Saturday, August 30, 2014

Swimming with GoPro

Summer is coming to an end.
In just one week we will be celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節.
Our community swimming pool is going to close very soon.
To remember the good times we've had at the pool Zosia has made a really cool video - please take a look:

Do you want to go swimming?


Friday, August 29, 2014

Alphabet book by Ania

Continuing with teaching letters to preschooler - putting it all together.

After finishing all the exercises for a particular letter I would give Ania a box of cut out letters from magazines (small and capital, all in different fonts) and ask her to look for that letter.

Next step was to glue these letter to the big sheet of paper together with the letters from other exercises.

And now time for ... stickers! Out of a box of stickers and a sticker book we chose the ones which pictures begin with the letter Ania is learning.

After Ania placed them on the page I wrote the names of the objects. It looked like this:

After all this work Ania's letter page was finished!

And after a few months all the letters had their pages and it was time to put them all together  into a big alphabet book:

Ania had lots of fun doing all the letter exercises and she is very proud of her big alphabet book. Although she already knows all her letters, she still likes to look through it from time to time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Making a rainstick

Few weeks ago Ania had to prepare an instrument for her music class (Mama Mia 親子館). The instrument was supposed to imitate the sound of rain, wind or thunder. I figured that it would be nice to make an instument first "invented" by Aztecs - the rainstick (or something that would resemble it).
The big brother, Jaś, was a great help.

What is needed to make a rainstick:
  • a tube (we used one for storing pictures)
  • nails
  • beans/peas or other small grains
  • colored tape + stickers to decorate
  • hammer

I made small dots on the tube so the nails
would be placed at equal distances.

Placing the nails in was a task for Jas.

This is how the tube looks like after the nails are nailed through.

Ania is adding stickers after the tube was covered with colored tape.

When the tube has been decorated, remember to seel one end well.
Now your rain stick is ready to be filled - pour some small grains in and after closing the other end, move your rainstick slowly in the upright position - up and down - and listen to the rain.

The rain stick is ready to play!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Missing snow (video)

At the end of April Zosia was taking part in filming of one episode for a popular Public TV children's program 下課花路米.

It was her idea to make an episode about skiing in Taiwan (as you know it does not snow on this island, except for a few cm high up in the mountains). She wrote a proposal to the program producer and her idea was accepted!

Now you can enjoy a short film from behind the scenes:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Websites for teaching Chinese

In my last post I shared with you how we teach Chinese at home. To all the materials mentioned there I would like to add some Internet resources. Some of the websites have on-line games, others have some printable worksheets while on others you can order books and materials for teaching at home.
Check them out, maybe you are going to find something interesting and suitable for your children.
Also ... if you know of any other interesting on-line resources, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thank you!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Chinese at home

Quite often I am asked how do we teach Chinese at home, what materials do we use.

At first I would like to mention that we are a trilingual family using OPOL (One Parent One Language) approach when it comes to speaking to kids (me - Polish, my husband - Mandarin Chinese, English is spoken between me and my husband), but I am the main teacher of all 3 languages. In this post I will present how the teaching of Chinese written language is done at our homeschool.

To tell you the truth ... it's not easy, although we've been living in a (Mandarin) Chinese speaking country for the past 12 years and although the kids are surrounded by this language, they don't really like learning to read and write Chinese characters. English and Polish seem much easier to them. All three kids speak fluent Chinese, but both older ones, Zosia and Jaś prefer reading and writing in Polish and in English.

Over the years we've tried many different ways of teaching Chinese. With all the kids we started to expose them to characters quite early, about 3-4 years old. The first materials we used were a set of books with picture and character cards.

The kids first lay out the picture cards and then match the corresponding character cards.

When Zosia was about to start primary school we started wondering whether it makes sense to teach her bo-po-mo-fo 注音符號 .

(These are phonetic symbols used in Taiwan as transcription of Chinese characters. They are used in children's books and magazines next to the characters to make reading easier for kids. They may also be used as one of the characters' computer input methods as Taiwanese keyboards have them printed on the keys.)

We decided not to. During the first few weeks of 1st grade she learned them at school (she went to school once a week just to get the feeling of what school is). Jaś, on the other hand, has never learned it and until now he can not use bo-po-mo-fo to input Chinese into computer or GPS :-) 
Why didn't we teach Jaś these phonetic symbols? When he was younger Jaś had problems learning the alphabet and learning how to read in English and Polish, it seemed too much to make him memorize 37 additional symbols plus thousands of Chinese characters.

In the early days we also used textbooks published in Hong Kong by Greenfield Education Foundation.

