Finally, after months of feeling uninspired to prep (I know, so bad!), I spent some time this past weekend finishing my Chutes and Ladders set for Sagebooks. It’s about time because Astroboy is now on Set 4 of Sagebooks and he really needs to work with the characters in some other ways to spice things up.
For awhile I was worried that he was forgetting characters left and right, because he couldn’t remember them when I reviewed with Anki. However, this week I put all of Set 1, 2, 3’s treasure boxes in the car and he read them while we ran around time. I was very surprised he really had no problem with set 1 or set 2, even though he couldn’t remember many characters in set 2 with Anki.
In any case, below are some free, and not so free, items I’ve created as companions to Sagebook.
I’m sure you’ve come across New Taipei City Educational Dept’s 生字簿 user-generated character practice sheets website.
Well, that website doesn’t work on Macs.
Threw a wrench into my plan to finish generating these writing practice worksheets for Astroboy. The Great O had posted a work around before of using Lumin PDF, but that doesn’t work now for some reason.
I was very stubborn last night and figured out all the ins and outs of how they generate those practice sheets. But it didn’t really help me until I got Mandarin Mama to open Sets 3-5 on her Windows machine and just send it back to me in PDF.
Two months ago, while I was researching Anki, I re-tried Skritter and Chinese Writer for the writing characters part. Unfortunately Skritter required a subscription. So I dropped it till this week, when I subscribed through a group order (so much cheaper!)
My first impression of Skritter, 2 months ago, was that it was very powerful, and that it was more suited for Thumper (8) than Astroboy (5). Playing with it again today, my second impression is that the more English you know, the better suited it is for you. It also doesn’t have zhuyin support on iOS, which is our primary OS at home.
I’ve had some people ask me for opinions on what books to buy from 基礎漢字500 Sagebooks recently. I usually try to be balanced and take people’s needs and desires into account and say things like, “Well, if you don’t really need it, then don’t get it.” However, I realized recently that I actually have some very strong opinions.
If you’re going to use Sagebooks to teach your child to read, don’t do it half ass and just order the readers or the treasure boxes, get everything!
I’m going to assume that you want to use Sagebooks. Because I don’t think I can convince someone that doesn’t want to be convinced. Mandarin Mama has a good post about what Sagebooks is. I personally think, if your child speaks Chinese fluently, and you want them to learn to read in 1 year, then this is the best option out there.
“But…..but…!” you say.
Finally, I’m starting on compiling the resources I use to go with my Sagebooks. Getting off my behind because Astroboy consistently cannot remember 10-15 characters from the second set, despite our reviews. So it it time to whip out the other materials to help him remember.
We’ve been using Anki to make sure he remembers some of the old characters from Set 1 (we’re in Set 3). Next up is Train Chinese’s Chinese Writer character packs. The app itself is available for iTunes and Android. This is a program which allows children to practice Chinese writing with a game app. I don’t love the program because the font it uses for its writing is bad. (My pet peeve, people who don’t notice these details.) This is not a writing font, and for me it is unconsciously telling kids who use the app how they should write these characters, but it’s wrong. For example, look at the character for 四, 回. It should be (mostly) a box on the outside.
One of my goals this year for Astroboy is learning 500 characters. Last year, I wasn’t consistent and we only went through 40 characters. This year, at least for now, I’m feeling gong ho. Especially when I’ve been telling everyone who is on the fence about using Sage that it only takes 15 minutes a day. I can do 15 minutes a day myself can’t it? We started about 3 weeks ago and we’re now on book 5 of first series, yay!
Okay, you can definitely do just 15 minutes a day. But I probably spend closer to 30 minutes with Astroboy. I recently remembered once again that Chinese characters are whole words and that I ought to try and use some whole words approach when teaching reading. Whereas Thumper wheezed through the books due to her age and foundation from preschool, Astroboy is doing it pretty much step by step. So I’m now developing a new routine:
It is indeed a lot of work to try to write sentences with just 500 characters under your belt and making sure that you reuse characters you just learned, while also making sure you introduce new vocabulary that uses the same character later on. Plus, it has to follow your theme. I came up with the first 3 characters on Monday, then changed the order completely on Tuesday when I had to add new words. As of now, I’m heavy on first grade characters, and low on verbs and adjectives. Often, I come up with a sentence, only to realize I need to introduce this OTHER character first, and then 3 characters later, I see it’s all nouns. All this to say, it took me a few hours……and I have 10. I’m having lot of fun though. Sadly, it took Thumper all of 3 minutes to go through the 3 characters on Monday. She said she knew them. I wonder just how many characters she actually knows. On my word doc, I color-coded the characters to highlight current character and review character. I also made a list of words introduced. Too lazy to do color-code here. So here they are.