Tag: zhuyin

Using Line to Help Learn Zhuyin and Reading

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.


Using Free Chinese Math Workbooks to Practice zhuyin

math book

Our homeschool has been going really really well the last two weeks with my revamp of the kids’ work plan.  (Well, we’ll pretend that Astroboy didn’t cry big fat tears about not wanting to go to school the other day.)   One of the new items on their work plan is working with the free Chinese math workbooks put out by the National Academy of Educational Research.

I really like these books because from the quick flip throughs up to 6th grade, they seem a bit Montessori-esque.  Or maybe if I say Singapore Math-esque, that sounds better (even though Singapore Math also took it from Montessori).  For example, in Book 1, they introduce place values with very Montessori like materials (thousand cube, hundred squares, ten bars, and unit beads).  They’re just not in Montessori colors and it’s on paper.


Installing Chinese and Zhuyin Fonts for Mac

Today, I install my Chinese fonts for the 3rd time on a third computer, and figure it it time to document the Chinese fonts on my Mac.

Mac comes preinstalled with Chinese fonts.  So there is no reason to install more fonts unless you

  • Need zhuyin + traditional character fonts
  • Need pinyin + simplified character fonts
  • Need pinyin + zhuyin + simplified character fonts
  • Need hand writing (鋼筆體)fonts

If you want to find your own fonts, google 字體.


Zhuyin Week 2

Week 2  ㄈㄏㄓㄔㄨㄚㄜ is introduced.

When I was making my flashcards, I realized that 康軒 is introducing these zhuyin based on frequency.  For sure, ㄠ is actually one of the most occurring sounds.  I thought it would have been ㄚor ㄧ or ㄨ.  I guess because those are learned first in a way with family names like 爸爸 媽媽.

I would have thought reviewing 3 times each lesson is too much, but I’m finding that it’s actually a good number.  Because each time you can add something new to it, from remembering the symbols to beginning sounds to blending.  So, we’re actually progressing really fast with this class, with only 1.5-2.5 classes spent per 6 zhuyin. I may need to adjust the speed later on.   For Astroboy, it’s the ending sounds and tones I’m working on.

This week, we started by watching a tongue twister video.  We didn’t watch the whole thing, just the story part.  The second class, we watched this video again and reviewed it again.  The tongue twister was then assigned as homework, where Astroboy had to write down the tone himself.

媽媽騎馬, 馬慢, 媽媽罵馬。

Then we officially started the class with our zhuyin song, modified from the following video:

zhuyin blackboard
Zhuyin display to sing along to

Immediately after, I worked on tones, trying to add the tones to the tongue twisters video we watched. Sometimes Astroboy needed a reminder with the hand gestures.  The more we practice, the more he’s getting it.


Zhuyin Textbook: 小康軒 ㄅㄆㄇ大口袋 (Zhuyin Big Pocket)

I recently got my hands on a sample of 小康軒 ㄅㄆㄇ大口袋 (Zhuyin Big Pocket).

Kang Xuan is a textbook publisher in Taiwan.  They provide some of the textbooks children use in public schools.  What I didn’t know is that they also publish textbook and curriculum for preschools.

Background Info:

The pics below are of the 2014-2015 school year Zhuyin Big Pocket.    There are 4 “sets”, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.  Remember, these are textbooks for preschools.  Apparently, these are marketed as Spring/Summer for 4 year olds (中班) and Fall/Winter for 5 year olds (Kindergarten/大班).

In 2015-2016, they added 2 new books to the series.  They’re basically marketed for the 3 year olds (小班).  These 2 new books basically focuses more on introducing the symbols only.  Whereas the 2014-2015 version starts with introducing symbols and blending (the way I prefer anyway).

Just like other curriculum books that are only made available per semester, the 2015-2016 version only has sets 1, 3, 5 out right now and you have to wait for sets 2, 4, 6 next semester.  The 2014-2015 versions are all available now.