Each lesson has a short rhyme/text and a few exercises. The text concentrates on characters that look or sound alike. Apparently it's supposed to be easier for kids to memorise the groups of characters like that instead of single, unrelated ones. I don't know if it helps or not ... 

Zosia didn't have problems memorising characters and Jaś did (still does). No matter what we tried Jaś was not happy learning Chinese. Now it's Ania's turn and I must say - so far so good. It's enough to tell her once what the character is and she remembers it. She has a really good memory :-)

The only interesting books with comprehension and language exercises in Chinese that we found in Taiwan are from the publisher Firefly Books 螢火蟲出版社. The stories and exercises are much more interesting than the ones in school textbooks. The variety of the exercises in also greater.

There are also some other interesting books about Chinese characters that are worth reading with kids.

This set of The progress and changing of Chinese characters 文字的奧秘 published by Ta Chien Publishing 企鵝圖書 has short stories about origins of many of the Chinese characters. It also has beautiful illustrations.

Another book by the same publisher in The root part of traditional Chinese characters 字的家族

Unfortunately Internet search of the publisher and these two sets of books shows that they are no longer available in Taiwan.

I must confess I am not the only Chinese teacher to our children. Jaś had a few different teachers along the way. Unfortunately none of them had sparked his interest in Chinese language. He still does not like reading and writing in Chinese. 
He used to write a diary in Chinese and now writes from time to time a few sentences on his Facebook or blog, but that's all. Zosia has already realised that the ability to write in Chinese is a very important one when living in Taiwan, quite often she needs to write proposals and other papers in Chinese so I can say that she is learning on the job :-) .

I am wondering how you teach your children Chinese.
Do you have any interesting materials? 
Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Talking to kids about Poland

I don't like giving presentations or interviews, but from time to time I am asked to do so. If the person asks nicely then I can not decline and I end up getting all stressed and worried that I won't do it well and I won't be understood (remember I have to give presentations in Chinese).

Yesterday was one of those days that I had to stand in front of a group of kids and adults and talk. The audience were the kids attending a 5-day media workshop at one of the universities in Taipei 世新大學. My presentation was about ... Poland.

How to make an interesting presentation about a country? That was a task for Zosia! She is the expert in using Prezi to make presentations. Look what she has made:

The presentation went well. Most kids were interested and afterwards had many questions. Some of the questions that I was asked were:
  • What do people in Poland eat?
  • What are the interesting things to see in Poland?
  • Are all people in Poland tall?
  • Do children in Poland have homework?
  • Are there exams/tests in school?
  • Are there mountains in Poland?
  • What are the holidays in Poland?
All children who asked questions got a special treat - Polish candies!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting ready for new school year

I don't know about you, but every summer I like to go over the books and school materials and get everything ready for the coming school year.

I don't necessary take everything down from the shelves and out of cabinets every year, but this year I've decided to go through everything thoroughly.

It took me two and a half days and now the classroom is ready for the kids and another year of homeschooling. This year is also first time in many years that I am not ordering any new homeschool curricula. I decided to teach with whatever materials we have plus the things that I can find on the Internet. And besides we already have 8 years of Sonlight curriculum!

While going through all the books, papers, materials, games, I found some things to give away. There are a few books that my kids have never even opened (most of them in Chinese).

How about you? How often do you go through all the homeschool (or school) books and materials?

Below you can see how our classroom looks like after the big clean up:

Almost all our books, workbooks and textbooks are on these 20 shelves.
Below, behind the cabinet doors, are some art materials,
teaching materials that will be used later and new stationaries.

Zosia's desk with (a very old) computer and printer
+ shelves with her books and books about Taiwan.

Shelves with work for Ania - Montessori Sequin Boards,
Metal Insets and other teaching materials made by me +
many big floor puzzles.

View outside the window and Jas' science projects.

Practical Life materials for Ania.

More Montessori materials for Ania -
Brown Stairs, Cylinders
and Pink Tower (in the purple box).
Above "First Discovery Books" and Tintin comics.

Painting and drawing corner.

Cabinets with big kids puzzles and games
and also some more work for Ania
and books about art.

More games, more puzzles for everyone
and story books
that should be read in the coming school year.

What do you think about our classroom? Do you have any suggestions?
In kids' rooms there are many more books to read :-) .

Friday, August 15, 2014

Teaching letters VI - String letters

To make yet another kind of letters we need the following materials:
  • cardstock with letter written in pencil
  • glue
  • string/wool
  • scissors

First we need to ask the child to cut strings to the right length for the letter that she is supposed to make"

Next she needs to put some glue on the lines of the letter and stick the string/wool to it.

Remember to press it so it will stay in place.

And the letter is ready (we made capital and small letters):

Now the letters are ready to work with - ask your child to trace the letter with his/her finger while saying the letter sound: