Saturday, May 14, 2016

Kids Books about Chinese Food, Picture Books

We are finishing up our focus on Chinese food in my after-school Mandarin class. It has been FUN!!!
The kids all have some experience with Chinese food, so they are very motivated to learn. We're wrapping up our session with play-acting a restaurant scene: being ushered to a table by a server, placing an order, and thanking the server. More on that later!

There are some great English-language picture books that introduce Chinese food to kids. Here are some of my favorites. They are sure to entertain, and might even make your tummy rumble!

1.  I'm the Chef! The Young Chef's Chinese Cookbook by France Lee (Crabtree Publishing, 2001). 

Okay, so not a picture book, but a darn good kids' Chinese cookbook. Includes recipes for soups, main dishes (sweet and sour prawns, tofu with pork), old standards (long life noodles and fried rice), and treats (egg custard tarts).

I absolutely love how each recipe shows a picture of the ingredients used and what each step should look like. This is what makes it kid-friendly!

We tried making the egg custard tarts, and they turned out fabulous (Read about and see pictures of our experience making egg custard tarts on my old blog, Rice and Pasta, Please!)

2.  The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine (Penguin Dutton, 2011)

A rollicking Chinese New Year story about a poor peasant boy Ming who trades his family’s last eggs for a magic wok. The wok goes rogue through ancient Beijing, stealing succulent dishes, toys, and money from the stingy but wealthy Li family, and depositing the goodies at Ming’s house. Ming’s family distributes the treats to the whole village, who then celebrate the New Year together as the wok whisks the Li family out of town.

  • Author's note about Chinese New Year and recipe for Festive Fried Rice included in the back.  
  • Kids will love the lively story and colorful illustrations.  
  • If you like this book, check out Compestine’s The Runaway Rice Cake (2001), another Chinese New Year tale involving magic and food.

2.  Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin (Knopf, Borzoi Books, 2001)

My list of kids books about Chinese food would not be complete without Grace Lin! The theme of delicious Chinese food is woven throughout this Newberry Honor winner's delightful picture and chapter books. Dim Sum for Everyone is the story of a little girl’s visit to a Dim Sum restaurant with her family. She discovers that food is served food from carts pushed by servers, and that everyone gets to choose and share the dish that their heart desires because dim sum means "touches the heart"!
  • The illustrations are enchanting: drawings of ingredients and Chinese food dance on the inside cover…just seeing them makes me hungry!
  • Author’s note at the end explains the history and current traditions of dim sum.

3. HappyBelly, Happy Smile by Rachel Isadora (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009) 

A sweet story by Caldecott Honor-winner Rachel Isadora about a little boys' adventure to a Chinatown restaurant with his has grandpa. He looks at the fish in the tank, visits the chefs in the kitchen, watches them prepare the food, and then shares a meal with his grandpa, including a fortune cookie that has a special message.

Look for pieces of Chinese restaurant take-out menu and pictures of real food in Isadora's vibrant, textured collage and oil illustrations. 

What are your favorite children's books about Chinese food?  
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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mandarin Question-Word Cube

Question words. They are a common hangup in our weekly Mandarin lessons, causing the girls confusion and frustration as they mix up the meanings of the words. 

For example, last week we were deep in the middle of story creation when I asked the question, "为什么?" (Wèishénme? Why?) The blank expression on their faces informed me that they didn't understand the question. 

"Okay," I took a step back, "What does 'wèishénme?' mean?"

"Who?" "What?"  They guessed. 

We run into this problem more often than not when we encounter a question word. To help with this problem, I thought that we needed a visual: a question-word cube. 

Our question-word cube after being sat on
What's a question-word cube? Glad you asked! A question word cube is a cube (haha!) with Mandarin question words and translations written on each face of the cube. It can be manipulated when the girls need a quick memory jog and used to help generate new stories and sentences (more on that later). 

How to make your very own Mandarin question-word cube: 

1. Brainstorm a list of Mandarin question words that you use in lessons OR copy some words from this list. Yes, there are more than six question words in Mandarin so maybe pick the words that need the most practice or make two cubes with different words on each.

