For recommendations on other books/videos/audios, I’ve indexed them all under the Chinese Books Page.
We’re making our own sourdough starter and tonight the kids watched an episode from Science Around Us 生活裡的科學 to give them some of the vocabulary they are encountering. Though it turned out that’s not what the episode is about, I was reminded just how great this series is for elementary kids. I need to let them watch this after we’re done with 甜心格格 Sweetheart Princess.
Science Around Us 生活裡的科學 is a series put out by Daai TV, owned by Tzuchi Foundation, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan. But the series is secular. This is the description on their website:
Science around Us is a children’s program that solves the mysteries behind all sorts of phenomena in people’s everyday life.
After weeks of slacking off in science due to move, I finally did a presentation today on volcanos. It’s actually because our Story of the Worldchapter had an activity on volcanos and I signed up for it. We’re trying a new thing in our co-op where we each sign up to host and present a history chapter so it’s not so hard on the two members who had been hosting most of the time. Thankfully it nicely segwayed into layers of the earth and volcanos in science, planned presentations months ago before I veered off course.
Before we started on volcanos, first we had to continue from our First Great Lesson story about how the earth was created. (We’d already done a few presentations on the states of matters but I also skipped a few presentations in the Creation of the Earth section of my album.)
First we read a picture book on the layers of the earth. It’s a story about two animals who decided to dig their way to the other side of the earth. From the picture book we learned some layers of the earth terms. (more…)
Last semester, we started our Science co-op and used Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) as a guide. Because I was the only Montessori mom, and most of the kids were still 5, we ended up doing some lessons like the Long Black Strip from my album, and then more primary level activities like exploring what solids, liquids, and gas is and The Earth’s Rotation
However, by Spring semester, most of the children turned 6. As I was planning our spring curriculum, and contemplating how I keep referring back to the earth’s history for certain lessons, I realized that to reset our Science curriculum, we really need to start from the beginning with the First Great Lesson.
The First Great Lesson is why I like the Montessori science curriculum and really also underlines the philosophy of BFSU. It basically tells the story of the earth’s creation from the Big Bang onward. There are 6 great lessons in all. All of these serves to tie your science curriculum together so that you’re not just studying individual topics. Instead you realize that all scientific knowledge is inter-connected. Children of the Universe is a really great book that talks about all 6 Great Lessons and how/why you present them.
After a few weeks of kids getting sick and not really doing co-cop, this past Wednesday we had a really good one learning about water. I hadn’t planned it this way but I feel that this semester we ended up doing mostly primary curriculum in introducing some science and history concepts. It all worked out because half the children are 5 year olds. Next semester they’ll be 6 and then we can do more advanced science. We will also be adding history to our co-op.
At the beginning of the semester, the children learned about solid, liquid, and gas. We explored air a few weeks ago. So we’re ending our semester exploring water.
After the craziness of our co-op last week, despite the fact that the kids had fun, I decided I really needed a change. I have a lot of trouble keeping my calm when there is just too much noise and the kids aren’t being respectful and talking over each other during a presentation, or not paying attention to me. As I mentioned in the Earth’s Rotation around the Sun post, I saw the kids concentrating and remember that is part of my goal. I also talked to Co-op Mama and asked her if her other co-op was like this and she told me about how they start each session with a circle time.
So for this week, we made two changes to our presentation. First I brought a book to read as a transition activity for the children. This gets them to come sit together in a circle rather than me telling them every 5 minutes we’re going to start our presentation. Then I chose an activity that will lend itself to concentrated work. Basically, we kept the presentation part short. (I swear, I learned this in training. Presentations are only to be 15-20 minutes long. Somehow needing to teach kids for 1.5 hours twice a week made me forget that.)
The BFSU’s curriculum is divided into 4 sections, Life Science, Physical Science, Earth Science, and Nature of Matter. Since we’d been covering a lot of Nature of Matter and Physical science, I thought maybe we should cover something from Earth or Life Science. Life science doesn’t lend itself to very fun activity in the beginning presentations. So Earth science it was!
