Wednesday, January 30, 2013

P is for pīng pāng 乒乓

What's China's national sport? It's ping-pong! The English word actually comes from its Chinese pronunciation, ping pang. But Chinese didn't invent ping-pong. The game was invented first by an English man when he introduced the first action game of tennis on a table in 1890.
Why does China dominates ping-pong? I showed kids some photoes and they can see how popular ping pong is in a country of 1.3 billion people. It's a cheap sport, doesn't take a lot of space, and everyone plays it.
 In the rural areas, there are rows of concrete ping pong tables with a concrete "net" in schools and parks.
 In cities, there are indoor ping-pong stadiums and ping-ping sports schools. 
We watched the video of China's national team winning the champion in 2012 London Olympics. They are amazed at how fast a ping-pong ball can go. Then we talked about some basic rules of ping-pong and we tried it! 
We started from walking with the ball on the paddle, then walking while bouncing the ball on the paddle. They feel it hard to bounce such a small ball. Then two kids at a time tried it with the dinning table and a "net" in the middle.
Personally, I really enjoy ping-pong with my kids. It doesn't need a big space and offers entertainment and good exercise. The risk of injury is low and the intensity is manageable. I would love to see some day schools here can be equipped with ping-pong tables for kids!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

O is for ǒu 藕

The lotus is an aquatic plant natvie to southern Asia and Australia. It is regarded as the supreme flower of summer. Under the influence of Buddhism, Chinese poets have praised the cleanliness and purity of the lotus flower rising above the muddy water.
 (The Goddess of Mercy sits peacefully in a lotus blossom seat.) 
The Chinese make great use of every party of this special plant. The seeds are made into a sweet paste for desserts; the seed pods are used for medicine; and the roots, are canned or cooked as delicacies.
You can eat lotus seeds fresh from its pod or cook the dry seeds as dessets.
No one in the class ever see a lotus flower before, neither the lotus roots. I want to introduce lotus root to parents because they are good source of dietary fibers, vitamin C and provides healthy amounts of important minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese. When I passed on the dry lotus seeds from China, some of kids cracked them open and ate them and they said it's very yummy!

Parents can find the fresh lotus roots in local Chinese grocery, which are farm raised. In China, wild lotus roots in the fresh water lake can sell for high price because they need to picked up by hand, intact. This episode from A Bite of China shows how hard lotus roots workers work in 7 months a year in the muddy water to dig for lotus roots. (watch from 22:00 min.)
I brought pure lotus root powder from China and we made some jelly! To prepare, you first mash a spoonful of the powder in cold water to make a paste, then quickly stir while pouring in a cupful of boiling water. As you stir, the opaque powder becomes a transparent gel. The desired result is a bowl of light brown translucent jelly, which you eat with sugar either hot or cold. This is one of my favorite snack!                            

Friday, January 18, 2013

Introducing handwriting of Chinese characters

I've been thinking about how to introduce the handwriting of Chinese characters to my younger students for a while and haven't come up with a good idea. It's hard for them to relate the handwriting to the real life, let along the handwriting of Chinese characters which are made of strokes. I have two 4-year-olds who are not yet developed the concept of print. 
Our family took a trip to the Sanibel Island during Christmas. We had a great time at the beach. Joey and dad found seashells of different colors and varieties. While they were on the shell hunt, I was relaxing at the beach watching people playing sports, walking dogs, surfing, and some kids writing and drawing with sticks in the sand. Yes, how about making Chinese words by drawing pictures in the sand! I think it's a brilliant idea! It's related and fun!
So here I am, with the finest sand I can find from the Senibel Isand and an innovative picture At The Beach from Huy Vun Lee.  

It's a beautiful day at the beach.
Xiao Ming is learning to write Chinese.
"Many Chinese characters are like pictures." Says his mother as she draws in the sand.
"I know that character." Says Xiao Ming. "It means person. See, it looks like someone is walking." 
 I put the sand in the paper plate and kids used their fingers to draw Chinese characters. We started from the very basic strokes, like the horizontal and vertical strokes, sweeping left and dot, etc. Then we tried some simple characters, those from the book, like person, big, small, etc. It was fun! They were doing great, even following the stroke order!

I love this introduction activity! Through their drawing in the sand, they can easily see the similarities between characters and real life objects. And the book is educational, fun and beautiflly illustrated. They are very proud of themselves writing Chinese characters! 

So what's the prize for their hard work today? Sea shells from the Sanibel Island!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

N is for nián 年

Chinese new year is one month away! In these couple of weeks, I planed my lesson with connection to Chinese new year, which is the most important holidays in China. We talked about firecrackers before, my kids are familiar with the traditions, symbols and the tales of Chinese new year. They all know Nian is a monster who came out at the new year's eve to eat people and animals. I find this new animation about Nian with fantastic music and pictures.  The story adds a cute baby Nian. They enjoyed the new story and thought it was because Nian that Chinese celebrate the huge festival all over the world.

We made our own Nian! They drew scary Nian on the paper plate and add colorful stripes as hair. Then we had a lion dance with Nian masks! I love this simple lion dance to reinforce numbers in Chinese. 
Nian in Chinese means Year. This is how to say Happy New Year in Chinese:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Birthplace - Jiangxi 江西

I love to talk about birthplace with kids, enjoy their family albums and amazing stories. Research about these cities helps me better understand them, find some untold stories and see the tremendous changes China is going through everywhere.  
Today we talked about Jiangxi Province, located in the southeast of China. When I first know Ally's name in Chinese, I was wonering if she is from Jiangxi because her last name in Chinese sounds the same as the short name of Jiangxi. That's one part I like names in Chinese. They mean something. Some time we can guess which season or what time of the day one is born, like part of Ally's first name meaning early morning
The concept of 56 minority ethnic groups in China are hard for kids to understand because there is no real American ethnicity and they don't see people in their life with a unique language, food, attitute, cuisine, etc. So when I told them there are more than 30 minority ethnic groups living in Jiangxi, they don't know what they mean. I use American Indians as an example, they are still confused. I think I need to work on this.
Jiangxi is very famous for its porcelain. Best porcelain from China are from Jingdezhen in Jiangxi. We designed our own plates by using only blue paint or sharpies. They put Chinese pavilion, giant panda even Christmas tree on it. Lovely!