Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dual Immersion Conference

I was not at school today, as I was attending the aforementioned conference. We received training and materials for teaching math in Chinese as well as heard from Dr. Myriam Mett of the National Foreign Language Center. 

We learned about Chinese curriculum coming form Susan Gong and her team at BYU that integrates the first grade core into a series of 35 books, giving the new language meaningful context and a presentable format. The books are currently being printed and will be in our classrooms sometime next week.

Everyone is still learning how to best teach in this immersion program, and it's exciting to be among the first in the nation to be doing so.  We're part of something quite revolutionary, something to which so many are committed to help make succeed. Thank you for your patience as we continue to learn and improve one day at time :)

I was just thinking today how incredible that the kids are already starting to produce language. The first stage in learning by immersion is the input stage. With Chinese being such a foreign sounding tongue, this input stage seems to be a bit longer before they connect meaning with the sound, store the sound and meaning together in their brain, and start to use it in applicable situations. 

But just yesterday I heard students telling each other to "lai" instead of saying it in English, telling each other dui bu qi and mei guan xi, and writing beautiful characters. It makes me get goosebumps almost to think of the opportunities I have been given and these kids will be given by being able to communicate, see, and understand the world in this beautiful language and culture. All efforts are worth it.

Many are still in mostly the input stage, so don't be alarmed if you don't hear them producing whole sentences or even some of the vocabulary. As we repeatedly use it in class and I give them more opportunities to hear it, associate it, and become comfortable with it, they will begin to speak.

At school today your child learned about traditions and legends associated with the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival, and should have brought home a story they made about it as well as a puppet they can introduce themselves with . "Ni hao! Wo jiao_______"

Monday, September 28, 2009

What do you see?

We're about to start a book making project based off Eric Carle's Brown Bear Brown Bear. We read it today and practiced saying "What to do you see?" in Chinese.
Ni kan jian shenme? 

They already know "ni" (you) "kan" (see) and "shenme" (what). The extra "jian" is a way of emphasizing that you are both looking and seeing. Like saying that you are looking to the point of seeing.

In small groups we worked with shapes, recognizing characters, and how to write characters.
They should now be familiar with the following characters.

你 ni     好 hao        我 wo         是shi              月yue                   日ri         
you          good       me/I      am/to be     moon/month        day/sun       


It might be helpful to print them out and make flash cards or hang them somewhere your child can see so they become familiar with the characters and associated sounds and meaning.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hooray for technology

Today I met with the other 7 Chinese Utah teachers also doing the first year of this immersion program. It was agreed that one of the hardest things, no matter what school or how long the teacher had previously taught, is classroom management. It is just plain hard for first graders to focus. And to a completely foreign language even harder. Then ask them to learn correct behavior in this unfamiliar tongue, and, well, it's a challenge. This is where parent volunteers and parent discussions with your child help so much.  So thank you for all you're doing. As they start to get more and more vocabulary, while having correct behavior reinforced and undesired behavior have consequences, they will get it.

I am sure there are many questions on the homework sent home tonight. First: Don't worry if you can't understand it. The whole point is to give them practice writing characters.  Just have them look at the character on the left, then write that character out in each of the boxes in the line. We'll be going over it in class as well.

Today we talked about shapes again, shapes in the classroom and shapes in the environment. We're also still practicing small and big, moving into greater than and less than.

Great news!

I've been thinking and thinking about what to do to help you help your child at home with the Chinese. And then today I came across a really great website that lets me make  recordings of the words you can listen to and then record a response. I don't have a lot on there yet, but I'm really excited about it and will make assignments to help you and your student practice this hard-to-pronounce Chinese vocab. You can look at it by going to:


Monday, September 21, 2009

Mid Autumn Festival

The time is drawing near. Mid autumn festival, also known as the Moon festival, is one of the favorite holidays in China.

