Diane Neubauer on Elementary Chinese

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29 thoughts on “Diane Neubauer on Elementary Chinese”

    1. Hi Linda,
      Are you familiar with her cold character reading? I think she’s been developing this over a few years in the Hawaii StarTalk summer program. This is based on a few hours of quality CI aural input. Then followed by carefully written, high-repetition readings in characters only and reading aloud until the students join in. It puts the kids in the position that Chinese kids learning to read have: they already know the sound-meaning of the words, now they just need to see how they look. Terry’s site is http://albanylanguagelearning.com/training/ but there’s not too much up there about it. I heard Terry talk about this last year for the first time (I was at a TPRS training in Milwaukee at the time).

      Pu-Mei Leng describes how she recently did this with Chinese 1 (high school): http://tprsforchinese.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-chinese-1-did-it-yes-i-am-talking.html Pu-Mei has at least one other post about it as well.

  1. Beautiful Diane!!!

    I remember that conversation you and I had a month or so ago about whether to use the Chinese symbols or not when translating words on the board.
    I really like how you decided to use the characters for reading only and stick to Pinyin for sound/word connection as per Terry Waltz’s suggestion.

    This video will be very helpful to Chinese teachers but also for other language teachers not knowing where to start.

    Thank you for doing it.

    1. Sabrina, it took me a long time thinking and considering – and then a conversation with the Chicago-area CI/TPRS teachers on Aug. 17th clinched it. I demonstrated what I wanted to do and they confirmed – no characters, not for beginners on day 1 at least. They also helped me put the words into a more logical chart format that helped demonstrate sentence order.

      I demo’d again for my department members – they said the same. It was too much and distracted from the sound-to-meaning work.

  2. Hi Diane. I am not familiar with Terry’s cold character reading at all, I just heard a bit here and there from other Chinese teachers. Thanks for the link. I am going to check it out! And thanks for sharing your video. You did it beautifully!

  3. Good job Diane! This sounds very similar to what I did with my 4th/5th graders for the first few weeks. I only see them once every week for 40 minutes, so we go very slowly. I did el(he), ella(she), se llama (his/her name is) the first day, and they caught on!! The next week, they were so excited to pick up where we left off. I have really been enjoying these groups.

    Also, I have found that about 15 min of circling/PQA is about all that they can take at once.

  4. Diane:

    Thanks for the video! (Just checking – no demo, just you explaining circling with names, right?) It inspires me to put up some vids myself this year.

    Today we had just the freshmen for a 10 min class and it seems from your explanation that we did the exact same thing, though abbreviated. The kids loved it! (Freshman orientation; school for everyone else starts on Monday.)

    I’m eager to learn more about the cold character reading, too. As I think I may have shared with you on this blog before, for the first two years here in my NJ district we’ve delayed characters almost absolutely. I’m rethinking this approach slightly this year and am envisioning something that may be close to what Terry is advocating for. Namely, after we get some really simple stories/scenes on paper in pinyin, then I’ll bring it up in exclusively characters. IS this what you have in mind?

    Not for long. And not for any grade. Just for exposure and familiarity. Kind of like a brain break, really.

    Thanks again for the video. Hopefully I’ll put one up soon!


    1. Hi Liam,

      I think what you’ve done in delaying characters for a couple years and Terry’s use of highly repetitive but hopefully engaging, character-only reading after acquisition of a few words, is like two approaches that amount to the same thing. Once they acquire the sound-to-meaning Chinese, reading it on paper in characters is just finding out how what they already know looks in print and is therefore not so hard. Plus, it builds off of the brain’s ability to take cues from context. I think Terry does more time with it than you were thinking about, but I think doing less at once with beginners and more over time might be an approach. Like max 10 minutes, then something different.

      Terry daunted me a bit by suggesting it will take a LOT of writing time to get the kinds of reading material needed for this, but I’m starting to think maybe not so much more writing than I already do for my classes. And once done, these will be re-usable.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Diane. Makes a lot of sense.

        Right, the writing time is always daunting for us Chinese teachers as so little is out there to begin with. (This is another nudge, Linda, to get moving with Who’s Good Lookin’ 2!)

        After two years of teaching with TPRS I’ve amassed a fair bit of pinyin stories that my students and I have made. Definitely reusable. I’m looking into how to incrementally replace *some* pinyin terms with characters that I want them to know — but leaving the rest of the story in pinyin. I can use the find and replace function in Word, but after they’ve been introduced to 40-50 characters, it gets too tedious. Some hacker kids at school are writing code for me!! I’ll gladly share if it works and if the method is worthwhile. Still an experiment. Basically, they’d be re-reading a story that they have mastered a long time ago, but now parts of it are in characters. The idea is that they will be more likely to be “lost in the story,” – that special zone where the deepest acquisition occurs — hopefully acquisition of magical Chinese characters as well!

  5. Hi Diane, I read Pu-Mei’s post. It is pretty much like what I have imagined. Once the students are familiar with the story, it’s not that hard for them to read similar stories in characters with the same target words, same proper nouns. And with the reps of the characters, they should be able to join the “Read aloud” right away. I can’t wait to hear more about it after your conference!

