We’ve been doing a remedial zhuyin class for Astroboy for the last few weeks.  He really needed a review because he just doesn’t know his tones and tends to pronounce things wrong.   I know the problem is that I did not spend a very long time teaching him zhuyin well before I left him to read on his own.

But before I go on, let me vent a little on how people traditionally teach zhuyin.  They spell to children,  馬 ㄇㄚ 馬, when it really should be   馬 ㄇ ㄚˇ 馬.  I’m not immune to this.  It’s how I learned zhuyin and how I unconsciously said it to my kids.    It drives me nuts because you’re not teaching kids, right off the bat, to hear the ending tones.

What happened after the initial teaching is, I drop the ball on finishing teaching zhuyin, Astroboy went to reading and he semi succeeded since he can sometimes guess words from context and the characters he already can read, until he can’t when the book is too high a level.

So maybe I have no one to blame but myself.   Except I think this is a very common problem amongst people I know who learn Sagebooks first, then zhuyin, then move on to reading very quickly due to the desire to learn to read ASAP.

In any case, now that Thumper can read, the next step for us is composition.  However, since she doesn’t know how to write many characters, I thought I should let her review her zhuyin a bit first.

Last week, I got all the kids together after our Mandarin Reading Club and showed them my zhuyin cheat sheet.  I made a new one for my zhuyin class.  This is NOT how you will usually find zhuyin organized.  But why make children learn a new system when eventually they have to learn how it is laid out on a keyboard?

I asked the children to close their eyes and raise either their right or left hand for each zhuyin I said.  The red ones should be left and blue ones right.  The goal is for them to type with two hands instead of pecking with one.  Afterward, I sent Thumper and her friend off to try texting each other while I continued the class with the younger ones.

Setting up a Line Account

Over the next week, I applied for Line accounts for Astroboy as well.   Line is a program used by many people in Taiwan to message each other.  I chose that program because many of our relatives are already on it and I didn’t want them to use FB or regular messaging.  Plus line has tons of emoji which the children love.

Getting a Line account isn’t as straight forward for children unless they have their own phone.    We’re an Apple family so these instructions are for Apple products.

  1. Get your kid a FB account.  Typically you have to tie a phone number to a Line app.  If you don’t want to, you need to sign in via FB credentials.  Make sure you change all your security settings for their FB account and don’t post their pics.  FB doesn’t allow accts for kids.
  2. Find an old iPad, iPhone, etc.  I didn’t want my kids to use my phone for Line, since my own account is on it and Line doesn’t allow multi-user logins on one app, so I had to use another device.   If you already have your own Line account on this device, you  must delete the app and reinstall.
  3. Login your kids’ FB on a browser on the device.   Since you’re going to sign up using FB credentials, if you’re signed in to your own FB acct while signing up to Line, it can mess up the registration process.
  4. Sign up for a Line account on the device.  You must sign up on the device.  You can’t use the PC or Mac version to get a Line account that’s linked to FB.
  5. Set up a Line ID and ask others for theirs.  The ID isn’t shared so you have to ask.  Since my iPad doesn’t have my own contacts on it, (and I didn’t want it to use my contacts anyway), I had to explicitly ask for other IDs to add as friends.
  6. Set up guidelines and rules for using the device.

In the end, I set up Astroboy’s account on my cell phone because I didn’t want to tie up my computer and Thumper‘s account on our iPad.  For each kid, I found one friend they could chat with and then added us and some relatives in.  Yes, I had to use two different devices because Line only permits one account per app.  There isn’t even a Logout button!  You have to delete the App.

Over the last week the children have been very excited to be able to chat with their own friends on Line.  I’ve definitely seen an improvement in Astroboy‘s zhuyin tone recognition.  The great thing about using Line is that they want to do it, type in zhuyin and spell that is.   Astroboy tends to type the same thing over and over so he practices the same zhuyin and with repetition he remembers.   He also gets to learn new Chinese characters since I often sit with him when he’s typing.

With Thumper, she is messaging with her father and her aunt, which has turned out to be a great way to slip in those spelling and grammar lessons.

In hindsight, I would probably also give them clearer guidelines and sit with them for a few supervised sessions before I let them go off by themselves.   My kids don’t use their iPad unless I give it to them, so they haven’t figured out yet how to cut corners or poke around.   Specifically, I needed to

  1. Remind them to use both hands to type and have them practice first by typing one character, than one word, then one sentence.  Hopefully then it will take them much longer to discover with zhuyin you don’t have to type everything out.  Astroboy didn’t know that at first and he would painstakingly type every single zhuyin plus tone and then look at the character selection.  He couldn’t type and look at the selection at the same time.
  2. Make sure they write with proper punctuation (Chinese/English) and capitalization (English).
  3. Show them tricks in typing, such as typing multiple characters when typing words at once in order to get the right characters to show up faster.   So, for example, don’t type 上, pick the character, then 學, but instead type 上學 (in zhuyin of course).
  4. Talk with the children about proper usage, solicit their input in defining rules for using the iPad.  Right now, the kids are checking Line several times a day, usually before school starts, during break, and after dinner.  It’s easy to see how this can turn into addictive checking.  They do know they cannot be waiting for a response since their friends are in school when they text.  But next week during school time we will probably have a meeting and together come up with some rules.


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