This year is falls on October 3rd. As with all Chinese holidays, there is a great story and many traditions to go with it. Here's one site about it:


Today in class we focused on concepts of big and small, in preparation for learning about greater than and less than tomorrow.

大Da is the word for big, 小xiao the word for small.

They should recognize these two characters, and some can even write them quite well.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Sorry there was no post yesterday.... but it was great to see and talk to some of you at conferences. It helps me so much to hear your feedback and see your goals and hopes for your child. Thank you for your patience with me as I try to figure out how to best teach, run and manage a classroom of six year olds who can't understand a word I'm saying.

I really do appreciate feedback. So if you have anything you'd like to see implemented, tell me. I'm going to be a bit more strict as far as keeping of classroom rules, so if your child comes home and says I'm mean.... that may be why :)

Yesterday we worked with shapes. I quickly found out that the names of these shapes are very hard for the kids to memorize and keep separate, as they are a little long and sound very similar.

The names of the shapes are as follows:

Circle: yuan xing (*but you can also say quan quan, which all of them have now picked up because that's what I tell them when we need to sit in a circle on the floor. Yuan xing is a more appropriate geometric label, so they need to learn it)
Square: zheng fang xing (remember zh is said like a j)
Rectangle: chang fang xing
Triangle: san jiao xing 

"xing" means basically "shape" and the character before the "xing" is just describing what kind of shape.

Example yuan xing, circle, means literally "round shape" and san jiao xing, traingle, means "three angle shape"

We're going to work on getting one down a day next week.

I've also had some ask about counting above ten in chinese. Being the very logical language it is, to go above ten, you just have just say "ten" and then whatever number is in the one's place.

Example eleven is shi yi (ten one) 十一
twelve is shi er (ten two)十二 
thirteen shi san (ten three)十三

To say/write twenty, thirty and so on, you just say how many tens. Example twenty is er shi (two tens) 二十
twenty one is er shi yi (two tens one)二十一
二十三, 二十四, 二十五 and so on.

This way of labeling numbers really helps with understanding how our number system works. Right away they see that we count in groups of tens and have to think about place values without even realizing it.

But when you do written  math in Chinese, we just use the numerals they are you are already familiar with. Isn't that great?

p.s. We're running low on snacks, so if you want to send a little snack with your child (enough for 25 kids) they would all love you 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This is....

Today's focus was on the phrase "This is a _____" and asking "What is this?"

In a previous post I explained how to say these in Chinese, but repetition's the key to language acquisition right? So it bears repeating.

zhe shi ____= this is____

zhe shi shenme?= what is this (literally: this is what?)

"zhe" is the "this" word, "shi" is the "is/to be/equals" word, and "shenme" is "what" and is always a question. It can also be used alone to just ask "What?"

We're working with addition and subtraction with numbers up to ten. All children should be able to count to ten in Chinese at this point. If you realize your child can't quite do this, let me know so I can give them a little extra help. Most should be able to count past ten, but we're still working on it.

Also, Mrs. Strasser and I are available tomorrow  for conferences from 4 until 7:15 on a first come first served basis. Because I can't speak English with the student there, the conference will have a first part where I meet with both of you and let your child show you some of the chinese they know, then have them step outside in the hall where there will be a little supervised activity for them to do while I speak with you.

One other heads up is we'll be having parent meetings for all Calvin Smith immersion parents with Mrs. Crawley throughout the year to get feedback on what's going well and what you'd like to see happen with the program. We'll send home notes and I'll post the dates on here when they happen.

Thanks so much for having great kids! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

xi huan!!!

I think we finally got it. I think every single child should now know xi huan and bu xi huan.

We spent a lot of time today saying and sorting what foods we did and didn't like. If you want to ask your child if they like something, just add the question word "ma" to the end of the expression. So you could say "Ni xi huan ma?" Ma turns any statement into a question.

We also took a math pre-test so I'll be more familiar with where we're starting from. Right off the weakest areas for everyone were money and time. Which is completely normal for first grade. We'll start working with those in our every day calendar, but feel free to start helping you child make sense of a clock or become familiar with coins.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today we began writing characters. The right way.