  6. Diane, Thank you sososososo much for this video. It is totally inspiring and hammers home the “less is more” theme we are trying to embody. It is clear from your presentation that your presence in class is radiant and welcoming. That plus your awareness of the different states of anxiety in your kids plus your slow and uncluttered CI makes for a great experience.

    I don’t speak Chinese, but have been in 2 of Linda’s sessions at conferences, and as soon as you uttered just those few words it just triggered whatever part of my brain was storing up my Linda Li lessons, and bang! It was all there, sounded familiar, like I just “knew what you were saying.” Magic!

    There is an exchange student at school from China & he came back for a second year. I hope to get some basic Chinese CI classes going later in the year–the student will deliver the CI and I will coach him. He is totally excited about it. It will be just for fun, for anyone who wants to try it. Like an 8 week session or something. After seeing this video I am even more inspired to follow through with this idea. I’ll probably contact you later in the year for advice 🙂 I can already see that the whole first class will be “circling with names.” Cool thing is, it’s not a “real class” so no grades or other externalities!

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful. For me I feel more personally connected to you in the PLC since you’ve seen me on video. Not so anonymous.

      Feel free to contact me any time, jen. You have a great idea – especially since the Chinese boy sounds coachable and excited about it.

      A follow-up I did was a Guess Who? game. They picked up another student’s folder (which has a name label) and I, then with coaching, then by the end the whole class volunteered, asking “Are you __? Are you ___?” They loved it and every child wanted a turn, which they eventually got. I also have a bunch of new cartoon character pictures, laminated, on sticks (could be used like masks). I posted those around the room and had them run when I said things like, “He is Bart! She is Sailor Moon! He is not Spongebob!” The last one they thought was fun because they could run anywhere else.

  7. Diane,
    I am really impressed with how simple you keep the whole thing. Especially limiting how many new sounds that you introduced.

    The video was very helpful. Thanks for posting it.

  8. Diane, could I share the video with a beginner TPRS group? There will be some new TPRS Chinese teachers, and it will give them such a boost!

    I’m also thinking this might be a good plan for my Russian students.

    1. Yes Michele, I’m very happy for others to use it. I don’t list it as a public video, but I’m glad for people to use it and share it. I haven’t yet adjusted to videos that could be searched and found by anyone using my name – still feel a little funny about that. But I’m glad for teachers to share it with other teachers.

      Also, if the parent involved ever follows through, I will have an actual video of about half of a class period actually norming the class and doing Circling with Names with a real grade 4 class on Day 1. I’m growing a bit frustrated, it’s been 2 months and he didn’t answer my last email… if he drops the editing of the video (need to remove references made at one point to kids’ full names at least), I hope at least I can get the video files from him and learn how to do it myself!

  9. Dianne, are you able to give me some context to your class ie how many lessons a week you have, how long are your lessons and how many students are in the class. Many thanks

    1. Hi Kay,

      When the video was made early last school year, I had no idea I’d be in a different state teaching high school this year! So I’m not teaching elementary anymore.

      But at my previous school, I had 8-week-long 4th grade exploratory classes (30 min. classes 4 times out of every 6 days of class), 5th grade every other day for 45 min., 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes 5 times out of every 6 days of class. We had a rotating 6-day cycle rather than a weekly cycle. Class sizes ranged from 18 to 7 depending on the grade level. They all took 8 weeks of Spanish, French, and Chinese during grade 4, then chose one language for 5th-8th grade.

      That 4th grade exploratory approach was new two school years ago. Last year it went much better. It’s not fully a CI class because it’s immediately compared to the perceived easier and game- and project-oriented Spanish and French classes. I want the kids to experience success with CI approaches but not to drive them so hard towards developing fluency that they think Spanish & French are more “fun.” So we did cultural stuff in English and I had to learn to simplify everything I did and make sure there were smiles all the time.

      I feel more comfortable teaching high schoolers! I admire elementary teachers more than ever having taught them for a while. Little ones can be a lot of fun, but the emotional and physical management issues are bigger than the content taught.

  10. Thank you for the context, I always find that helps me when I reflect on what others are doing. About 18 months ago I started using Chinese in the classroom, even though I have been teaching Chinese for a million years (well not quite).

    I had tried using Chinese in the classroom before many times before but really did not understand the concept of CI and would give up.

    It has become much clearer to me through professional development and retraining myself and now of course, via TPRS. I hope to integrate circling into my lessons next year as my stepping stone

    1. Kay, you’re a Chinese teacher, too? Yippee! There are several in the PLC, but not always posting comments.

      Do you know of the blog Haiyun Lu started? Mostly on Chinese teaching with CI. http://www.tprsforchinese.blogspot.com. It might be helpful, too. I also posted some videos from class recently. I need to re-annotate them (YouTube scrambled the English subtitles I added) but for a Chinese teacher, no problem. If you looked for the channel Diane Neubauer in YouTube, you’ll find them.

    1. Oh, cool. Glad to idea helps. Gideon, I think I saw your name in the CI Chinese Facebook group recently.

      I still use Circling with Names in high school level one, day one, just adapt pacing and the humor. I photos of a few famous people my students have mentioned & I use those for imaginary answers. I learned the students names on the first day as a result (small class though, 12 students).

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