About a month ago, I finally started that book club I’d been wanting to start for over a year. This is our fifth week and I think I kind of have the format down now.
There are 4 kids in our club, ranging from 5 to 9. Because of the range of children, my goal wasn’t to have a the children read one book at home and then discuss and analyze in the club, but rather just to foster reading and have the children discuss books with each other. The idea came to me when I saw how happy Thumper was, discussing, drawing, and giggling with Bebe about Harry Potter. I realized then just how powerful it is having peers to learn Chinese with.
Here’s what our most recent reading club meeting looked like
1. Read a Picture Book
Each week we start with a picture book for the two younger children. This week, we read 我贏了！╱我輸了！ about two friends who have a fight. It’s part of a 4 book series where each book has two book covers, telling a story from two points of view.
We start our story by pointing out the title, author, illustrator, and publisher. They now have these nomenclature down. Next week, I will start on other nomenclature such as chapter, page, book cover. Eventually I hope to cover concepts such as main character, climax, theme, plot, etc.
Because I’m terrible at keeping the children’s attention or know when to go with their flow of comments and questions, I start our circle time by asking the children, once again, what is good etiquette when someone is reading a book. I also found that it works better to at most give the children 5 minutes after we arrive to start the group. Otherwise they get settled into playing with each other and don’t want to start the circle time.
Since the children have extensively played with each other before, I also spoke with the children before our first week to let them know we’re going to class, not a playdate. It definitely cut down on them wanting to play the whole time.
After teaching the zhuyin last a year ago, I learned that when I start any new activity, to start simple, get the routine down, then add new elements. It helps me to not have to keep track of multiple things at once. Especially with a new group, there is always a few weeks of the children learning the group rules, proper behavior,etc. I’m pretty bad at it because I hate policing the kids. But the more kids you have the more you have to have rules, unless you’re a super amazing teacher like Waldorf Mama, who can just let kids meander and yet bring them back. I know I’m not so I’ve figured out something else that works for me, and hopefully the children as well.
When we have super great club meetings, I start getting new ideas of what we could indirectly be learning week to week. The great thing about these ideas is that there is no pressure. Because the goal of the club is to just for the children to share books they read. There is no mandate to do anything else. This way, I don’t get frustrated when the children aren’t into whatever new concept I’m trying to teach. I can just let it drop and try again next week.
2. Reading Report
The children then each have a a minute to read their reading report.
We start with Thumper, who wanted to recommend 晶晶的桃花源記 this week. She reads from the book report she prepared.
The report for older children asks the children to
- introduce themselves
- say the book title
- name the main character
- talk about what happened in the book in 1-3 sentences
- say what they thought of the book and why
- say who they want to recommend it to.
There are 3 versions of this report, one for younger children, one for older (pic above) and one for non-fiction.
Each week, the children are supposed to complete their book “report” at home and present it in class. It has forced me to commit to Thumper writing weekly. Sometimes we do it the morning before our class. But it gets done.
I guess it’s hard to get away from the must-do-homework mentality. Well, at least I know to work it to my advantage now.
Next up is Bebe, who is recommending Matilda 瑪蒂達 this week, a book that Thumper presented the first week and recommended to everyone. She hasn’t bothered with writing the report after week 3. She just talked through the main points of the report.
The report is fairly hard for a child who is not used to summarizing a book or writing. I have to help Thumper with hers every week. I may slowly introduce these ideas when we read the picture books to help the kids come up with their report in the future.
Lastly, we skipped Astroboy this week because he forgot his homework and I didn’t remind him. Thankfully, he kind of feels the peer pressure to do it because they all enjoy talking about their book every week. So hopefully next week we’ll go back to it.
Because Beeker is so young, after the first week, she is listening in to our stories and book reports only.
The whole idea for this reading club was from this Chinese teacher’s blog’s post titled 四分鐘推閱讀. You can read it here, it’s very detailed and includes the book reports she uses. She also talked about teaching kids how to do their presentation, proper manners while listening, and not telling the children what books to use in their report but letting them discover themselves that some books make better book reports than others.
So, how is the club different from the blog post?
The kids tend to run over their 1 minute presentation time, showing children pictures from the book and going on and on about plot points, sometimes reading whole passages. I half heartedly try to keep it a bit short. Otherwise a 4 minute reading report turns into a 30 minute event and they get antsy when I read to them.
This week, listening in to Bebe and Thumper discuss Matilda reminded me that a class with similar age children has very different dynamic than a group of children with 4 different reading level. Though the two older kids’ reading level are close enough they have picked up books the other is reading sometimes.
Otherwise, the club is doing as its intended. The children have a lot of fun giving the report and discussing animately the books they want to recommend. For this reason, I’m not pushing the writing. I wanted to encourage the speaking, the regurgitating of whatever it is they have read in their books, to practice speaking and using vocabulary they have only read. We’re not in Taiwan and the children need some more practice in this department.
I consider it a success when the children, during the week, talk about what book they want to recommend to the other children. Even though, each week, unlike how the blogger described it, the children all want to recommend it to every one in the group. It’s actually kind of hilarious to hear they name every child week after week.
3. Read a Long Chapter Book
We end the reading group by me reading a long chapter book, a chapter a week. We’re now at week 3 of reading Journey to the West 西遊記. The children really love it. I’m very happy we’re finally starting on an epic adventure story. Having this book club forces me to read to the children, something I keep saying I want to do but never find time for.
Thumper has been so much into adventure stories like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and D’Aulairs Book of Greek Mythology, I wanted to make sure I added some Chinese classics in. There are really tons of great Chinese epics that will appeal to young elementary children; no need to look for translated books!
Amazingly, even Astroboy is getting into this story. One morning I woke up to Astroboy flipping through the book. Apparently he’d been doing so for quite awhile, looking through the illustrations.
This version for 西遊記 is for 3rd grade and up. Every week the children learn some new vocabulary. For example, last week they learned the word “朕”, “玉皇大帝”, “龍王” and this week they learned “宣”, “王母娘娘”, “弼馬搵”. You don’t really need to learn these Chinese culture words, to know them as an adult, though it enriches your understanding of the language. But it’s an important part of the cultural folklore and therefore I think important for the children to learn.
Plus, 西遊記 is considered one of the four great classic novels, the children have got to have at least read them once!
I have even found a ximalaya recording that we can listen to in the car, to reinforce the vocabulary.
After reading a chapter, we’re done for the day. The kids would spend 5-10 minutes looking at each others’ books then break for playdate. Often, they end up re-reading the picture book I brought sometime during the playdate.
I’m extremely pleased with how things are going, other than the fact that we keep having to cut the class due to vacation and such. Hopefully we can continue the club onto next year.
- Ximalaya Recording of 西遊記
- My version of the book reports
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