In Chinese, there is a very particular way to write each character. This is referred to as "stroke order". After time, it becomes habit, much like writing in English.

I'll be sending home some practice pages for them to work on. If you just follow the numbered arrows, you can help them know in which order to make the different strokes.

Today we worked on 

我 wo (me or I)
 你 ni (you)

A great website for looking up stroke order is


You can look up any word, then click on stroke order to see an animation of how to write that character.

We also began exploring basic shapes. The names of the shapes will be on next week's vocabulary list. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thank you to all the volunteers today! It really does help so much. The kids are much more able to focus and hence get a lot more out of smaller group activites, so really, thanks!

In one of the small groups, they reviewed simple phrases by looking at little books and saying them aloud.

Ni hao
xie xie
bu ke qi (that's fine/you're welcome)
dui bu qi( sorry)
mei guan xi (it's okay)
jia you (go! come on!)

We learned a new song about little chinese lanterns and counting

xiao deng long (little lantern) gao gao gua (hung up high)
yi er san si wu liu qi, yi er san si wu liu qi ba jiu shi,
yi er san si wu liu qi  (counting)

Sung to the tune of  "I love you, you love me" (made quite famous by a one purple dinosaur)

In the morning class we worked some more with the phrase "wo xi huan" = I like, and graphed who like different hobbies.

In the afternoon class, we had guests from China come for a special visit and answer questions. The kids seemed to really like talking to "real Chinese people". Many hadn't thought that people from other countries have to learn English when they come here, or realized how far away China is and that there are really people all over the world that speak Chinese.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I like

The focus for the day was "I like" and "I don't like".

Wo (I) xihuan= I like
Wo (I)  bu xi huan= I don't like

Bu is the negator of any statement. (Remember bu yao?)

The xi part is a low tone and the huan is high.

We introduced two fruits, apple (ping guo) and banana (xiang jiao). In Chinese the adjective is linked to the noun by adding a "de". So to say a red apple, you would say hong se de ping guo. Yellow banana is huang se de xiang jiao. 

Reminder that the fundraiser ends tomorrow, so all books and forms need to be in.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Today was all about associating numbers with the groups of objects they represent. Most of the class seems to feel pretty comfortable with both the chinese character for each number 1-10 as well as the numeral, though there are quite a few that need help remembering exactly how to write the numeral. (backwards 4's, 6's 7's etc)

One thing your child has heard a lot by now but never had explicitly explained is the phrase "zhe shi shenme?" It literally means " this is what?" and is used when you point to something, like maybe a color, and ask zhe shi shenme? (Remember the shi sounds more like shr) 

You can use this to quiz vocabulary. Colors and numbers especially at this point. Point to a seven and ask "zhe shi shenme?" They should be able to tell you in Chinese.

If you want to ask them about family members you can use a similar phrase "zhe (this) shi (is) shei (who)?"

The shei sounds like shay. 

A short vocabulary list will be sent home tomorrow, so ask about it and try to help them review these words.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

today is.....

We're trying to get the concept of saying the date. In Chinese it is said
"jin tian shi"_____ = today is____

So today we said:

Jin tian shi jiu yue (September), san hao (third day), er ling ling jiu nian (2009 year)

We graphed numbers up to ten to start to see the relationships between them. Encourage your children to count everything they can and talk to them about more and less (ex. you have three cars. Is that more or less than your brother who has two)

Splitting up groups of things into smaller groups will also help them see number combinations and help them with addition and subtraction. You can ask then to see how many ways they can split things up (ten fruit snacks total can be split  into two groups how many different ways).

