Friday, December 21, 2012

M is for miàn 面

We had a fun lesson today learning about noodle, which was first invented by Chinese. Who is the first inventor of noodle is debatable until National Geographic concluded when a 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles unearthed in China. Noodles are an important ingredient and staple in Chinese food. My family loves noodle. I showed them different types of noodle we eat in my family, rice noodle, wheat noodle, sweet potato noodle, etc.
An award-winning documentary, A Bite of China, came out this year on the history of food, eating and cooking in China. This documentary is very popular in China and has also been actively encouraged as a means of introducing Chinese culture to foreigners. I showed part of the documentary (from 24:00) about how noodle is made. Everyone was fascinated by how the noodle master turns a dough into noodles. They laughed out at how people use bamboo to press down the dough. 
Kids always enjoy food they make by themselves. So we made noodle from the stratch! I brought a noodle maker from China and you can find one here too. My mom helped me prepare some dough. We put some water into flour and make it a dough. Use the rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangular shape. Then cut the rectangular into several smaller rectangulars ready for the noodle maker.
Kids took turn to put the rectangular dough sheets into the noodle maker to make them thinner. You can adjust how thin you want. Then they put the thin sheet into the cutter of the noodle maker. There are three sizes they can choose. They love the smallest size. Look at the noodle we made!
It's time to cook them! We boiled water first and then put noodle into the boiled water. When they are done, take the noodle into a big bowl and put flavours. We put sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, sugar, beef and small green onion. Easy, healthy and yummy! Everyone wanted more!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My birthplace - Fuzhou 福州

Today's class brings back a lot of my memory about the city where I spent four years in college. Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, also the closest city to Taiwan in mainland China. Ben grew up in Fuzhou and joined his family in FL until he was two. He brought a lot of photos, where I had been to, like the temple by my college, garden, and even the city tree, banyan. But they think banyan tree is ugly with the roots growing from the branch.
We talked about the location, population, city flower, tree, and the food. None of them ever eat the fish ball before, which is the most population street food in Fuzhou. Fish ball can be found in Chinese grocery stores here. The main source of Chinese restaurant or grocery employees in the United States is actually a small town near Fuzhou. When I eat out in a Chinese restaurant, I can hear those familiar Fuzhou dialect. 
We made a banyan tree out of the paper lunch bag. I get the idea from here. It's not easy to twist the paper bag. But they did well and put on the green tissue paper.
I haven't been back to Fuzhou since I graduated from Fuzhou university 14 years ago. Looking at those pictures from Fuzhou, I can imagine the huge changes the city is going through. I wish I can go back this summer to visit my college friends and probably share with them about my wonderful kids from China.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

L is for lóng 龙

My kids are familiar with the role of dragon in Chinese culture. But few know how the animal was created. I love this book called Legend of the Chinese Dragon, written in both English and Chinese. The book is illustrated with woodcuts executed in black and bright primary colors. Elegant calligraphy runs down the pages and seals of Chinese characters of different animal names are designed by the calligrapher. The story describes the role of the dragon as a symbol of peace and hope for an end to war, something quite different from the fire-breathing myth in western culture. Tired of seeing their land ravaged by war, the Chinese children decided to create an animal that would combine the attributes of many creatures and protect all the people, no matter what tribe. They called their creation, "which could fly in the air, swim in the ocean, and walk on land," a dragon, and it inspired their parents to make peace. There are many legends about how a dragon was created and I am not sure about the source of this one. But I love this one because chidren are heroes in this story.
We watched the short video about dragon. They all know two important festivals in China, when we celebrate with dragon dance and dragon boat racing. I showed them a performance of 2012 Asian dragon dance champion by a  highschool team from Taiwan. There were fasicnated by different tricks they did. They love the music of dragon dance by drums and cymbals. 
I love this week's craft. Two classes of kids traced their hands and cut them out to make a dragon! Their hands are small, so we made a lot of them to form a dragon. Look at these colorful hands! They are from my precious children of China!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

K is for kǒng zǐ 孔子

I didn't expect a lesson about Confucius full of laughters and questions! I had thought it's hard for them to understand because it's the curriculum for midlle or high school kids. 
I started the class by asking if anyone heard of Confucius. Believe it or not, in China, not many kids know who he is and what Confucius teaches and his book Analects is not popular in China at all. Then one girl answered, "Is he one of the presidents of China?" OK, need to show them something. I took out a fortune cookie, cracked it and read a fortune. Then I told them most of these sayings are from Confucius, who is a great thinker, politician and teacher from 2,500 years ago. Then I was bombarded with questions with shocked look.

