Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mom, teacher publishes book on Chinese crafts

I’m not much of a crafter, but here’s a little something for the scores of Utah parents who are: a book on Chinese crafts created by the adoptive mother of a Chinese girl.

It contains more than 100 crafting ideas, many of them tied to Chinese cultural festivals and events. Click here for a sneak peek at its contents, or to purchase the book.

A brief description of the author, from her blog:

“Jennifer DeCristoforo is an author, illustrator, teacher and crafter living  on the Maine coast.  Although China is across the globe from her home, it is always in her heart.  When she adopted her baby daughter in 2003 from Jiangxi Province she became increasingly fascinated with Chinese culture and thinking of how to integrate it into her family life.

Even though Jen had traveled to Asia for business, she now saw China through new eyes and on a deeply personal level.  As her daughter has grown, Jen has applied her ideas and artwork inspired by Chinese culture to all sorts of projects, teaching opportunities and celebrations. Then one day she realized all this material could be the start of a book that others could enjoy and use as a resource to bring more Chinese culture into their own children’s lives.

Jen holds a B.F.A. in Illustration from California College of Arts and Crafts and an M.A. in Art Education from Rhode Island School of Design. She has also been a certified art teacher in the Maine public schools. Her artwork has been used for educational textbooks, gift products and stationery. As an accomplished illustrator, Jen often whipped up just what she wanted for this book when she couldn’t find or take the perfect photo! “

Canada’s immersion graduates grow up and raise bilingual kids

The Globe and Mail offers this fascinating look at the coming of age of Canada’s French immersion program, which took root in the 70s but saw dramatic growth over the past decade. Some education officials surmise they’re seeing the next immersion wave – children of immersion graduates who want to pass bilingualism onto their kids.

Imagine the ripple effect of Utah’s immersion program 30 years from now. Will bilingualism be the new norm? And how will this change cultural customs and our understanding of the world? What new opportunities will be opened to residents of the state?

Highlights from the Globe and Mail:

“A 1990 study of an early wave of French immersion graduates in Saskatchewan found that more than 80 per cent said they wanted their children to follow in their footsteps by pursuing immersion.

“We’re now seeing a generational transition,” Mr. Rothon said. “It hasn’t really been documented yet. Once we start seeing its extent we should start to see it influencing government policy.”

Mr. Rothon said the children of immersion are creating something like a new linguistic category. They go home to environments where one or two parents are capable of speaking French with them and helping with their homework. It’s not the same as living in an easily defined anglophone or francophone environment, yet it still represents a change from earlier generations. By choosing to continue with French immersion into a second generation, these families are saying, “This is part of how we grew up and this is who we are as Canadians,” Mr. Rothon said.”

Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st century!

A funny anecdote about Utah’s own World Language and Dual Immersion Specialist Gregg Roberts.

Mandarin Immersion Parents Council

“Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st century!”

This is my new favorite quote. It’s from Gregg Roberts, World Languages and Dual Immersion Specialist, Utah State Office of Education. He was speaking at this year’s Asia Society Chinese Language Conference in Boston in April. The panel was on “Equity and Access in Chinese Language Education.” You can listen to it here, as well as all the other plenary sessions that were filmed.

I think Gregg’s quote belongs on the back of every single t-shirt that immersion programs create.

[Here’s a little Photoshop magic created by an Oregon immersion parent….}


View original post

How Can I Help My Child Learn Mandarin When I Don’t Speak It?

Often parents worry about how they will be able to help their children learn how to speak Chinese when they themselves don’t speak it. It can feel as daunting as hiking the complete length of the great wall of China!

But don’t worry! You don’t have to speak any Mandarin for your children to succeed. At the same time, you can provide your children with time to practice their Chinese during the school week. Just as skills like reading English and doing math need to be reinforced at home, so do the Chinese skills your child is learning. This does not need to be incredibly time-consuming. Fifteen to thirty minutes of Chinese time each school night can give your child the reinforcement he or she needs. The following are suggestions of how non-Chinese speaking parents can help create this Chinese time for their children.

1. Support your child in doing any Chinese homework they have. For example if s/he has a take home reading book listen to your child read it. If your child has spelling words, have them write the words two or three times each night. If your child doesn’t have homework, ask your teacher for some, or use some of the below resources. 15-30 minutes of Chinese practice at home can definitely help your child learn Chinese.

