Did I hear/sense fear of this language in most parents when it comes to coaching their children who are in primary school? You are not alone, my friends.
Little Man who is now in Primary 2 and boy have I noticed the big difference in the amount of work and struggle he's going through just learning the language. It doesn't help much that he is in an English speaking environment most of the time (90% of everyday). 听写now has progressed into 3-4 sentences at least with up to 6-8 short phrases or individual chinese characters every week. Needless to say, the boy, is not the least bit enthusiastic about it every week when it comes to practicing.
In order to make the language more "interesting" and less intimidating, here's what we have adopted at home. It's definitely not fool-proof, but somehow it works to make Little Man resent less of the subject.
Reading & Rewards
To encourage his interest in the language, we read books with HYPY (hanyu pinyin), even though I REALLY REALLY REALLY detest the use of HYPY to teach reading. But it helps to a certain degree in encouraging the reluctant child to get in touch with chinese.
What I've also discovered was for Little Man, he gets more confident after reading the chinese characters with HYPY and when we go over the words he's previously read (while I block the HYPY in the book) he's able to recognize it better.
We try to read at least 2 books per week using the series of chinese readers by Marshal Cavendesh. This was a recommended pack for P1 & P2 children. I figured since the kids' chinese textbook is printed by the same publisher, this series of chinese readers would comprise of all the words the children need to learn for their level.
Here's another set of books which I've bought, which Little Man loves, as he could relate to the encounters that the main character, 歪歪, in the books experienced and he often giggled at the silliness of 歪歪.
So here's what we do with reading, after each book is read, I'll make records of it and once the boy completed 10 books he'll get a reward.
Playing Online Games
The boy loves computer games and it's a saving grace that there are games that Little Man could play that helps him practice the language in a non-threatening way, yet, enjoyable.
One of Little Man's favourite has got to be 学乐 (click this link to check them out). This program helps the child revise what has been taught from the textbook. Besides word recognition, there are other activities in which the child has an opportunity to re-visit all the words they have learned in the classroom, in a lively and enjoyable way.
One of which is the game that comes along each learning unit, that's the part that Little Man loves most and would not reject.
The other note worthy website would be 知识网教学平台 (Ezhishi.net), this is however on a paid subscription basis. This is currently used by Little Missy's school and her teacher uses this program to supplement her teaching in class as well. So far, it's been useful for Little Missy as she's still unable to grasp HYPY quite well currently. This program helps her revise all that she needs to on HYPY.
Watching TV Programs
Apart from computer games, the other non-threatening way of introducing the language is to watch chinese TV programs. Of course, it's got to be kids appropriate programs. We would also sit next to the kids and watch the program together.
On Saturday & Sunday mornings from 8am-12pm, is the segment carved out specially for children. This segment comprises of cartoons, drama, game-shows that are purely in mandarin. We don't sit in front of the telly throughout the 4 hours but when we could we'd usually watch the cartoons.
Speak the Language
We try to encourage the use of the language at home with me speaking the language more often to the kids. We've tried the 4 days speak mandarin days and the other 3 we speak English, it worked for a while but old habits kicked in and we reverted back to speaking English everyday. Till recently, I've decided to be the main person to speak mandarin with the children on a day-to-day basis.
Little Man's problem with the language stems from the lack of confidence in speaking. He has limited vocab on the language which makes it hard for him to express his thoughts in the spoken language, therefore the resistance. So as much as possible, he needs the opportunity to hear and speak it in order to overcome the fear.
Joining Lucky Draw Contests
Yes, you've read correctly! Both my children have subscribed to these materials through their school. And I've found a way to make Little Man read up those articles/stories in these periodicals by exciting him with these lucky draws at the end of each publication. Hah! Don't judge me, anything that interests and excites my son to learning Chinese works for me!
Above which, the teachers in school would also make the kids complete some of the worksheets from these periodicals as and when they received it.
Like it or not, these still work for us. On a daily basis we would sit the kids down to do a few pages of workbooks, just to revise the day's work. Revision is an important part of being proficient in the language. We do this on a consistent basis so that it wouldn't be too daunting before any tests/exams. A little each day goes a long way for us.
We however, do not overwhelm them with a pile load of assessment books, just one to two books each subject that helps in revision.
Although Little Man isn't very enthusiastic in the subject, he's not doing that badly. Of course that comes with a lot of supervision, encouragement and cajoling from the hubs and me on a day-to-day basis. It's still a struggle, I've to admit but when he came back with full marks in his recent Chinese test, I could see and feel the excitement in him! Oh well, I just need to be more hardworking in guiding and encouraging him in the subject, I guess!
Linking up with my friend, Rachel at -