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Celebrating Chinese New Year-Day 4 Activities

February 1 2016

Year of the Monkey is just around the corner. Let’s send out our best wishes and New Year greetings. You can make a card, write spring rolls or sing a nice, catchy song!

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Homeschool Chinese: The Role of Our Lăoshī

November 19 2015
On many occasions when I have mentioned in conversation that my children are learning Mandarin Chinese, the response is, “Really? How do you do that? Do you speak Chinese?”  
They are always surprised to learn that I do not. I explain that we hired a native speaker when we first started on this journey of becoming bilingual. We have in fact worked with a previous instructor, but Lăoshī Shawn has been with us the longest.
Recently, a reader posted the following question:
You mentioned that you have hired a native speaker. I’m curious about his role. Do you prepare the materials and have the native speaker use them with your children? Or does he have a more autonomous role in planning what he does with your children? Or is he not really teaching the material, and instead providing non-structured conversation practice?

We in fact work with native speakers who fill both roles. Let me explain.

老师 – Lăoshī

We have been working with Lăoshī Shawn since 2011 and his role has always been very autonomous. When we first met, I shared with him the Better Chinese My First Chinese Reader curriculum with which we had gotten started with our previous instructor. I explained that I liked how the instructions were in English and thus, as a non-speaking parent, I was able to assist my children if they didn’t understand what they were expected to do within a particular exercise.

At the time, they were just 5 and 7 years old so this was very important to me. Now that they are older and more independent, they require less assistance from me. I only have to remind them on occasion to get their Mandarin homework completed and submitted on time.

We meet with him twice a week (first in his home and now via Skype as he now resides on the East Coast and we remain on the West Coast). He generally works with the kids independently for an hour each – when we first began, my daughter had two years of instruction behind her and thus significantly more vocabulary. On occasion they do cultural and cooking lessons together – I even get to join in on these.

Weekly Lessons

Lăoshī Shawn plans each of the two weekly lessons. They have gradually progressed from the elementary series, My First Chinese Reader and are now using the middle school curriculum, Discovering Chinese. He has also periodically supplemented with other materials and activities to enrich the lessons and keep the kids engaged. Here are a few examples:

Monthly / Quarterly Cultural Lessons

In addition to the weekly lessons that typically focus on vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar, Lăoshī Shawn also plans a monthly cooking lesson as well as a quarterly cultural lesson. Often the cultural lesson stems from a Chinese holiday, our travels as a family, or current world events.

Some of our favorite past cultural lessons include:

助教 - Zhùjiào

Over the years,  Lăoshī Shawn has assigned numerous homework activities that require the kids to engage in a conversation with someone. Typically, he assigns these in anticipation of our family weekend getaways to San Francisco. We have learned through these exercises that the kids are relatively timid and apprehensive about speaking in Mandarin with anyone other than one another, Shawn, or his wife.

I get this. I was the same way when I was learning Spanish in high school and university. I didn’t overcome this barrier until I spent a summer abroad in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Research has shown that conversation is key to learning a new language. Polyglot Benny Lewis (Fluent in 3 Months) stated,

“I failed learning Spanish for months because of perfectionism, but embracing a ‘screw it, I want to actually use this language, mistakes or not’ approach allowed me to communicate and ultimately make friends.”

Thus, when we moved back to Oregon a few months ago, I reached out to another native speaker (who has in the past taught conversation classes at the local community college). We have just begun working with her on a bi-weekly basis, focusing specifically on conversation skills.

Though they do not collaborate, her role is more of a teacher’s assistant. I have lent her our Better Chinese materials so she is familiar with the vocabulary that the kids are familiar with and what lessons they are currently working on with Shawn. She encourages them to come prepared with questions to ask her and she in turn, asks them questions.

The first couple of times we have met, my son hasn’t been very receptive but he is slowly coming around. Her dialect is slightly different and she uses some unfamiliar vocabulary (intentionally). This is all good but it is challenging. My daughter on the other hand LOVES it! She has really blossomed this past year and has discovered the joy of speaking another language.



EARCOS 2015 – Bangkok

October 28 2015

We are in EARCOS Leadership Conference 2015 in Bangkok from Oct. 29 to Oct. 31! If you are attending the conference this year as well, be sure to say “Hi” to our Better Chinese Representative and CEO, James Lin.

We are excited to introduce you our newly launched curriculum, Better Immersion, specifically designed for immersion programs (K-5th) with comprehensive and balanced language proficiency to master literacy and informational texts for science and social studies.


Homeschool Chinese: Language Learning with Pop Music

September 8 2015

Last week, the kids and I read a post written by a young man, Timothy Doner, who has taught himself 20 languages. In his post and a subsequent interview we listened to, he stated that his journey began when he “would listen to the same album every single morning. At the end of a month, I had memorized about twenty of their songs by heart.” read more…

Homeschool Chinese: Good Morning, China

August 25 2015

This past week, my kiddos have been working with a children’s book by Hu Yong Yi titled, Good Morning, China. It is a delightful short story describing how China’s people “celebrate” their mornings with activities in the park. As you turn each page, the author describes the variety of activities taking place on any given morning. read more…

Homeschool Chinese: Shopping in Chinatown

July 28 2015

We live in Northern California and have the opportunity to travel to San Francisco periodically – generally accompanying the kids’ father on business trips but occasionally for pleasure. When we do, the kids always insist we visit Chinatown.

Shawn, our Mandarin instructor, is eager to encourage the kids in their conversation skills and works diligently to develop activities or assignments to help them overcome their natural inhibitions to strike up conversations with strangers. Overcoming the fear of making mistakes is the biggest obstacle language learners encounter.

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Learn Chinese with Tasks: Implementing a Task Chain to Improve Integrated Language Skills – Part Two

July 22 2015

In my last article, Implementing a Task Chain to Improve Integrated Language Skills Part One, I talked about how to design a task chain in your Chinese class, the tasks are mainly focused on exercising students’ receptive skills (reading and listening). read more…

5 Ways to Activate Learning During the Summer

July 21 2015

Teaching your child a world language can be difficult, especially when it is a language that is not heard of or practiced every day. It is necessary to be creative when exploring ways to help kids learn a new foreign language. Our Summer Story Pack read more…

Learn Chinese with Tasks: Implementing a Task Chain to Improve Integrated Language Skills – Part One

July 15 2015

In my previous blogs (Activities for Elementary Students, Formative Assessment for First Graders and Task Design), I used several tasks as examples to show how I design tasks and activities in first-grade Chinese language class. read more…

A Great Patriot – 屈原 Qū Yuán

June 16 2015

端午节 (Duān Wǔ Jié) or the Dragon Boat Festival is a popular festival celebrated in June. read more…