Thanks to the ever resourceful Co-op Mama, we the kids had a really great time.
First we started with an AC/BD presentation and Long Black Strip presentation, where I had a hard time wrangling the kids. Then after a lunch break, we started on the presentation.
Co-op Mama first brought out her creation. The kids went wild. Everyone wanted to put it on.
We had our first ‘co-op’ teaching session yesterday with another family who is also homeschooling in Chinese. It was super fantastic. The best thing was that I didn’t have to plan it!
Okay, I sort of kid. What we’re doing is following the Building Foundation for Scientific Understanding book. It’s a curriculum that very much mirrors the Montsesori curriculum (at least in the beginning sections I’ve seen) but has this super cool chart that tells you exactly the order of your presentation. I use it in conjunction with my album.
Our co-op is still in the midst of being organized. But I’m hoping we can swap so that one person teaches science and the other math or history. We can get together for the lessons and then do a bunch of followup activities at home. Since my friend is not necessarily doing Montessori, but is open to her child being taught in that way, this gives us the flexibility to follow up however we like.
Our lesson was Introduction to Energy it’s a requirement for the lesson on “Plants vs. Animals”, which is what I actually wanted to teach the kids. There are more than 4 types of energy but to make it simple, we only introduced heat energy, light energy, electrical energy, and movement energy. I think energy is defined here as what gives something the power to move or change state? I don’t even remember because I wasn’t the one teaching.
The Montessori albums I have have no sections on Physical Energy. But my Montessori homeschooling friend lent me a book titled “Nurturing the Young Scientist: Experiences in Physics for Children“. It has a section on introducing energy. Looking through the activities, we decided that introducing electrical energy looked the most fun for a group setting.
We also consulted the BFSU book for what the intent of the lesson is. I made up a deck of bilingual sorting cards and gave it to my friend.
Looking over my May pics, I realized I did not document what we did with our solar system study. I wish we’d gone further with our study, but it would have to do for now.
We first started with the kids randomly cutting up some solar system cards I had made. Seeing an opportunity, I suggested that Thumper and Astroboy glue them onto a large sheet of paper. For Thumper I also had her find the names in English and write them down. Astroboy never finished his. If you look carefully you will notice that the labels are actually wrong.
So a week or 2 later, I finally finish my solar system nomenclature cards. We spent about an hour on this one day. First we laid the picture+label card out in order for Astroboy to match. While he did that, Thumper read through the definitions and tried to match them. Afterward, I read through them with Astroboy. We spent some time acting out the cards. One planet spinned very fast around the sun (Astroboy ran around me really fast) and one rotated really slowly. We then used the definition cards that had blanks for the planet names and tried to figure out what planet that was.
Honestly, I don’t think either kid remember these definitions a month after we did it. I know we need some more follow ups. Like making a booklet for Astroboy and maybe a research project for Thumper. But we haven’t followed up.
I also found some mistakes in my cards so I need to remake them. The definition cards seemed kind of boring to me and the language a bit too advanced maybe. So I need to redo them a bit.
In Chinese, the planets are named after the 5 elements: gold, wood, water, fire, earth 金木水火土, plus sky and ocean （天王, 海王）. I thought maybe they’d name the planets in the same order. But alas, they do not. I’m telling Thumper: 金木水火土天海. Google says 金木水火土 is called 五行, and the planets are called 行星. See how these two terms are related in Chinese? Kind of interesting. And Uranus and Neptune are directly translatable to English as Uranus is named after the God of Sky and Neptune we know is the God of Sea. Anyways, here are some nomenclatures for planets
太陽 – Sun
水星 – Mercury
金星 – Venus
地球 – Earth
月球 – Moon
火星 – Mars
木星 – Jupiter
土星 – Saturn
天王星 – Uranus
海王星 – Neptune
公轉 – revolve (around the sun)
自轉 – Rotate (spin on itself)
一周 － One revolution
Notice that we say moon is 月球 instead of 月亮. 月球 is the more scientific term.
