Beginning January, we added a history portion to our coop. We’re following the book used in the Classical Curriculum, Story of the World 世界的故事 by Susan Weiss. This set of 4 books tells history from the beginning to civilization in the Mediterrean to Modern times. Book 1 has 42 chapters and goes from nomads to the end of Roman Empire.
We’ll be covering 1 chapter a week. Everyone is supposed to read the chapter at home before we meet on Wednesday. In “class”, we will start off with a relevant picture book and then do an activity from the Story of the World Activity Book. We bought the PDF version of the activity book directly from the publisher so we can re-edit it into Chinese for the maps and stuff. The activity book includes questions in English, which I’m translating slowly and painfully into Chinese every week. There is also an English audio CD version.
So far, I’m liking this curriculum. It is not the most interesting book (try Magic Treehouse instead), but it includes actual facts interspersed with stories. It’s meant as a jump off point. I like the fact that it has no zhuyin and we can practice learning new characters and are being exposed to higher vocabulary.
I always think the children are not learning and that we’re not covering enough in depth. But after 3 weeks, I can see that Thumper has learned something with the co-op and all the supplemental material I actually have been giving but didn’t realize when she was sprouting facts to a friend today.
How We’re Using the Book
Every week, on Monday, I’ve been having Thumper read one chapter. Each chapter is about 3-6 pages, no zhuyin. I didn’t plan it this way. But this is now how I’m getting my comprehension and read aloud in. I’m super happy about this because we’re killing two birds with one stone. The nice thing is:
- She is reading without zhuyin and learning new characters!
- We’re slowing down our reading because she reads slowly. So she has more of a chance to think about what she’s reading. There’s also more of a chance for me to stop every few sentences to explain what it is we are reading, since I tend to try and explain words she doesn’t kow. So we’re putting comprehension!
- Obviously, read aloud practice. It’s been really hard getting read aloud in because just like learning to read, she hates me pointing out mistakes she’s making. Having shown her some of the videos of other children reading has really helped. She’s beginning to imitate one of Great O’s daughter’s reading “style”. I also keep pointing out to her that since this is a story, she has to read it like a story. She’s not a robot reading a text, it has to make sense to the listener. Even with just 2 weeks, we’ve been making progress on this front.
- We’re doing all this language related activity by studying another subject, yay!
I’d been feeling anxious about how we can’t fit everything in if we study language as a language arts only. And last semester I realized one way around it is to teach language through subjects like science and history and geography. (yes yes, I know, it’s how Montessori curriculum does it, but I wasn’t listening) Going through Anki with Thumper also drove this point home. I saw how so many of the more advanced characters she didn’t know where subject vocabulary.
Some of the characters I didn’t even know! But it was very interesting that both Thumper and I guessed the pronunciation about the same way. I can see that she’s come just a little bit further in her character guessing skills than a few months ago.
Our Co-op Lesson
Co-op Mama wrote a post on our first lesson. So I’ll be lazy and post just one picture.
We started with a circle time of the story of the cavemen and their paintings. After circle time, the children pretended to be one and drew on butcher paper with their hands using charcoal. Super Prep Co-op Mama even built two caves out of boxes.
After lunch and children throwing water balloons and running around, we settled them down and had them make a bag. The bag was mentioned in the story as what the children used to gather food they foraged. The children made the bag by folding and stapling a really beautiful paper that almost look like leather.
Followups and Resources
Originally I was thinking:
- Going through one chapter a week. How does a child ever learn more than whatever’s in the chapter? Do I provide new books every week for her to read up as follow up? That’s a lot of books and research! What if she’s not interested?
- What other kinds of follow up do I have her do to help her remember more of what she’s learning? Question and Answer? Research paper? Nothing?
I don’t have all the answers still. But I learned a lot from grilling Classical Mama, a new member to our co-op, because they’d started on this book awhile back in English. She reads to her daughter various books on the topic they’re learning that week in Chinese. Her daughter reads herself various books on the topic in English.
Talking to her, I realized that I can maybe put in a quiet reading time with the caveat that the kids only pick books from one basket, rather than our bookshelves, and fill that basket with relevant books from our studies. Also, for now, I need to not obsess about having it perfect and all planned out with follow up activities. It’s not like I didn’t know about putting in relevant books, but I had it in my mind as an either/or situation. Either I had books and follow up and projects planned, or I do nothing and fail.
We’ve been also supplementing with audio and other resources
- 寫給孩子的世界歷史 Children Can Read World History (audio)
- The Children-Can-Listen Encyclopedia (audio)
- Story of the World CD in English (audio)
- Magic Treehouse (audio and Chinese book)
What I like about this set is that it closely follows Story of the World, and yet it’s a bit different. It provides a non Western centric view to history. Obviously this one has more of a Chinese bent and makes sure to mention about China’s history and also ancient civilizations from other pockets of the world. To me, this is a great example of the benefit of bilingual education.
Thumper remembered more from the English version than the Chinese version. My aim is now to have her listen to the Chinese first and then the English. Co-op Mama and I discussed this strange phenomenon the other day. Whatever language the children listen to first, they remember it more than the second language.
Lastly, for Astroboy, who cannot really understand the Children Can Read World History, I play for him The Children-Can-Listen Encyclopedia. He loves the characters in the audio and the language is sometimes simpler. I pulled these tracks onto my iPhone to cover the first 3-4 chapters:
- Ancient Egypt
- Prehistoric Life
- Prehistoric people
- Rocks and Minerals
It’s easy for both kids to forget the subject specific words in Chinese unless they hear it often in audio I’ve found. The great thing about CDs is that they can be repeated again and again!
Do the kids really need to learn Chinese equivalent names? I’ve survived without them. Once you know the English, it’s easy to translate in your brain when you hear it in Chinese. However, it’s a very slippery slope when you live in the U.S. If you don’t know Chinese equivalent names, soon half your sentences are English words. Plus the tongue muscle doesn’t get practice and just can’t say it. (Try saying 幼發拉底河 very fast 3 times.) So it’s something I semi-insist on, that the kids say these words when they learn them, rather than just listen and understand. We do this by just discussing the chapter while we read.
Three weeks in, I’ve also started asking Thumper to use the SOTW questions as a writing exercise. I’m trying to get her to write a little every day and this is one of her options, just to provide variety. We’ve only done the English. She chooses 2-3 questions and answers them in a complete sentence. We’d already done them orally after each lesson so she had no trouble coming up with the answer 3 weeks later.
For Chapter 1, the Chinese questions are:
- 遊牧民族睡在哪兒？ 你知道為什麼嗎？
- 遊牧民族 (Nomads) you2 mu4 min2 zu2
- 底格里斯河 (Tigris) di3 ge2 li3 si he
- 幼發拉底河 (Euphrates) you fa la di3 he
- 肥沃月灣 (Fertile Crescent) fe2 wo4 yue4 wan