Kang Xuan also sells another set call 歡樂 ㄅㄆㄇ (Happy bopomo).  Apparently, these are much like the new sets 1 and 2 in the Zhuyin Big Pocket series.  They only introduce the symbols.  I have not seen these, this is just what the distributor tells me.


Homeschool Summary July ’15

Wow, I just looked over all the pics I took over the last month and we’ve been doing more work than even I remember.   These pics were taken mid July to first week of August.  I’m the most happy not because of the variety of work we did manage to do, but because the kids actually will spend most of the work period being really concentrated on their work.  Especially Astroboy.  By the end of last year, he could not sit still in the classroom.  Now, with zhuyin class 3 times a week, playdates the other 2 times, and maybe some work periods on the weekends, we’re actually not doing that many 3 hour work periods.  And yet they manage to have really good ones when we do.

What I Learned

One thing I learned from the tutoring class is how I need to really sit with the children when they work.  That and the 3 months break is helping them spend 2-3 hours actually working instead of running around.  I was going to say it’s also due to them being used to the work period routine, but given how the last week they are starting to resist work (because we have not been playing as much) I don’t think that’s the reason.

The other thing I’m seeing is that the children’s limit are about 1 to 1.5 hours of concentration time.  They naturally want a break after that.  This matches what I’ve observed of my own concentration time.  And lastly, I noticed that sometimes the kids do their best work at their 7pm homework time, after a day of playing outside.


How long does it take to learn zhuyin?

One of the things that annoys Baba is my insistence in reading a movie review before I watch a movie.  I like to at least get a general idea of what’s going to happen, rather than a surprise.  At home, watching a movie, I will fast forward to the end first to make sure the main character isn’t going to die, before going back to enjoy the rest of the movie.

When it comes to the kids, I’m often the same way.  “How long does it take to normalize a classroom?” “When do kids potty train?” “When do they how to walk/talk/run/tie shoelaces, etc etc etc”.  I really really hate it when people says, “it all depends on the child”, even though I know it’s true.  I just want a general time frame dag nabbit!

So I’ve been recently wondering, “How long does it take to learn zhuyin?”  I asked both friends and teacher friends I knew.  The answer is kind of obvious but I hadn’t thought of it.  However long it takes kids to learn to read in English, it probably takes just as long in Chinese.  Supposing a child comes into kindergarten and doesn’t know how to read.  I believe between K-2, it is expected they will be working on reading.  Of course if you learned to read in preschool, you would read much earlier.   I vaguely remember now someone mentioning that by the end of Kindergarten, the children have been introduced to all of the alphabet, and are working on sounding simple words out.  That’s not that fast at all.

I somehow had it in my head that you can learn zhuyin in 3 months because I know teachers teach it the first few months of first grade and then the kids move on to learning characters and reading zhuyin.  I hadn’t realized that that’s just the teachers teaching zhuyin characters in 3 months.  The kids then need to practice reading.  And that’s probably daily zhuyin practice.  So it would take even longer in the US?

I had a long talk with a teacher friend tonight.  Now I’m thinking it’ll take me probably 3 months to introduce all of zhuyin to Astroboy, and then we’ll need to spend this upcoming year to learn to blend and read words and sentences.  I imagine it takes even longer in preschool since they’re just not as developmentally ready.  My friend told me that it doesn’t quite matter if the child knows English or not already.  Though of course it’ll help them learn to sound things out faster. Because the flip side of knowing English is that zhuyin is a foreign/second language to them.   So there’s the added learning curve of learning a second language.

To her, the important thing is the effort I spend reviewing with Astroboy outside of school time.  Totally true.  I see the progress he’s making with the homework he has to do.  Because our class is 3 days a week, we end up doing homework pretty much daily, on top of reviewing and relearning in class.   In a way, we’re doing about 2-2.5 hours of zhuyin-related work 3 times a week, and 0.5-1 hour the other 2 days.  I feel like the frequency is definitely making a difference.  Of course, Astroboy is only 5, so he is not getting it as fast as the older kids.