 And these are just suggestions if you get a chance, don't feel like you need to do all of them:)

Also here's some websites if you're wondering how to pronounce these strange letter combinations you're now seeing......

http://mandarin.about.com/od/pronunciation/l/blsounds.htm   Basic pronunciation 

http://www.languageguide.org/mandarin/    Listen to vocabulary

http://mandarin.about.com/od/pronunciation/a/tones.htm  Tone practice

There is so much (good and bad) out there to help with Chinese.  I'll keep looking and posting things as I find them. If you come across something great, post it one here so all can know.

I'm working on getting some sort of recording that I can send home so you can listen to the vocabulary.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


We're working on the concepts of days, weeks, and months, which is actually a pretty hard-to-grasp concept for many first graders.  In Chinese, the word for month is "yue".  And being the very logical language that it is, the names of the months are just a number followed by "yue".


January is yi yue (first month)
February is er yue(second month)
March is san yue (third month)
and so on.

So it actually helps the child convert easily to the 9/2/09 form of writing the date, while helping with number sense and understanding  more clearly the sequence of the year as well.

 In math we've continued looking at patterns, and made our own with two colors. We'll be expanding from AB patterns to ABB and ABC tomorrow. 

We began learning parts of the body, beginning with the face.

Today's vocab:

Eyes: yan jing
Ears: er duo
Mouth: zui ba
Hair: tou fa
Nose: bi zi

and the verbs that go with them:

see/look : kan
hear: ting
talk: jiang
nose: wen 

We drew self portraits and labelled the above parts.  We'll keep working with the verbs tomorrow. 

You can encourage them to say "wo yao" (I need/I want/ I have to) for things like
-wo yao wash my hands
-wo yao he shui (I need to drink water)
-wo yao qu cesuo (I need to go to the bathroom)
-wo yao go to bed

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Today we began talking about patterns. Most were very quick to pick up on the patterns they saw, so keep encouraging them to find, notice, and create patterns with the things they see and use every day.

One concept that was a little hard to get across without speaking English is "dong" or "bu dong". which means understand, or not understand. If you get a chance, talk about this with your child. In class, I want to ask if they "dong" after I explain things. If they do, they'll give a thumbs up and say "dong" . If they're still confused, a thumbs down with a "bu dong".

Beginning next week, I'll send home a list of vocabulary we're using in class that you can practice with your child. They don't have to memorize the list, but it will help you be aware of the sounds you might be hearing and encourage them when they make them.

One little issue we have been having is using the bathrooms too frequently beginning right when school starts. Because it's first grade, I don't want to risk an accident, but it's disruptive of their learning. So if at all possible, try to have them go right before they come so we can make it at least 20 minutes without one having to leave the classroom:) 

Thanks to all the volunteers! And if there is anyone with a child in my afternoon class that can come in the afternoons, we could definitely use your help:)

One other thing. We went to library for the first time today, so you should see a white note from the librarian that needs t be signed and returned to me by next tuesday at the latest. Thanks!

 p.s. You might be interested.....





1355 West 3100 South, West Valley City, Utah 







RECEPTION:  6:00 – 7:00 P.M. 

Hors d’ oeuvres & Refreshments 

Featuring the Utah Chinese Folk Orchestra 


Hosted by: 

Salt Lake County Mayor PETER M. CORROON 

West Valley City Mayor Pro-tem RUSS BROOKS 

Salt Lake City Councilman CARLTON CHRISTENSEN 

 Director General THOMAS CHEN, Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in San Francisco 







10:30 A.M. - Noon  “GRANDMA’S HAIRPIN”   Documentary 

12:20 P.M. - 1:10 A.M. “ELEPHANT BOY and ROBOGIRL” Documentary 

1:30 P.M. - 3:10 P.M.   “SUMMER’S TAIL”    Feature film 

3:30 P.M. – 5:35 P.M.  “FOR MORE SUN”    Documentary 

7:45 P.M. – 9:20 P.M.           “THE SHOE FAIRY”    Featured film 

WELCOME:  7:00 P.M. 


Featuring the 


Sil Lum Kung Fu Kwoon Performing Arts Group 


   Salt Lake Chinese Choir