Our first Chinese poems

September is unofficially our month for studying the moon and all things 中秋節 Mid-Autum Festival related.

Thanks to Mandarin Mama, I was spurred to choose 2 poems I thought the kids might want to learn/memorize this month.  Unfortunately, after I prepped it weeks ago, I never got around to teaching it.  Somehow there never seems to be enough presentation time.

I finally gave up and just randomly recited the super classic poem by 李白 to Astroboy while Thumper was visiting grandma a few times.


This is often taught for Mid Autumn Festival because it’s about the moon, and looking at the moon, all something you’re doing during the festival.

Then I though to myself, “Why do we make kids memorize these poems?”  I ask because I’ve been meaning to introduce poems to the kids for awhile and have been to the library a few times looking at poems aimed for children.  And what you see is usually very simple poems, aimed for children, written more in spoken language.  There’s such a disconnect.  How do you get from those kind of poems to 李白’s poems?

I didn’t get it.

My brain farted and said that maybe what I ought to do is have the kids write their own poems.  We already do this all the time by writing our own words to songs like Frozen.  So the kids are familiar with the concept.

First Step: Come up with a poem

However, this is still very hard for Astroboy.  So one day, while sitting in the car waiting, I came up with a poem for him.  We dissected the format of the poem.  First someone is doing something, then that something looks like something else.  Then he does something related.  Yes, my explanation was very clear to Astroboy as well.

Anyways, I asked Astroboy what he wanted to the subject of his poem to be.  I think he came up with, or maybe it was me, the plane.  We worked on it together.  I say together because he had very specific ideas about whether it should be a paper airplane that resembled a rocket or a rocket that resembled an airplane.


I’m no poet nor am I super good with Chinese.  But this will do.

A week ago, we were once again waiting in the car.  This time I remembered we hadn’t done it for Thumper.  So I explained the whole thing to her again and asked her for a topic.  She couldn’t come up with one so I said, “It could be about anything, your socks, your lunch, etc.”  So she said, her green socks!  Again, I helped her with her poem.  This time, she just needed a little nudge in the poem format (we’re trying to follow the format of the 李白 poem) and how it works and came up with a lot of it herself, with my polish since it does have to be 5 characters per line.  But I let her use her own words rather than use more poetic words like I did with Astroboy.


Second Step: Record

We recorded using my iPhone’s voice memo app.  Well, we only got to recording Thumper’s because we ran out of time.  This is usually our first step for a writing exercise that involves composition.

Third Step: A poem booklet

Thanks to Hotelier Mama (I’m borrowing Mandarin Mama’s nickname for her), I saw an example of how they wrote a poem in class/school.  So tonight, with all of our schedules out of the window due to guests visiting, I asked the children to make their poems, to assuage my guilt that they’re not doing school enough.

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For Astroboy, I wrote down the poem for him in zhuyin, we looked through pictures of planes together via Google search, chose them, printed them out, and he cut, glued, colored and drew the clouds.  I’m really proud of myself for doing this because the old me (3 months ago) would have said, draw everything and write everything yourself!  And then get frustrated when he drops the task 5 minutes in.  Now, from my zhuyin class, I know this is too hard for him.  He was sounding out the zhuyin as I wrote, and practice reading it several times as he was gluing so it’s all good.  His aunt drew his hand and a little plane on top of it, to reflect the first line of the poem.

Of course, he basically glued in all the airplanes available on the printout, as I had put in two copies in case he made a mistake cutting.  And he also insisted on me finding an orbiter because his uncle helped him fold airplanes for two days.  His company work with airplanes so he was going on and on about them, even showing Astroboy videos.


For Thumper, she worked on it mostly by herself after I showed her what Astroboy did.  She even has a title for her poem.  It took her a long time because she had to look up most of the words in the dictionary.

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Everyone is inordinately pleased with this project.  For me, I feel like I’m not too creative most of the time.  I really would like to just do the same thing over and over again.  So once in awhile, when I do something creative, (usually borrowing from ideas I’ve seen somewhere), and I mean just doing something more than writing with accompanying illustration, I pat myself on my back for even being able to think of it.  Thumper is pleased because she created something.  Astroboy is pleased because he cut out a lot of planes.  Most of the time he was waving the paper around like a paper airplane.

All in all a really good day!


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