2. Print out a die template. Download a free template from First Palette or another website. There are lots of options out there! Print out your template (card stock works best) and write a Mandarin question word/pinyin/translation on each face of the cube. If you're new to writing Chinese characters, you can look up characters and view animated stroke order at Yellow Bridge.

Easy Peasy! 

Now, how will we use this cube in our Mandarin lessons? More on that later...

What tools do you use to learn new Mandarin words? 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spring Book Review: A Nest in Springtime

Spring is finally upon us, and I could not be more excited to see the tips of daffodils and tulips poking through the dirt in my garden. 
To celebrate spring's arrival and the conclusion of our number study in my beginning Mandarin class, I shared the bilingual children's book, A Nest in Springtime: A Bilingual Book of Numbers by Belle Yang (Candlewick Press, 2012).
Although written for a younger audience, my 1st-3rd graders enjoyed hearing me read the endearing story, first in Mandarin and then translating to English words they had not studied yet. They participated by reading all the numbers in the story (in Mandarin, or course=).  

A great book for beginning Mandarin students and their families: It's not easy to find a Mandarin language children's book that beginning language students can read. 
  • A Nest in Springtime is great for kids who are learning to read Chinese characters, especially those who are familiar with the characters for numbers 1-8. They will be able to read 3-4 pages of the book!
  • The story is simple with a limited vocab (it's a board book). English translations are shared on opposite pages, and pinyin pronunciation for the Chinese characters in the story is provided on the last page. This option is great for people like me who aren't super at reading traditional characters (繁體字) or who are new to learning Chinese.  
  • Beautiful jewel-toned illustrations. These make story a joy to read!

To learn how to count from 1-10 in Mandarin, check out this great video put together by Daily Noodles: 

To practice writing your numbers 1-10 in Chinese characters, check out my post: Back-to-school Printable: How to write Numbers 1-10 in Chinese characters

 How will you be celebrating the arrival of spring? 

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mandarin Adjective Match It

The big kids have started a new unit on adjectives. We're moving beyond dà (大, bigand xiǎo (小, small), to words like thick and thin (hòu, 厚; báo, ), short and tall (Ǎi, 矮; gāo, 高), heavy and light (zhòng, 重; qīng, 轻)

To help the girls learn this new vocab, I found a game called Adjective Match It on It's designed for the ESL classroom, but I thought it would be great for helping the girls become more familiar with our new set of Mandarin adjectives. 

A bit like Gin Rummy, the goal of Mandarin Adjective Match It is to collect four adjective cards that best describe the selected picture card.


These images are shared under a post about antonyms so not all are adjectives. They print out in pairs so I cut each card down the center to make smallish rectangular cards. I also made some adjective cards of my own to supplement. 
  • Cut out from magazines or print from internet 4-5 pictures that can be described using a variety of the adjective cards. You can use anything really. I looked for pictures that included more than one person, animal or object. 
  • Shuffle the adjective card deck and deal four cards to each player. Don't forget to count in Mandarin!
  • Place the remainder of the adjective card deck face down in the center of the table.
  • Choose a card from the image pile and place it face up on the table.

How to play:

  1. Player 1 discards one adjective card from her hand, the one that least describes the chosen image card, and draws a new adjective card from the deck. 
  2. Player 2 does the same. 
  3. Play continues until one of the players has four adjective cards that describe the image card and declares "Wǒ yíngle" (我赢了, I won!)
  4. Play 1 round or 20!

The Challenge:

Once your Mandarin students become familiar with the new adjective vocab, add another level of difficulty by requiring them to "make a case" for each of their winning adjectives.

For example, one of the girls won a round by using the adjectives "heavy" "wet" "tall" and "thick" to describe this picture    ----->

She said, "Shítou hěn yìng, yě hòu. Kōngqì hěn shī. Nánrén gāo." (石头很重,也厚。空气 很湿。 男人高." The rock is very hard and thick. The air is wet. The man is tall.) 

As long as they tried to explain their "win" (perfect grammar not necessary!), I let them keep the win: they held on to the picture card. 

How do you use games to practice new vocab?

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