Second week using Sagebooks

This week, we continued our work in Sagebook.  Those flashcards are making learning a bit easier because there are so many uses for them.  For Thumper, she’s starting to drag her feet just a little in learning new characters, and having trouble remembering them when introduced.  I can see that she needs more work in the introduction part.  For Astroboy, we’re having a good time playing games with the character flashcards.   One night he told me, “I want to do 高山.”  It’s what he calls the Sagebooks because those are the two characters he intimately knows from the first book of Blue Series.  Warms my heart, especially since he lost interest last semester.

I owe it all to the games we can play with those flashcards.  Now, I know there is an aspect missing in all this work, which is self-directed repetition without teacher.  This helps build concentration and order.  I’m still searching for an activity that is interesting and does that.  However, right now my head is swimming with all the games I can think up with these characters.  Next week I’m going to try a Hundred Board.

One reason the children have problem remembering is because we are not spending enough time in the introduction work.  In Montessori-speak, the three-period lesson is how you introduce any new concept.  This is actually documented in Eric Eriksons’ work.  He was a student or student of a student of Montessori.  I wanted to point this out because it’s something I’ve made the mistake of not doing again and again.

Writing

Writing sentences

For Thumper, we’re still only writing sentences.  This week I pre-selected 3 cards for each day and paper clipped them.  By Tuesday she was getting the material out, selecting her 3 cards, constructing her sentence and writing them all down, all without my supervision.  She just gets me when she needs me to go over the characters with her.  I can tell though that she is starting to not remember some of the harder ones as now we’ve learned about 20 characters so I need to think of more materials that will help her retain the info.

Games We Played

Here are some of the games we’ve played this week to work on character recognition. Astroboy is really enjoying these games. Currently we’re working on all 20 cards in book 1 of Blue Series, because he has already read through the book numerous times since last semester, without a formal introduction to the characters.  But he just can’t remember the abstract concept ones like 很, 有, etc.

1.  Who can find the card the fastest?

Find the card

Find the card

I laid out 5-10 cards in order on the rug.  I name a card and we see who can find it faster.  When you find it, slap your hand on it.  For some reason, Mama is always slightly late!  If Astroboy gets it wrong, I get the card instead of him.  I keep refilling the cards as we play so there’s always 10 on the rug.  Whoever has the most card after the game wins.

After awhile, I let him call the cards out and name them.  He likes to name them and slap his hand on it.  This is kind of like writing before reading concept.  He knows the word he wants to use so it’s faster for him than thinking about what I’m asking for and then looking for it.

2.  Matching little cards to big cards.

Match the card

Card Matching

Astroboy has his own set of dictionary.  We played a game to see who can match the most number of cards.  Of course I chose the easy cards to match while leaving him with the harder words.  He has a lot of problem with all 20 cards out.  I had to show him that we match from left to right, top to bottom (another indirect way to teach reading).  I could totally write another post about how Montessori reading doesn’t help with Chinese reading (which is top to bottom, right to left).

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Learning Chinese characters through Sagebooks’ Basic Chinese 500

This semester I’m focusing my attention on making Chinese materials.

Why Sagebooks

sagebooksEven before we started homeschooling I knew I wanted to use Sagebooks to learn Chinese. Sagebooks is the cornerstone of my curriculum.  What it’s providing is the character list that other materials can build on.  It’s developed by a Montessori teacher.  The premise is that from the first character you learn, you start reading. Unlike a phonics system, Chinese characters are pictograms.  Often students learn a separate phonetic system (pinyin or zhuyin) to help them read in elementary until they learn enough characters.  I believe you need 500+ to really read comfortably.  With this series, you start practicing reading sentences with illustrations on top (for hints).  This is important because a child can get very frustrated trying to read in Chinese.  There are just too many words they don’t know in the beginning.  AND they can’t sound it out!  I’ve heard many stories that ones a child learns to read in English, they don’t want to read in Chinese anymore, because the level of books they can read in Chinese is not the same as their developmental level.  Who wants to read board books when they really want to read stories?

Lesson 1

Lesson 1

Sagebooks is also unique in that they don’t teach the most easy to write characters first.  They introduce high frequency characters in a sequence that enables you to read the text.  For example, the numbers 1-10 are often introduced first, along with sun, moon, day, etc.  In Sagebooks, they introduce the Chinese characters for 4, 5, and 10, in the first series and nothing else.  I guess they expect that you’ll pick up the rest elsewhere! Instead, they introduce high frequency words that can be made into a sentence.  The first word is mountain (山), the second high (高).  By the second word you’re reading a word phrase.

Lesson 2, reading!

Lesson 2, reading!

The readers are divided into 5 series, blue, green, orange, pink, red.  Each series has 5 books, each book teaches 20 characters, for a total of 500 characters.  There are also accompanying “Treasure Boxes“, also 5 books for each series.  You can use those to practice actually reading books, only using the characters that has been introduced to you in the series.  I call them series rather than levels because the characters don’t get progressively harder.  Though I do see that the first book has more words with fewer strokes than future books.  Sagebooks also have a final comics that uses the 500 characters (well I’m sure not all 500) you just learned as well as 5 idioms books. They also have ebooks, apps, and a 12 zodiacs books (which I don’t recommend).  Everything has both simplified and traditional versions except the ebooks and apps, which are only simplified.

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