Still, thinking it may take 6 months to a year plus makes it feel soooooo long.  By then he’ll be 6!   Sigh.  Sometimes knowing doesn’t help me stop being impatient.

Zhuyin Bingo


On top of the zhuyin class, we’ve also been doing zhuyin activities at home.  I won’t document all of them because it always varies depending on where they’re at in the process.  Are they learning to:

  • recognize zhuyin characters
  • learning to blend and read
  • reading sentences
  • writing zhuyin

Here is one fun activity we did the other day.  It is specifically for learning to recognize zhuyin characters.  The zhuyin I used are specific to the first 4-5 chapters of the Kang Xuan 康軒 book we’re studying from.  I think the game is more fun when you already know most of the characters so it is best to play this after you’re past chapter 3.


Zhuyin Curriculum / Textbooks

Next week we will begin our third week of zhuyin class.  Nothing beats working on a subject daily, or Mon/Wed/Friday + homework.  I definitely see Astroboy progressing.

Last year, Astroboy spent it learning the idea of beginning sounds and also how to blend.  It’s definitely helping him in the class.  I see him being able to blend once he learns a new zhuyin character.  We’re still working on tones though.

We’re not following a Montessori curriculum for zhuyin.  We are doing hands on activities.  I haven’t reconciled what we’re doing with the way I learned to teach phonics.  But I did realize one thing.  English phonics isn’t the same as Chinese phonics.  In English, we start off with a bunch of 3 letter words, often just switching one alphabet to make new words.  A classic example is the work on beginning sound.  You can have a basket of letters and objects for bat, mat, cat, hat.  

It doesn’t work like this in Chinese.  Sure, most Chinese characters require just 2 zhuyin alphabet.  But a Chinese word requires 4-6.  And it is not a simple matter of switching one zhuyin character to make a whole new Chinese word.   So what this means is that you have to teach a bunch of zhuyin before you can spell.  And that teachers tend to teach one zhuyin alphabet but then show kids a Chinese word where the other zhuyin alphabet aren’t taught yet.  To me, it isn’t dividing the concept into really understandable chunks.  So exactly how to break it up still confounds me.  2040101000b

Here is the book we’re following for the zhuyin curriculum.  康軒一上自修 Kang Xuan’s first grade self-study book.  This first grade fall semester book is self-study version of their textbook and the first section is devoted to learning zhuyin.  You can buy this directly from Kang Xuan’s website and ship it to the US.

The book comes with a CD of mp3s.  There is also an online teacher’s version but you need to register as a member.  The online version doesn’t have all the exercises that are included in the book.

We chose this curriculum because it is entirely in zhuyin.  The teacher typically uses another book and makes materials with Chinese characters built in.  But since the two older girls in the class can read so much already, we wanted to focus on zhuyin and not let them cheat.

Lesson 1
Lesson 1

I want to note that we’re just using the textbook as a starting point, we’re not really doing the exercises included in the book.  We’re really making our own materials to supplement.


Zhuyin at home…or preparing for zhuyin

IMG_3916The way I learned how to teach phonics is that there is a long period of preparation (for reading and writing) before you actually teach phonics.  My confusion is how do I document that if my parents and their kids are all coming in at different levels?  What I think I will do is talk a bit about what parents can do at home before they officially start teaching zhuyin (or having their kids take classes).

The goal of preparation is oral introduction to concepts of phonics.  Separately, there’s also learning to recognize characters and their sounds.

Learning zhuyin characters and sounds

Here are some lazy ways you can introduce zhuyin characters using videos.  This is the “associating sounds with zhuyin” step.  It can just take a long time to remember all the characters so videos are such a great way to go to do that.

1.  Watch 巧虎 Qiao Hu

巧虎 from age 4 onward teaches zhuyin. This is their 成長版/Growth version.  You can search “成長版 巧虎” or “巧虎注音歌” on Youtube and get some videos.  We ordered a year’s worth.  It typically comes with hands on materials.  Astroboy mostly watched videos this past year and I was amazed at how many characters he knew just from repeat watching.