because in reading you are simply repeating what someone else has already written; most of the linguistic choices have already been made.  Now, how can we use reading to help our children learn to produce and practice their own grammatical sentences?  We can have them read books (check out the Mini-books) but this doesn't require them to produce their own sentences.  What if we provide them with a limited number of Chinese characters (pre-written) and ask them to organize the characters into a grammatical sentence?  Now the children can focus on the grammar and vocabulary.  Once the characters are organized, you can ask them to read the sentence while they focus on the pronunciation and inflection.  We've split the tasks they must focus on in half between two related exercises; they're still doing all the tasks, but in pieces.  This is a good place to start for kids learning grammar and leads us back to why I encourage you to purchase a set of Chinese Magnetic Poetry for Kids*.  Just do a search on the web.

*Note that the Chinese Magnetic Poetry for Kids uses simplified characters.  If you are teaching your child traditional characters, you can still use this set.  Just let your kids know in simple terms that this set uses a different "font."  Just like English uses uppercase ABC's and lowercase abc's, Chinese has two "fonts" also.  And just like the uppercase and the lowercase letters in English often look alike, they may notice that the two Chinese "fonts" look a lot alike most of the time too.  Here is an example of how similar the simplified and traditional forms can be:  妈 --> 媽 

Finding a set of magnetic Chinese characters is not difficult; however, if you are looking for a set that has the 注音符, you may be disappointed.  Although, there is at least one popular set (mentioned above) that includes the mainland China's 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn), I have not been able to find a set that uses 注音符.  However, don't let that stop you from using the strategy discussed above.  You have choices!

  • The least time consuming choice is to purchase the set and then write the 注音符 on the magnet with a permanent marker.  
  • The cheapest initial cost is to print out the characters on paper and cut them out.  If you choose this, I recommend printing on card stock so the pieces are more durable.  However, inevitably some of the pieces will get ripped, lost, etc.  
  • The third choice is to make your own magnetic Chinese characters.  Using Microsoft Word, create a table with cells that are 1.0 inches high and about 0.8 inches wide.  Each cell fits one character.  Fill in the table with characters your child is familiar with (see this post to learn how to type in Chinese) and include the 注音符.  Print on card stock and glue onto magnets.  I used old magnets that arrive at my house for advertizing purposes, but you can also purchase magnetic strips at any arts and craft supply store.  The advantage of the magnetic strips is that they come already with a stick side.  Also, if you buy magnetic strips that are about 1.0 inch high, then you reduce the amount of cutting you have to do.

I chose to do a combination of choices 1 and 3 above.  I bought the Chinese Magnetic Poetry Set for Kids and wrote the 注音符 on each piece.  I also made my own magnetic characters in order to include those my kids have learned at school.  The set I bought had some duplicate characters (for example, there are several (Wǒ, I) pieces, which makes sense since this is a frequently used character.  Also, because I have two kids who like to save the Chinese sentences they've written, I also make some extra of the frequently used characters.

Be sure to check out the post "Chinese Magnetic Poetry- Part Two."

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