Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vet Visit Imaginary Play & Printable

Research has shown that imaginary play helps young children's language development, cognitive processes, and creativity, amongst many other things. (Here's a 2012 article from Psychology Today about all of its important benefits.)  

But how about about foreign language learning? Can imaginary play help kids (of all ages) learn Mandarin? I think so.

Over and over, I've seen how kids who are initially reluctant to practice their new Mandarin phrases suddenly begin talking when a puppet or stuffed animal is placed in their hands. Something magical happens!They become so focused on the play acting, that they lose their fear of trying to say something new.

I decided to build on this phenomena--as well as my 9yo and her BFF's love of imaginary play to help them practice our recent vocab and phrases about visiting a doctor: 
But instead of acting out a doctor's appointment (like we had in our previous lesson), we thought it would be more fun for them to act out taking their stuffed animals to the vet. 

Inspired by some of the imaginary play printables I saw on Pinterest, I made a Mandarin version of a health form from a veterinary hospital (shòuyīyuàn兽医院). The girls took turns playing the part of the vet and pet owner. The vet asked the pet owner questions in Mandarin, filling in the form as she went, and the pet owner responded in Mandarin about her pet bear, wolf, turtle, etc... 

Here's the health form I designed (on Picmonkey) for their Mandarin vet visit (Click here to download for free). It's black and white printer-friendly (except for the green lion--sorry! Picmonkey was acting up), and there's a small box in the middle for the "doctor" to make notes or drawings based on his or her diagnosis.

Their poor animals, of course, needed treatment, so I labeled a small veterinary medicine kit we picked up at IKEA years ago with pinyin translation (see above image).

....And the play-acting was a hit! I think we will do this again next week--the more they practice, the more confident they become in their Mandarin speaking ability. This is one of my goals as a home-teacher!

How do you incorporate imaginary play in your Mandarin lessons? 
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