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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