In making my nomenclature cards, I found out these planets had other names in Ancient times, so I included those in. You can get really into this whole planet thing from a Chinese point of view, which is distinctly different from our Roman/Greek naming of planets.
Finally, after months and months of the maps gathering dust at the bottom shelf, the kids have spent 2 days doing Geography work.
Sunday, before my Mother’s Day Out, Astroboy wanted to do some work. He vetoed all my suggestions and finally agreed to working on the world map. The geography thread starts with introduction to globe, to pointing out it’s divided into land and water, then you “cut” the globe in half, mush it down, and voila you have the map. (Notice how even this simple intro to maps is broken down into these small steps.) Oh, and the maps are color coded. For continents, the knobs are not placed at the center but rather at the capital of each country or state. So it’s an indirect preparation for learning these names later on. As an aside, I’ve heard stories of Montessori kids who grow up and still remember those maps and their color coding as adults.
Last semester, I managed to present up to cutting the globe. We learned the Continent Song in Chinese. But Astroboy wasn’t really interested in any followup work. Today, I tried to do a more classical presentation again. I placed each puzzle onto the control chart and named them while he watched. With my help (he’s still not steady with the pencils and tracing), he traced and colored all of the continents. But he wasn’t really getting the names of the continents. So finally, I started telling him stories. I told him that piranhas live in South America. We live in North America, etc. Much like Thumper at this age, the piranhas fascinated him. And with a few iterations he remembered the names more.
I was able to leave him to work half way through. Horray! Some concentration! He was so proud of his work and requested that it be hung on the staircase wall just like his sister’s Solar System chart.
Monday, he wanted a more advanced map work. He first tried to draw it without the map frame, then ended up trying to draw the map without the control map underneath. It was a bit of a hard work, plus with his sister also in the classroom, he was super distracted. He wanted to draw 10 piranhas (食人魚) eating the hands of a big monster (大怪獸). Oh and yes, piranhas in Chinese sound way more scary than in English. It literally mean a fish that eats people.
On the other hand, watching him work made Thumper also request some map work. For her, we learned all the names of the states in Australia, plus Papa New Guinea, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean. Since she’s older, we placed labels and she needs to write them in when she’s done coloring. She spent all day on this in between my squaring presentations, with long bouts of concentration. Thumper very much enjoyed the name Papua New Guinea in Chinese. It’s almost a tongue twister. AND it’s different transliteration between English and Chinese. It’s pronounced “ghi-ni-ya” in Chinese instead of “ghi-ni”.
I will need to follow up with some geography activity. Right now, I don’t even know where to start. The possibilities are endless.
These types of work are following my change in direction in learning characters. I’m hoping Thumper gets more practice with reading characters doing subject studies rather than language arts.
Oh, and I got the roll of paper to draw on from Ikea.
Do you now the Continent Song in Chinese? I think there are different versions depending on how you want to order the continents.
An interesting thing about continents is that in Taiwan, they learn it as 大洋洲, Oceania, not 澳洲, Australia. So when I made my materials, I made it that way and I also told Thumper that different countries call it by different names.
Countries in Oceania
There are may more countries in Oceania than what is on the Montessori map. So I just translated the ones off of another material website. I spent a lot of time researching because of the different ways people can name the continents. And often you could have the web saying one thing but then educational materials saying another. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they have different names in China vs Taiwan. I made labels for:
Papua New Guinea 巴布亞新幾內亞
Solomon Islands 所羅門群島
New Caledonia 新喀里多尼亞
Western Australia 西澳洲
Northern Territory 北領地
New South Wales 新南威爾斯
South Australia 南澳州
Australian Capital Territory 首都領地
I was kind of torn about the need for Thumper to be learning these names in Chinese. Because their names sound so much like it’s translated from English than a translation of however it’s pronounced by the people of that country.
But, I think it will at least give her experience translating names between English and Chinese. Hopefully a few Chinese names will stick and become, in her mind, just another name for a country. Much like how it is for me and the continent names. This will save her the translating step. Often for us English speakers, we have to think hard when we hear an English name in Chinese, rack our brain and try to figure out what it is trying to be in English.
