Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading Strategies for Chinese Learners-Really? The Same Strategies?

The answer is "yes" to the questions I pose in the title.  The same reading strategies we use naturally when we read passages in our native languages can be applied when we read something that is in another language.  However, using these strategies in the new language doesn't come naturally at all, meaning we need to re-learn or re-teach ourselves strategies when we glance through morning newspaper or product pamphlet. 

Language learners tend to focus on every single vocabulary word and make direct word-by-word translation when they read.   How about students who study Chinese?  They go above and beyond, focusing on every single Chinese character and losing the big picture completely.  This is a hard habit to break and this habit really slows readers down or frustrates them.  Therefore, teaching students how to predict and scan for main ideas is important.  Elements, like title and first paragraph or even the first few sentences, help us predict the main idea.  Have students complete a few pre-reading exercises.  For example, only show the title and ask students to predict what the passage is about.  Give more clues, for example, the first two sentences or the concluding sentences and have students edit the main idea.  Having students come up with brief one-sentence summary for each paragraph is another helpful exercise.  

Getting a main idea usually is not sufficient for in-depth comprehension.  Understanding the details is equally important.  When students focus too much on individual vocabulary words, they also miss the details.  If you teach teenagers, they are just not good at grasping details.  As the teacher, one almost needs to design exercise that forces students to zoom in on those details.  Some scaffolding is absolutely needed.  For example, underscore or highlight what you want students to focus.  Ask highly relevant open-ended questions that forces students to find the related passage.  First of all, you might have students brainstorm what kind of information in a certain passage could be considered as details.  Ask students to form open-ended questions about the piece they are about to read is an effective activity for this purpose.

Now, how about those vocabulary words that they don't know and they will see in an authentic reading piece?  Tell them, loud and clear, "skip it first."  Then teach them how to make inference.  Their knowledge of the basics of Chinese characters and their own vocabulary are essential.  Teach students how to use radicals to find meanings or make associations for new characters.  Practice with character (同部首不同字/拆字) and word extension (组词/組詞), word categorizing, matching, and other vocabulary exercises.  Model how to use known characters to guess the meaning of a new word.  Also model how to use context (上下文)to get the same result.  When having students practice this specific strategy, give them new words that are from the passage and have them use the strategy to come up with the definition.  Trust them (even though it might be difficult initially) and they will be on the right track.

Knowing that they have all these strategies they can rely on, encourage students to decode authentic materials.  You don't need to modify the words or sentences used in the article, but you can always take out a few characters and add some pinyin for the unknown phrases or words.  You simply lower students' anxiety by adding some pinyin and they can show you more about what they understand from the reading material.  Of course, you might wonder how we can assess reading comprehension.  There are a few different ways, which I can discuss next time.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Extended Role-play Project to Assess All Skills 延伸情景表演测试所有语言能力

Role play is one of the top activities, which is engaging and enjoyed by students.  It gives students an opportunity to show their skills as well as their creativity.  It also encourages collaboration.  More than that, it allows the teacher to use authentic materials or give students authentic tasks.  Finishing authentic tasks gives students a level of confidence that is different from completing worksheet exercises.  I'd like to share an extended role-play project that incorporate multiple themes and assess interpretative, interpersonal, and presentational skills of a student.

Recently we are learning to give description, a more advanced language skills.  Students are required to present details and organize these details to support certain statements.  The topic we used is to describe places in communities, especially stores.  The other topics incorporated in this lesson is shopping and describing locations.

To set up the stage for the role-play project, students had done a writing and oral presentation on their favorite stores.  Students write the first draft.  Then we build rubrics and requirements as a whole class.  Using such guidelines, students did peer editing and re-writing.  Each individual later presented their own piece.

After honing skills on describing a place through this activity, students were in groups of three or four to design a store in a market.  The classroom was transformed into a bazaar.  The teacher played the role of the bank.

During this activity, students needed to decide what kind of store they would build, the store locations, the merchandise items, and the pricing.  They also prepared questions they could ask other shops when they went on shopping and questions they could ask the shoppers who came into their stores.  The teacher could use these tasks to assess students writing presentational skills.  When each store is ready, have students make a map of the market as a whole class and also come up with essential phrases/sentences for shopping.

When preparation is finished, the market was open.  Shoppers withdrew money from the bank.  Within the group, members rotate the roles as shoppers or as shop assistants.  The teacher could float around the market to observe students' interaction or play the role of shoppers in order to make specific assessment of interpretative and interpersonal skills.

One major outcome of this extended project is the high engagement of each student.  Even those who are usually quiet are more willing to participate and get engaged in several different conversations with the teacher and peers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

电影《听说》学生词,话题,文化,语法 Movie "Hear Say" for Vocabulary, Topics, Culture, Grammar

Short note for all language teachers: friends, this article and the movie I mention is for Chinese teaching and learning.  The film is a comparatively new Taiwanese production, "Hear Say", from 2009.  Feel free to share this article with your Chinese teaching colleagues and please share with me your experience of using movies to teach languages.

眨眼间中文教学快进入二十一世纪第二个十年中期。中文课堂里用的电影常是差不多二十年前甚至更老的电影。这些以前还能算现代的电影现在可能算是近代了。近几年来(2010年前后)的新电影中有不少其实完全可拿到教学中使用。本片要细谈的是2009年台湾出品的电影《听说》。此片片长一小时五十分钟,没有任何过火镜头(最刺激的是一个虚景短短的接吻桥段),人物是当代的城市年轻人。在我细述之前,先告诉各位老师,该片因讲述失聪人士的故事,部分影片时间只有画面,音乐, 和中文字幕,没有对话。是否可用做阅读理解,老师们可以考虑。


(一)生词:夸张,梦想,机会 ,介绍人的优点(高级汉语, pre-advanced to advanced level)
一小时十分钟到一小时十八分钟左右,有大段的字幕表演用来表述主要人物的梦想。梦想,你的梦想,我的梦想, 反复出现。既可用来引出“梦想”这个生词,做一些后续的活动比如采访讨论每个人的梦想;也可用来复习练习“梦想”这个生词,用影片字幕做阅读练习,学生回答理解问题-每个影片人物的梦想是什么。“失去机会”这个词也反复出现三到四次,可用来学习和“机会”搭配的动词“失去”,“把握”, “抓住”。 因为影片中用手语,学生们可以通过这个视觉背景来理解“失去机会”的意思。 “机会”和“梦想”可以放在一起讨论。整个影片的一个主题是追求自己的梦想以及如何实现梦想。看完整片后,可一起讨论怎么实现梦想的话题。另一部近期的电影也可拿来讲梦想,是《中国合伙人》。下次我将来仔细说说《中国合伙人》一片在教学里的应用。

我在教京剧特色时,发现要记住京剧舞台表演夸张这个特点对学生来说有困难。《听说》中,彭于晏 (peng, yuyan)有几段一两分钟长的夸张表演,用了丰富夸大的表情,可以让学生品味一下夸张的表演看起来是什么样的。


(二)话题:交男女朋友,代沟/沟通,奥运精神(高级汉语, pre-advanced to advanced level);上网(初中级,advanced-high to intermediate-mid level)
我不想剧透,知道彭于晏 的老师们可能猜到这是一部偶像爱情片。这个影片的很多部分可以用来做引子展开男女朋友交往这个话题。剧中也有很多片段表现不同代人之间,男女之间,失聪人士及无残障人士之间怎么沟通,可以扩大学生描述沟通方法的词汇量(不只是说话,打电话,写电子邮件,还有手语,表情,肢体语言,送礼等等)。影片的另一条故事线和残奥会有关,大量的实例实景展现体育精神。如果之前谈过如何实现梦想,完全可以选出别的比如描述努力,不放弃的片段来介绍这些精神。


(三)文化:饮食文化,华语在不同地方的用语 (各语言层次都可以)


(四)语法:补语,为了, 对......好 (高级汉语, pre-advanced to advanced level)

非常抱歉,我不记得在影片的哪个片段, 也有反复出现“为了......"。也是极好的机会让学生练习听力和阅读的能力,理解”为了”,观察“为了”的用法。


为什么用影片教学会有很棒的效果呢?除了是真实的语言素材以外, 影片常常激起强烈的共鸣和感情,而我们常常对我们有强烈感觉的素材印象深刻,记忆良久。

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

《非诚勿扰》中文一年级,AP中文《超越》第十一课娱乐和休闲 Use You Are The One TV Show in Chinese I, AP Chinese

(Short English version is at the end.)




他姓什么? 为什么?

  1. 做运动, play basketball
  2. 看电视和看电影
  3. travel,red wine



什么时候用这段呢? 和上面我提到的用法类似。老师们甚至可以在考试的听力,口语,写作部分用这个内容,根据教学目标设计测试具体内容。

Because of my parents' influence, I watch "You are the one", once in a blue moon.  Disregarding what we think about this TV program, it does provide rich, authentic materials for teaching the language (idioms, etc.) and culture (Chinese pop culture, etc.).  These materials could be used at every level.

Last year, we used the part that the male guest's friends talk about him, when we studied the lesson on making friends, from the AP textbook, Chaoyue.  This lesson talks about how to describe appearance and personality.  Students can see how people describe another person's personality and other characteristics.

I just watched the program from last Saturday, March 15th.  The part of the second male guest, again, provides interesting materials for either level one or AP level. Here is the link:

Guest's self-introduction can be used at level one.  Here are some questions for your reference:

  • Where is this guest from?
  • What is his last name? How come he uses this last name?
  • What does he like?

The last part when the female finalists introduced their own lives can be used for Lesson 11 from Chaoyue, Entertainment and Recreation. Here are some questions for your reference:

  • What are their entertainment and recreational activities?
  • What kind of traditional art form does the Korean girl study?

These questions can used to help students review or do practice exercises.  These questions can also be used to set up the stage for following activities.  You can use these questions in the assessment.  Or you can design activities and questions based on the learning objectives.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014






Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 CAIS Southern Regional Meeting-Active Language Learning Community 加州独立学校学会讲座-网络互动设计

A Very Short Chinese Version:
课外互动:voicethread, 布置回家作业最好用,
请看 如何使用。
一门课内互动-案例话题:旅游:animoto, google site. 第一二天,布置任务建立评分标准,建立初稿;第二三天,用google site的comment功能互相修改,完成做短片的准备工作;第四五天,用animoto (有网路和手机应用)制作短片;第五六天,用google site互相评论短片。
多门互动-案例话题:春节吉祥话,“话”友:第一二天,准备,学习不同表达法;第三天,录影/录音,在google site上发表,和别班分享;第四-五天,别班回复。
请看,如何使用animoto, google site.

Symbaloo, organization tool for online resource collection:顧老師(my collection)
Voicethread, interactive recording
Vocaroo, back-up online recording, no interactive feature
Animoto, online & app. video maker
Google Site, platform for work display, peer-peer/teacher-student interaction
Proficient Today, blog of my own experience of using these resources in class, 30 sec. quick video of all steps of all lessons

Lesson 1 Connect Outside Classroom
Voicethread $79.00/year, create unlimited content, add 50 members to a class group by uploading Excel roster
Best for interactive homework assignment

  • Step 1- Create, upload image or video, which can be recorded directly or uploaded
  • Step 2- Comment, record audio/text/video doodle, pointing out details in a image while recording 
  • Step 3-Share, generate a link, check "allow to comment", or email to the group directly.  Click "manage comment", so only the commenter and creator can see the thread.

Other benefits: recycle materials created for various purposes, threads can be copied without copying all comments or only with the creator's comment.
Read more about Voicethread:

Lesson 2 Connect Within One Class -Topic: Travel, Places
Animoto, free, 30 sec. video; $5/month or $30/year, 10 min. videos
Google Site, free
Best for in-class interaction, homework

  • Day 1-2, provide contexts (Suggestion of Where to Go/What to Do for Hosting Family and Exchange Students), create framework (guiding questions, create rubrics for giving suggestion), start creating work (1st draft of any sort, verbal, in writing, story board etc.).  Google Site can be used in any point to record the progression using commenting, editing google page.
  • Day 2-3, improve work, peer editing, finish materials needed for the movie. Use Google Site's commenting and replying (to comment) features. 
  • Day 3-4, produce movie.  Use Animoto, upload image, add text, add background, add music, all provided by the tool.  This tool is online and also has an app.  Work done on either platform is synced.  No need to borrow video cameras, one smart phone can let students finish the whole project. 
  • Day 4-Day 5, publish work, review others' work, comment. Again, use Google Site. At this point, students are very familiar with the functions and how to interact with each other's work. 

Read more about Animoto:

Lesson 3 Connect With Other Language Classes - Teach Spanish classes Chinese New Year Greeting, Make Voicethread friends with Chinese classes of different levels, Study Abroad Fair
Voicethread, Google Site, Animoto
Best for reaching out to other classes
  • Day 1-2, learn expressions/vocabulary, create one's own expressions.  i.e., read other's self-introduction, a pen pal letter, practice greetings with classmates.
  • Day 3, create videos for Spanish classes, record self-introduction and questions for Voicethread friend, organize materials for producing study abroad video.
  • Day 4, publish videos/recordings on Google Site, using comment or saved on Animoto account.
  • Day 5, other classes view the work and comment via Google Site, using reply, show study abroad videos at Study Abroad Fair open to the whole senior class.
And the interactive cycle continues, the community stays alive... :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Animoto: Easy Breezy for Movie Project 轻松简单做电影

(Reminder: Just want to know what Animoto can do, scroll down and explore later! :)
Before delving into this online tool, Animoto, just pause for a moment and wonder aloud why we step out of traditional classroom setting and try these tools that move the lesson outside the brick-and-mortar classroom. This is a legitimate question, which was raised by one of my colleagues weeks ago, "why I need to step out of my comfort zone?". Yes, you are heading to a unfamiliar territory.  The fancy websites, online presentations, videos, etc. all look simple. Yet it indeed takes a lot of time to prep these projects and no matter how well you think you are prepared, there are issues, the link is broken, the internet connection is down, and on and on.  The direct benefit is that some paper is saved and hopefully, more trees.  But what else?

The answers blended/online learning experts provide is that using these online tools/resources help increase students' engagement.  However, why the-teacher-and-the-material combination is not enough?  My personal experience as a student (very recently, I finished some schooling in 2011) is that after having a class for a while, things become routine and this interesting individual who happens to be a teacher could become boring, merely because I see this person so often in the same context.  Many people I talked to, including adults who have to sit in long workshops (although feels long, usually an hour maximum), told me "I wish (the teacher, the presenter, the speaker) let us do something."  Well, using these online tools to make something could be much more easier and sometimes more exciting than, say, making a poster using markers and construction paper, using real camera to shoot a real movie, or putting on role-play with props.  Anecdotal Evidence? If I have time, I would never make another display board instead of showing a dynamic presentation. Animoto as well as many other tools can make you one of those presentations. More anecdotal evidence? When you tell students, we are going to use Animoto (what, oh animation, movie) make a movie out of the script you just wrote. Their eyes become bigger (I am talking about poker-faced teenagers) and they will ask you every single day when they can start. At least that happened to me.  I can switch the tool name and objectives of activities but the reaction is pretty much the same, "I wanna do it; I wanna do it."

Now, you are convinced; let's talk about Animoto,  I used to hate it because I love iMovie.  Granted, Animoto could hardly make any iMovie kind of production.  But I tried Animoto app.; and that changed my opinion.  As a pro Chinese or any kind of typer, I can make a short movie-like presentation within 5 minutes.  What you produced on the phone will automatically synced with your online account.  What Animoto allows you to do is simple, uploading video or image, adding text, providing you with cute background animation and upbeat music, and finally sharing via online social media, link, email, etc. Free account allows you to make 30 sec. videos; $5/month subscription or $30/year allows you to make 10-min. video.  To me, 30 sec. free account is enough. I realize that 30 sec. rule forces students to edit their words so they fit in the time frame.  It can't match the iMovie quality but it makes a movie project possible.  Many kids actually manage to finish the whole presentation on their phone.  That's quite amazing.

Animoto可以帮你把呆板的幻灯片变成集动画音乐一体的小短片。你可加载自己的录影和图片,加字幕,这个网络工具提供背景动画和音乐 ,最后分享做完的作品。背景动画其实设计得非常棒,音乐也都很活泼得体。学生可以轻松使用这个工具,几乎不需要老是指导。免费的帐号可做30秒的短片,5美金一个月或者30美金一年的用户可做10分钟的短片。不过我觉得30秒足够了。因为只有30秒,学生得编辑浓缩自己的字幕,是个不错的找中心意思的练习。 我以前并不怎么喜欢Animoto, 可是最近发现它有手机应用。手机上完成的小电影会直接上传到网上帐号。在手机/平板电脑上用这个工具就更快捷更方便,我可以在5分钟内搞定一个电影。