Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Teaching English at Xiada Kindergarten

As I mentioned a while back, I suggested (with the help of one of the parents as interpreter) to Maya's teacher that I come to teach the kids some English once a week. Today was our first meeting, and the kids were great! One of the parents who speaks a little English (actually, the husband of the parent who acted as interpreter to arrange this) came to help -- apparently no one believes you can teach a foreign language unless you also know the native language! He was a help, but I think we would have managed just fine without him, too (but don't tell him that!).

When I got there, the teacher had all of their little chairs lined up in the center of the room, and the kids were singing Chinese songs. Naturally, I first taught them "Hello," which most of them knew already, and the teacher helped by telling them to speak louder (at least, I'm assuming that is what she said, judging from their reactions!).

We then covered some basic body parts, with them saying the Chinese, then me saying the English, and then they repeated the English. Then we sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." The kids really seemed to love that, and we did it again and again. I would ask, "Do you want to sing it again?" and my parent helper would translate, and they would yell, "Yes!" in unison. The funniest part for me was watching the two teachers try to do it, too! I was thrilled that they were willing to play along.

We also sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," with the hand gestures and everything. They were tickled to do the twinkle, twinkle part. And again, we did it again and again! I left with the teacher one of our CDs that has Twinkle, Twinkle on it, as well as other English songs, and she says she will play it for the children.

I made up a song a few years ago using what little Chinese I know -- the lyrics are essentially

Ni Hao, Ni Hao, Ni Hao Ma?
Wo Ai Ni, Wo Ai Ni
Ni Hao, Ni Hao, Ni Hao Ma?
Wo Ai Ni!

(OK, so I'll never be a song writer!). We sing it before bed each night. I had Maya sing them the Chinese version, and then I taught the class the English translation to the song:

Hello, Hello, How Are You?
I Love You, I Love You
Hello, Hello, How Are You?
I Love You!

I've even made up actions to suit the words -- waving, shaking hands, hugging. Boy, the kids loved playing along with that.

I also did counting -- 1 through 10. I was surprised that one little boy already knew how to count in English! A lot of the parents know a little English, and teach their kids, but most seem to know only "hello" and "thank you." (Not to diminish that -- that is certainly more than most English-speaking kids know of Chinese!).

I once heard something that has always stuck with me in my teaching -- it is a Jewish tradition to put a drop of honey on a child's tongue on the first day of school to teach them that learning is sweet. So the last thing I taught the kids was the word "candy!" I brought a bag of candy, and had each child say "candy" before I gave them a piece of candy, and then had them say "thank you" after they got the candy, and then I said, "You're welcome."

I had a blast, I think the kids enjoyed it, too, and I think the candy ensures that they will be happy to have me come back next week!


mimifrancoise said...

Oh, I would have loved to see that class. Hope I can go too when I am there. What did Maya say about it after class? Can you take pictures or ask the teachers to take a few photos, please?

Anonymous said...

I am loving your blog. And... of course, I agree with your comment about "downsizing" your life. Living overseas is truly liberating in many ways and I highly recommend it! The trick is to try to keep some of the space that you've created in your life. I'm so glad that everything is going so well...

Love to you all, Lavelle

Sara said...

Delurking to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I came across it recently, not even sure where, but what an adventure! I am a "single waiting family" with a 12-13-06 LID.

You are inspiring me to begin researching the possibility of teaching in China one day.

May I add your blog as a link to my own?

Anonymous said...

I teach 1st grade and have taught
K too. How much fun to teach a
group of Chinese children.I would
love to teach them to speak
English and read it. You can actually start teaching them to
read English too using basic phonics. Oh how much fun!
You can give each of them a page
from an English newspaper and think
of all kinds of activities to do.
Letter and word recognition!More
pictures of the class needed!

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