Thursday, December 17, 2015

3 FUN! Activities and Games Using Flashcards in Mandarin Learning

Let me start by saying that I've never been a fan of flash cards as a tool for learning Mandarin. They bring back memories of hours and hours spent falling asleep... Mandarin vocab as a student. I'm sure I benefited in some way from my flashcards, but they did not engage me in learning Mandarin the creative and active way I want my kids to learn. 

So lately, I've been re-thinking flash cards, using them as a jumping off point for active and creative language learning. 

I downloaded this set of action word flashcards from Teachers pay Teachers in effort to expand our verb vocabulary this fall. I liked the cute illustrations on the cards and that they included pinyin (they didn't include the often-used verb-object combinations though, so I wrote on them).

Each week, I've used this set of action cards in a different activity or game. Now that the girls are familiar with most of the vocab, I'm adding my own winter activity verb-object flashcards to the deck (Click here to download). 

Read on for 3 fun activities and games that use flashcards in Mandarin language learning. 

1-2-3 At a Time

This is a great game to play immediately after introducing a set of 10-12 new verbs. It's an active game for 2 or more players, which can result in fits of giggles. 

  1. Introduce a set of 10-12 verbs to your students. Have your students repeat the word in Mandarin after you, while simultaneously performing the action you've selected for the verb. 
  2. Once you have gone through the set, place the verb cards face down in a pile.
  3. Choose someone to be the first "actor." Have them choose a card from the deck, and perform the action that goes along with the card they have chosen for the rest of the students, "the audience." 
  4. The "actor" must continue to perform the action until the "audience" yells out the correct Mandarin word that matches the action.
  5. Switch "actors" and repeat the process.
Challenge: When your students become familiar with the deck of cards, challenge them by asking the actors to choose 2 cards (and perform 2 actions at a time) until the audience guesses both actions. If this is still too easy, try 3 cards (3 actions). The silliness of performing 2 or more actions at the same time (e.g. singing while drinking water) will make this game a hit with your kids and make the vocab stick in their brains!

Memory Match

This is another great way to reinforce new Mandarin vocabulary. Play this game just like the well-known childhood game, except you'll be matching the pinyin action card to its corresponding English card. 
  • Start with a small stack of new vocab (6-10 action cards and their matches). When your students become familiar with these cards, add in a few extra sets of matching cards. 
  • Each time your student takes a turn, encourage them to say the Mandarin word they choose out loud as a way to familiarize themselves with pronunciation. 

Sentence Generator

I came up with this activity after noticing that the girls, although familiar with the vocab we had been studying, were struggling to use the new words in sentences they generated by themselves. I decide to use the action flashcards as our "word bank" for a question and answer pattern we were practicing. 

  • We placed the action flashcards face down in a pile, our "word bank.
  • The "asker" chose an action card from the pile and used it in the sentence pattern we were practicing,  你什么候 (insert verb from card)?” (When do you ____? Nǐ shénme shíhòu
  • The "answerer" responded with a truthful answer, or when they got stuck, we broke out another stack of time flashcards and used them to help generate a response. 

That's just a snapshot of how we've been using flashcards lately. I'd love to know how you use flashcards in Mandarin language activities and games!

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mandarin Winter Verb-Object Flashcards

Hi all!

I'm working on a new post on FUN! activities and games for incorporating Mandarin language flashcards into lessons. 

While I'm hard at work, I'd like to share a free flashcard printable with you...just in time for winter! 

Click here to download

I've included both pinyin and Chinese characters for 9 Mandarin verb-object combinations related to winter activities. 

Print on 2 pages to keep the illustration and translation on separate cards or print 2-sided if you want the translation to appear on the opposite side. 

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Learning Mandarin with Dry Erase Tape Magnet Board: Part 2

October flew by! And although we met for Mandarin class, I ran out of time to share what and how we learned---So sorry!

Since my last post, we have used the dry erase magnet boards a lot. At some point, I decided that we needed more writing space on the cookie sheet so I flipped the pan over and covered the backside with dry erase tape.  

Now we have the best of both worlds: magnetic and dry erase!

So how are using these fabulous dry erase tape magnet boards to learn Mandarin? 
I adapted an activity from a few weeks back (which I will call "Fix the Silly Mistake") to reinforce some new time words I had introduced.

