Not quite the end of the school year and we find ourselves, again, without Chinese teacher. Without going into details of the latest debacle (although entertaining—or depressing—depending on how you look at it), my husband and I have decided to try teaching our daughter, ourselves.
I’m sure my in-laws will squeal with joy (or slap their foreheads, dumbfounded) when they hear this. They’ve been trying to convince us to teach both of our kids for years. I don’t know what’s taken us so long to give it a try. Maybe we lacked confidence or motivation? But after three years, four teachers, and hundreds of dollars of class fees, we’re finally ready to give it a go.
"But are we qualified?" the voice in my head asks.
I think so. My husband is a native Mandarin speaker, and I’m a lifelong Mandarin student with many years of training (undergrad, grad school, immersion programs, independent research….the list drones on…) and some teaching experience, albeit in an entirely different field. So, I feel that we are qualified enough to at least, like I said, give it a go.
With my best “can do” spirit, I dove into researching the many different Chinese language textbooks on the market, and after about two hours of staring at very similar-looking books, worksheets, and flashcards (all published in China, Singapore, or Taiwan for native speakers), I realized that I was not finding what I was looking for.
I wanted my daughter to learn Chinese like she learned other subjects in school. Her school has adopted a progressive program that stresses active learning experiences. Kids learn about science, math, and language through thematic units during which kids work on projects that teach and reinforce the new concepts.
For example, her class is raising chicks from eggs as part of their new bird study. In addition to reading books about chick development, the class read the handbook for the egg incubator. Later, they recalled the important “rules” about caring for the eggs and the incubator from the handbook, and worked in pairs to write these rules down on poster board for the class to follow. Throughout the next weeks, the students will work in pairs to care for the eggs and make sure that the rules are followed, up until the hatching of the eggs.
Now, I am searching for a Chinese language teaching method, textbook, or teacher (whose approach I can model) that moves beyond flashcards and rote repetition, one that stresses creatively and actively engaging students in learning experiences, motivates them to use language, and then reinforces language concepts in a variety of different ways (storytelling, poems, nursery rhymes, song, and drama.)
I’ve found bits and pieces of ideas online but I am still searching for more.
I would absolutely love to hear your ideas!
- How do you (if you teach your child) or your child’s teacher actively engage your child in learning Chinese?
- What tools (textbooks, storybooks, websites, etc…) or strategies have you found helpful?