After 2 days of looking through the 3000 characters, I decided to switch course and start on my solar system nomenclature cards. I just kept thinking that we ought to be learning nomenclature through actual learning of knowledge rather than reading. But, I do know exactly how I am going to choose the next 100 words. I just need to actually choose them and then make up sentences.
I’ve been torn about nomenclature. Many teachers tell me their kids don’t actually like doing them past 1st grade. But it IS the thing made most often and sold online. It’s easy to make and concrete. But I want those concrete use of vocabulary. Also, why make cards if the kids can just get their information in little books I find for them? But recently I’ve been going on and on about the importance of using your hands to learn. And nomenclature cards will do that since the kids are moving cards around to match.
In primary, nomenclature cards are also called 3-part cards. There is the control-of-error card, which has a picture and then the word. That card is “cut” up into 2 cards so the kids can match it to the master card. The kids are not expected to read the words, it’s a matching game.
In elementary, this gets extended into an additional card which has the definitions of the words. Before the child can read, the teacher reads the definitions during the presentation. There is also the master booklet, which again provides a control of error. It is how you don’t have to do the activity with the child after presentation. They check to see if they match things right themselves. If they can read, they can now do this matching. It is supposedly also what you do first, reading the booklet with the child. But in training, they have never presented it this way to us. So I’m not sure.
One thing I realized in thinking about nomenclature cards again is how short the information is. It’s not there to teach everything. It’s there to invoke the child’s interest in said subject so that they want to learn more and research it themselves. On top of that, because the information is short, it is easier for the lower elementary child to read. They don’t necessarily have to find all that information in a huge encyclopedia. I know for sure Thumper hates that, reading tiny fonts in books. That’s yet another reason I decided to go ahead with making these cards.
Apparently a second level of difficulty for elementary children is to cut up these sentences. I guess it is a good grammar exercise and makes you think about what you’re reading. We’re not there yet.
Solar System Cards
When I was making cards for my school, I railed against bilingual cards. If a child is stronger in English, then they will cheat by reading the English when matching. However, in presenting at home, I realized that I had a problem now, I don’t know the words in Chinese! I couldn’t present them myself when we get to the definition part.
So here’s my version, which will allow both Elementary and Primary to use since I’m way too lazy to make a second set for Astroboy.
The primary nomenclature will have:
Label, Chinese only
Optional English label in cursive (I didn’t take a pic of that)
I could have made a master card that has both cursive English and Chinese in it but that is just way too many versions to keep track of. It would also be confusing in the classroom for us.
The elementary nomenclature will have:
Booklet with master card and master definition. The master card is bilingual.
Label, Chinese only
Label, English in print
Definition, Chinese only, with zhuyin
Definition, Chinese only, label word missing, with zhuyin (no picture)
For elementary, given that Thumper is bilingual, I added the English into the booklet. But I didn’t put them together in the label part because I wanted her to think about the translation other than just read them together in one label card. I also added the a second definition card, with the main vocabulary word missing so they can guess. Again something I’m not seeing in ETC Montessori or Montessori Research and Development. But I saw it in training. It’s a good way to really make the kids recall their knowledge. This can be used in lieu of the definition card with the vocabulary word written in. It could be the higher level of difficulty.
I accidentally printed my cards out before I made one more change. When I visited a school in Taiwan, I saw how the teachers were making cards where the zhuyin is selective. They told me that the children were using zhuyin as a crutch. I plan to make all the first 500 Sagebook words to be without zhuyin. And if I can figure it out, actually make the zhuyin go left to right instead of top to bottom. This helps the eyes track when they read.
I’m theorizing that having to read the cards carefully, and having to think while she matches, having to use her hands while learning, Thumper will really learn her solar systems. When she did her glue and paste of the solar system chart 2 weeks ago for fun, she didn’t recognize her planets anymore even though I know she learned it in primary.
But for now, these cards will do. Spent all morning cutting. Now off to laminate!