I have finally come up with how I’m going to choose my next characters. That took me two blurry eye days and back to drinking coffee. I know I don’t really need to do things this way. It would save me so much time to just use a textbook. For some reason I enjoy the process of analyzing and inputting data. I also want to be able to keep track of characters learned. There is obviously another way to do this, when the child practices writing characters, log it in your logbook. Voila.
Anyways, to come up with the list, first I had to analyze the books and how the characters show up. It’s really fascinating and took me down different paths. I learned a few things on how the characters are introduced.
- Progression of character difficulty: As the series progressed, more and more characters from second “grade” and beyond showed up. I say “grade” because they’re saying 3000 characters by 6th grade. The first “grade” has 508 characters. It’s really 510 because they added but never introduced 一 and 完. Second grade was 716! By series 5, about 50% was from second grade. Often, the higher the grade level, the more strokes and more abstract meaning. Obviously this is how most people teach characters. But what I like about Sage is that they do introduce characters from higher grade level early on. Many of them are used in children’s books. Oh! and I also realized, going through all 3000 characters, that if you can get to about 3rd grade, which is 1866 characters, you’re pretty set. Those seemed to have characters I would deem important to know the meaning of.
- Division by grammar functions: There is an even division of grammar characters. For example, they will introduce nouns, verbs, and the other “stuff”; adjective, adverbs, conjunction, interjection, preposition, particles, in a pretty even distribution. I learned that really, you cannot look at a Chinese character and say it is a verb, a noun, or an adjective. They combine with other characters to form a word and those words then have grammar functions. But, I tried anyway because I did not want to look up how each word was introduced in Sage and then define them. I don’t think I’m too far off though.
- Words: Related to grammar functions, I think I will need to introduce different words based on same character as the books in the series progresses.
- Division by Theme: Characters in a series are grouped by theme. For example, the Blue series introduces pronouns, direction, numbers, verbs, and helping verbs. Red series, the last one, introduces school, family life, community life, social life, science, social studies, personal relationships. Within each book in the series, characters from each theme are introduced. Looking at the themes, you can see it kind of goes from people outward to community and school life.
- Character Review: Because a few characters from each theme is introduced in each book, the child reviews previous characters from the previous book when they introduce new characters in the same theme. This is in addition to reviewing characters from the chapters you just learned. I imagine this is the hardest part I’m going to have when I come up with sentences.
- Other: Since each character could have multiple meaning depending on words it’s used in, the series makes sure to introduce these words. As the series progresses, the number of characters per sentence gets longer. They also introduce other grammar points like questions. In the beginning most of the sentences are based in reality. They introduce children’s stories in the pink series (the monkey and pig).
Anyways, I calculated stats on grade level and grammar and decided that my characters will be chosen by themes as well. Given that subject vocabulary is introduced early on in Montessori curriculum, I decided that I would focus on subjects such as geography, zoology, botany, and solar system. But once I started choosing the characters, I realized it was really hard to choose! I had to make sure there is a good distribution of grade level as there are still 200+ characters from 1st “grade” after 500 characters. Then each series only really gives you about 50 nouns. Then I have to make sure there is a good distribution of grammar functions, which means I have to look up the common words used for that character, knowing that I would need to introduce different words in the series based on each character. I also wanted to introduce Chinese counters, conjunctions, colors, math concepts like 個十百千. So many concepts still not introduced after 500 characters!
i had to narrow my theme for the 6th set given all these constraints. On the other hand, it does provide me with themes for the 7th series. Once I picked my 100, the problem comes with order of introduction. I made a first pass, then as I started writing sentences, kept running into the problem of characters not being introduced yet. Yikes! Like the ubiquitous 它. I guess they got around that problem by using 他.
What did I pick?
All this to say, for the next set I aim to have about 50% second grad characters, followed by first grade, and third grade. My current breakdown is:
- Adjective 13
- Conjunction 4
- Noun 47
- Preposition 1
- Verb 29
My theme will be Math Counters, Geography, and Zoology. I know it will change as I progress because I will find characters I need that’s not on my list. But it gives me a starting point. Another problem I’m having is, how hard to I make the sentences? Do I write for a 5 year old or 7 year old?
Lastly, as usual, one project leads to another and another. I kept thinking as I went through the characters that I really need to introduce radicals and counters. So for sure radicals is next. I feel like the characters are going to start getting confusing because of their similarities and it’s time to introduce radicals to help with meaning.