How we played "Fix the Silly Mistake"
1. I wrote 3 sentences on the white board that were mostly correct, except for one word per sentence. This one word (written on a magnet) made the sentence false (and very silly).

For example, on the tray pictured above I wrote:
-Dog was 1 year old last year. (The dog in question was born 6 weeks ago)
-Girl A wants to go to France next year.  (A was hoping to go to France this year)
-Girl L went to China this year.  (L went to China last year)

Okay, so maybe these sentences don't sound very silly here, but trust me, the girls were laughing!

 The girls first read the sentences: identifying and looking up any characters they did not remember, and translating the sentences to English to double check their comprehension.

3. Then, they discussed how to correct the sentence, and rearranged the magnet words so that the sentences read correctly. 

4. Last, they took turns reading the corrected sentence out loud in Mandarin and saying the English translation again to double check.

**More advanced Mandarin language students may not need this translating step, but the girls needed this extra step to reinforce their comprehension.

The take-away: We love the flexibility of the dry erase tape magnet board, providing endless possibilities for language learning. I love that it's small and portable too, great for our small house where language learning must be cleaned up to make space for dinner.

What are your "go to" tools for language learning? 
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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Learning Mandarin with Dry Erase Tape Magnets: DIY

Happy (a few days late) Mid-Autumn Festival! 中秋节快乐!Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè!

Did you see the Supermoon eclipse? I hope so! Unfortunately, we were clouded over and did not see one bit of that beautiful moon. No moon cakes for us either (my kids refuse to eat them). 

But we did learn how to write "moon" (月亮, yuèliàng) and say:

"Mid-Autumn Festival is on Sunday"  
中秋节是星期天。Zhōngqiū jié shì xīngqítiān.


"Mid-Autumn Festival is September 27." 
中秋节是九月二十七号。Zhōngqiūjié shì jiǔyuè èrshíqīhào.

I noticed that my daughter and her friend were struggling a little with sentence order as they translated these English sentences into Mandarin. I remember going through this as a beginning Mandarin student -- knowing which words to say but struggling with putting them together in the right order in Mandarin. 

Then, yesterday I saw dry erase tape at our local hardware store and thought, "How cool is that! What project could I make to justify buying that super cool office supply?"  

A few hours later, Eureka! I was making dry erase magnets on which I wrote Mandarin phrases and words that the girls could then rearrange to make sentence construction just a little easier. 


Here's the DIY:

  • Scotch Dry Erase Tape
  • magnets (I used the many freebies we receive in the mail from doctors, dentists, etc...)
  • cookie sheet (I bought mine at the Dollar Store)
  • dry erase markers

Steps  This is so easy peasy. Just 3 simple steps.
  1. Stick dry erase tape onto magnets. It removes very easily as well.
  2. Cut to size. The cheapo freebie magnets are thin and easy to trim down.
  3. Write your Mandarin words and phrases on the magnets with dry erase markers and stick them to the pan.  And done!

Now,here's how we used the magnets 
  • I spoke sentences in Mandarin which the girls, then, had to piece together using magnets on the cookie tray.
  • I built a question out of magnets on the tray, and they had to answer it by swapping out the question word/phrase (i.e. 星期几? Xīngqí jǐ 几月几号? Jǐyuè jǐhào) for the correct answer magnet or by writing the answer on a blank magnet. 
  • I asked a question out loud that the girls then had to answer by: 1st--forming their answer with magnets on the tray, 2nd--reading their Mandarin sentence out loud, and 3rd--translating the sentence into English.
  • I used the magnets to form a sentence that had an error (i.e. Mid-Autumn Festival is on Friday. 中秋节是星期五。Zhōngqiū jié shì xīngqíwǔ), and then asked them to correct the error. 
So that's what we did in a nutshell. I'm excited to explore other ways we can use this learning tool in our Mandarin lessons. 

If you make dry erase magnets for your Mandarin learning, leave a comment below. I'd love to know how you used them!

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Double Happiness Book Review

I'm Back!