"You mean a person from 2,500 years ago actually wrote these fortune?"
"So these sentences are actually truth instead of our luck?"
"How can a person from centuries ago know what would happen to us?" 
"Is he as nice as Mrs. XX?"

I showed them this short video and read some of Confucius' sayings. Another animation of Life of Confucius really helps them to know more about his life, from when he was born to his death. 
Then I asked them to give others good advice, just like what Confucius did and they came up with many good ones.
 "Do not give up. Work at your best."
"Be happy everyday. Play everyday!"
"Never be selfish to others. If you do, someone does that back to you."
"Be nice to dogs."
"Think good."
I have brilliant kids! These advice are so helpful, even for adults, aren't they?
We then made some paper fortune cookies and put Confucius' saying into it.
What a fun class we had today! Confucius would probably laugh out loud to find that snippets of his wisdom are stuffed into fortune cookies, which were invented in America and have never been popular in China.
What I learned today? No matter how hard the concept might look, as long as we can find something in life that kids can relate to, it can be an informative and fun lesson!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book 1: I love my family 我爱我的家

We started the first book of Betterchinese: I love my family. I love this book because it is very repetitive. Kids learn how to say I love mom, dad, elder brother & sister, younger brother & sister in Chinese. I use gesture to teach each word. Hope kids can go home and show parents these gestures and learn together! I played this song and let them find out some words you might understand. It's a hard song, but it repeats I love my family a lot. 
We did a craft. I did this with my students before on Mother's day. Here is the my son's prototype of the craft:

We cut out a heart shape with Chinese character Mom in the middle. Then put sequins on the character. Last, we put the heart on another piece of paper, which says I love my mom on the top. 
But the craft wasn't a success. Those pieces keep sticking to the fingers and are hard for most of them to put on. I kept thinking that night after the class how my kids did it before. Then oops! I did it with Q-tip and liquid glue, instead of glue stick and fingers. My fault!
Lesson I learned on the first day of Chinese language class:
Little one probably need to do different crafts.
I need to explain everything well, otherwise it's too overwhelming.

Try to stay with target language as possible as I can. Use a lot of gestures and comprehensible input.

BetterChinese Mandarin-immersion class!

I am so excited I started Better Chinese language class, thanks to the parents who see the benefits of learning a second language at young age and are willing to commit time. I believe learning a second language helps increasing listening ability, memory, creativity and critical thinking. Cultural awareness and appreciation prepare kids to understand how to work with a diverse work force in the future. For heritage speakers, like most of my students, learning one's heritage languages fosters a sense of self-concept and pride.
My vision for a second language class is by immersion. My Mandarin-immersion class will be an engaging and dynamic experience for young learners. Using a full immersion model, Mandarin Chinese and culture is taught through Chinese songs, rhymes, finger play, puppetry, games, movement and crafts.


Better Chinese
My First Chinese Words series is for PK3-Grade 2 students with no prior exposure to Chinese. This set of 36 size-appropriate storybooks is designed with the idea that young children learn best when the information given is relevant to their everyday lives, which makes learning fun and exciting.
Additional resources
The online learning of Better Chinese is also available by subscription.
My other recommendation is the DVD series called Muzzy. It is great for all ages and includes supplementary materials to reinforce what is taught in the DVD.
Ipad Apps
There are also quite a few iPad Apps developed for learning Chinese. We will try some in class.
Do your homework
Classroom rules
Sit properly
Quiet hand or Wo Lai (means I'll try)
Classroom mascot 
Meet our classroom mascot Panda Pangpang (means chubby in Chinese). Pangpang speaks only Chinese in class! After we learn a book, children can sit on a super reader Pangpang chair to read out loud the story book in Chinese! Later Pangpang will travel with children to their homes.
Classwork & Homework
My First Chinese Words Workbook 
Activity and writing sheet
Listening to the CD and read out loud the book every day!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

J is for jiā 家 (2)

This week, I am thinking of a craft kids can put on the Christmas tree or send to friends and it also shows how much they love their family. I decided to do some easy weaving with kids. But it turned out not so easy. I cut out some white cardboard paper into round shape and small cuts along the circle. Show them the pattern of weaving and the order. They all started quite right, but got lost in the middle when strings started to overlap. Weaving takes patience. We put a family photo on one side and wrote Chinese character Jia on the other.

The other class did a pop-up Christmas tree card. These kids are creative. I cut out some colorful dots and used them to decorate the card. But they decided to put those on top of the tree and they decorated the tree with stars. We put family photo on the card and wrote Jia Ren (家人), which means people in the family.