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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chinese Recitation

In the Well-Trained Mind, Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer recommended memorization and recitation at the Grammar Stage. "...It exercises the child's memory, stores beautiful language in his mind, and gives him practice in speaking aloud..."

Having this in mind, I have thus added another component into our Chinese curriculum. The Charlotte Mason method that we are using has read-alouds, narration and dictation as its main components. At the moment, I have decided to omit dictation because we are barely coping with the word lists given in the Singapore Textbook. Dictation is now replaced with recitation.

My target for now is to let my boys memorize a few sentences that are picked from our read aloud books. In the evenings when Daddy gets home, they will recite their sentences to him. If Daddy understands them and feels that they are proficient enough, they get rewarded for their efforts.

I like this arrangement so far for 3 reasons.
1. They get an independent evaluator (Sometimes I feel that my boys think I am overly critical about their intonation. I need somebody else to tell them their mistakes!)
2. Daddy gets to know more of where our boys are for Chinese. (So he will start speaking to them in Chinese!!! Before this, he thinks they wouldn't understand him at all!)
3. Boys get a chance to build up their public-speaking skills (which is FAR from good *sigh*)

I am a little excited because the random sentences that I have picked from various books we have seem to be some how related, progressive and in line with the theme of the week or even day. Let me show you what I mean.

I have started an engaging chapter book called 一年级的小蜜瓜. This is the sentence I picked from the chapter 装满秘蜜的树洞 I was reading that day. Just one sentence for a start.

I know that Daddy (or you) would not understand the context of this sentence so I made the boys give a narration of what happened in the story leading up to this sentence. Aren't I brilliant??!! :-)

This sentence introduces the phrase 保守秘密.

The next day, we read from 蚯蚓的日记. This time I decided to let my boys choose the sentences they wanted to memorize. They chose this passage:
我长大以后想当秘密情报员。 蜘蛛说我得非常小心,因为忠统可能一不小心就会踩到我。“这个工作很危险,”我告诉他,“但是总得有人去做。”

The term 秘密 is used again! So that sort of build up from the previous day's work! Moreover, we were starting the topic of growing up and ambitions in our Chinese textbook (chapter on 长大后) What a coincidence!

The next day, we read 忙忙碌碌镇. This book is a translated version of Richard Scarry's Busy Town. We liked the English version. I thought this was a good book to introduce some specific terms relating to different professions. From the chapter 每个人都要工作, I chose 3 sentences that turned out to be quite a challenge for them.
农夫种了各种粮食和蔬菜,其中一些是留下来给自己家吃的。 其余的呢,就卖给了杂货店的杂货猫,换回一些钱。 杂货猫再把这些商品卖给忙忙碌碌镇上的其他人。

The boys struggled with this one. :-( We had a tough time getting this right. We were feeling quite defeated at the end of it. It is funny how sometimes when I have something all planned out, it ended up not turning out as well as I hope. But when I let "nature takes its course", everything just seem to fall in place. Anyway, I decided to lighten up for the next passage.

The next day we read 可爱的宝宝 (a book from the Chinese Science series that I have mentioned here before). I allowed the boys to choose their sentences again this time. (Learnt my lesson!) Thankfully, they have forgotten the bad experience the day before and were very eager. This is what they chose:
在世界上的每一个地方,都有小宝宝在出生。 你是在一个温暖的房间里出生的。如果你是一只北极熊,那么你会是在雪洞里出生的。

I thought it was quite a good choice because that day happened to be my birthday! 世界was also a term that was introduced in the current chapter in the textbook! They had lots of fun learning this one and even chose another paragraph from the same book, insisting that they learn it the next day! Wow! I am so happy to see such enthusiasm!!!

So you see... I am just amazed that the unplanned passages we have selected somehow just fitted the occasion. SOMEONE up there must have already done the planning for me ;-) It is liberating to know that somebody is there to take over the steering wheel. What's more?! He is likely to have a better idea of where we should be heading!!

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