This summer was very busy, full of big life changes for my family:

......My mother-in-law moved from China to a house just down the road from us
......My husband started medical school (while working at the same time)
......& I started a full-time job search for a part-time job


During these months, there were many ideas (books, games, learning tools) that I so wanted to share with you, but just could not carve out the time to do so.  

Please forgive me!


Now, that the kids are back in school, I want to share a delightful book that I discovered this week: 

Double Happiness, by Nancy Tupper Lin and illustrated by Alina Chau (released in August, 2015), is the heartwarming tale of a Chinese family's move from San Francisco to somewhere cold and snowy far away (the East coast, I think). 

In order to cope with the sadness of leaving their extended family and old home, Gracie and Jake's Nainai suggests that they create "happiness boxes" and fill them with four treasures each that they will bring from their old home to their new one. 

Brother and sister turn their attention to filling their special boxes as they board an airplane and travel to their new home: a shiny penny, a Eucalyptus leaf, a blue and green marble...

By the time they arrive at their new home, they have collected a total of (lucky number) eight treasures, which they unpack with their happy memories.

What I love:

The story is written as a series of lyrical poems in the alternating voices of Gracie and Jake (Gracie in purple, Jake in blue). She paints pictures with her words and captures the playful and competitive banter between siblings. 

Chinese language & culture is interwoven in this story and its illustrations. It's not the "let me tell you about Chinese culture" type of book that seems to dominate children's literature, but rather the "let me show you" type that will delight and enchant you. 
  • Chinese Language The poems have Mandarin titles (as well as English) and contain simple Mandarin words like Nainai and chi fan. Look for Chinese characters in the artwork!
  • Double Happiness The story revolves around the theme of double happiness--a symbol that is typically associated with weddings to depict the joy of a bride and groom united in marriage--but Lin extends this idea to include the two children, their two boxes, and their two homes.
  • Cultural images weave through the poems and illustrations: Gracie's Panda, the family's first meal of Chinese food at their new house, Nainai's silk scarf, and Jake's feisty imaginary dragon. 
Anita Chau's whimsical watercolor illustrations: They are endearing, full of childlike imagination, humor, and action!

What he loves:
"The way the words go zig-zag on some of the pages" 
(staggered like stair steps on the page)

The poem Grandmother, "It makes me feel good."

"The pictures. I think kids would like the colors and how she drew the people." 

For another delightful discussion of this book, check out Jama's Alphabet Soup's interview with Nancy Tupper Lin

And don't forget to enter the giveaway at Curious City DPW, where they will be giving away 7 pieces of Chau's artwork during the 7 Days of China's Golden Week (10/1/15-10/7/15).
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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vet Visit Imaginary Play: Prescription Printable

Our Vet Visit imaginary play was such a hit that we added a new component this week: 

A prescription form--in Mandarin, of course!

Click here to download the character version  Click here to download the pinyin version

How can you use this form? 

1.  Have your child, the "doctor," fill it out:
  • Fill in the name of the medicine (药的名字,yào de míngzì), 
  • Circle when the medicine should be taken: morning (早上, zǎoshang) or evening (晚上, wǎnshàng)
  • Note the number of times the medicine should be taken (几次, jǐ cì)
  • Sign their "doctor" name (医生名字,yīshēng míngzì) 
  • Write in the date (日期,rìqí

2.  Learn to write some of the characters on the form:
  • We talked about the character 医 (yī, medicine), how it is an "arrow" (失,shǐ) inside a "container" (匸,xǐ) because a regular task of early doctors in China was pulling arrows out of wounded soldiers' chests (read about it here).

3.  Act the part of the "doctor's assistant"
It's your job to fill out the form, but to do so, you need to ask the "doctor" for the information on the form. This is a great chance for your child to practice their Mandarin listening and speaking skills. Ask: 

What is the name of the medicine?       Yào de míngzì shì shénme?       药的名字是什么?
Doctor, what is your name?        Yīshēng nǐ jiào shénme míngzì?    医生,你叫什么名字?
When will she take her medicine?     Tā shénme shíhòu chī yào?           他什么时候吃药?
What is today's date?                       Jīntiān shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào?                 今天是几月几号?

These are just ideas to get you started. It's imaginary play, so let your imagination go play!

How do you use imaginary play to practice Mandarin in your home? 

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