Next week we will begin our third week of zhuyin class. Nothing beats working on a subject daily, or Mon/Wed/Friday + homework. I definitely see Astroboy progressing.
Last year, Astroboy spent it learning the idea of beginning sounds and also how to blend. It’s definitely helping him in the class. I see him being able to blend once he learns a new zhuyin character. We’re still working on tones though.
We’re not following a Montessori curriculum for zhuyin. We are doing hands on activities. I haven’t reconciled what we’re doing with the way I learned to teach phonics. But I did realize one thing. English phonics isn’t the same as Chinese phonics. In English, we start off with a bunch of 3 letter words, often just switching one alphabet to make new words. A classic example is the work on beginning sound. You can have a basket of letters and objects for bat, mat, cat, hat.
It doesn’t work like this in Chinese. Sure, most Chinese characters require just 2 zhuyin alphabet. But a Chinese word requires 4-6. And it is not a simple matter of switching one zhuyin character to make a whole new Chinese word. So what this means is that you have to teach a bunch of zhuyin before you can spell. And that teachers tend to teach one zhuyin alphabet but then show kids a Chinese word where the other zhuyin alphabet aren’t taught yet. To me, it isn’t dividing the concept into really understandable chunks. So exactly how to break it up still confounds me.
Here is the book we’re following for the zhuyin curriculum. 康軒一上自修 Kang Xuan’s first grade self-study book. This first grade fall semester book is self-study version of their textbook and the first section is devoted to learning zhuyin. You can buy this directly from Kang Xuan’s website and ship it to the US.
The book comes with a CD of mp3s. There is also an online teacher’s version but you need to register as a member. The online version doesn’t have all the exercises that are included in the book.
We chose this curriculum because it is entirely in zhuyin. The teacher typically uses another book and makes materials with Chinese characters built in. But since the two older girls in the class can read so much already, we wanted to focus on zhuyin and not let them cheat.
I want to note that we’re just using the textbook as a starting point, we’re not really doing the exercises included in the book. We’re really making our own materials to supplement.
The other book I’ve seen recommended by parents is 大口袋ㄅㄆㄇ It looks very promising too and definitely geared toward younger children. From the curriculum laid out online, it introduces all the zhuyin, then teaches blending for 2 zhuyin, adds tones, and lastly the 3 zhuyin. So it really separates it into the chunks I was looking for. Probably too slow for the big kids but right for little ones. It’s on my to order list.
The general format for learning is:
- Circle time
- Introduction to zhuyin characters (if starting new lesson)
- Hands on activity
Of course this is a super general overview. Even with review and hands on activity, you can do it a variety of ways, depending on a child’s level. For the younger child, it’s all about learning beginning and ending sounds. As they get better and older, you learn to blend. Lastly, there’s writing.
We’re doing reading before writing in this class I think. But I can now appreciate why Montessori does writing before reading. If you can come up with the sounds yourself, you can read it most likely, since you would recognize the characters. So in a way it saves you a step.
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