2. Currently, some schools use a Singapore reading curriculum. You access their website and have your children read you the books they are studying in school. The website can be a little difficult to navigate because it’s in Chinese, but don’t be intimidated – it really isn’t that hard, especially because your child can probably figure it out. If that fails, contact your child’s teacher.

3. Some students use Better Chinese. Your school may provide free or discounted membership; it is typically about $25.00 a year. Having your children read you the online stories can be very helpful for them to reinforce their reading skills.

4. Math flashcards that children can use to remember math vocabulary. (English translation here).

5. Digital flashcards based on the key vocab words are available to help your children reinforce their skills. First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade. Notice that there are some games that can be played. Some are harder than others, “Scatter” is one that many children will enjoy.

6. Practice reading with Chinese Immersion teachers from Canada reading Chinese books.

7. Let your children watch Chinese video clips. For example, they can watch Dora the Explorer or  Spongebob Squarepants (note – both of those links are to YouTube-like sites that display ads. Putting the display to full-screen often eliminates the ad. Both of those links are for individual episodes; additional episodes appear underneath). Younger learners might enjoy Sesame Street or Thomas the Train in Chinese. Several other videos, songs, etc. are linked here.

Dora Chinese

8. Connect with other parents of immersion students and work together. Get connected if you aren’t already.

9. Help your children type in Chinese. This YouTube video explains how to make it so that you can type Chinese characters on your computer. Some children will have fun typing letters to each other using characters. For those who like pinyin, this macro can help you quickly transform a word like “wo3” into “wǒ.”

10. If you have a smart device, get some apps for your kids to play with. Speak and Learn Pro (iOS only) works like Rosetta stone, but much cheaper ($9.99). Should be a fun review for most students and a good way to reinforce learning.

The main thing is to keep on trying — a consistent effort to help your child spent 15-30 minutes a day having fun with Chinese at home can pay big dividends.

What tools/ideas have you found to be successful?

The struggle to achieve literacy in Mandarin

Literacy is the ability to read AND write in a language. But often schools focus predominantly on reading, neglecting critical writing skills.

There’s debate in academic circles on how best to achieve literacy – in traditional and immersion classrooms. Achieving literacy in Chinese, a non-alphabetic language with thousands of characters, adds degrees of difficulty.

Here’s one school’s idea, a calligraphy program that helps students engage with the characters.

Everyone learns differently. But as a professional writer, I believe people learn to write by writing. Following are some cute tutorials on Chinese characters that my son’s teacher shared with us this year. Give them a try at home with your kids.

Another idea pioneered by one of our council representatives, Vanessa Shiba at Lone Peak, was to create a pen pal program between two immersion schools. 

Chinese Characters:

The Story of Chinese Character : 人

The Story of Chinese Character : 大

The Story of Chinese Character : 小

The Story of Chinese Character : 日

The Story of Chinese Character : 月

The Story of Chinese Character : 天

The Story of Chinese Character : 口

The Story of Chinese Character : 看

The Story of Chinese Character : 水

The Story of Chinese Character : 心

The Story of Chinese Character : 木

The Story of Chinese Character : 手

New Chinese summer camp

Here’s another opportunity to keep your kids’ skills fresh over the summer.

This half-day summer camp just so happens to be run by one of our council reps – AnnElise Xiao, the parent who started Chinese Corner!

Week-long sessions are held at the Dimple Dell Recreation and Fitness Center. Each week will have a theme. For example: One week we will talk about Animals and body parts M-Th. Then on Friday we will go visit the Zoo. The next week we will talk about food and on Friday visit a Chinese restaurant. The camp would start at 9 a.m. and run until noon. A sample day would look something like this:

9:00 Arrival/introductions/ self-start activity
9:15 group activity/ sing songs/ vocab review
9:45 lesson on new words and grammar.
10:30 snack & outside Activity
11:00 pair practice activity/ story time
11:30 cultural activity – Game or craft
12:00 clean-up/ go home

See “chinese summer school” link below for more information.

*Although I am listed as an instructor, the class will be taught by Linda Sun, a native speaker and trained elementary school teacher.


chinese summer school

Mark you calendars for the Utah Asian Festival

Come celebrate the cultures of Asia, as Utah’s longest-running ethnic festival enters its 36th year.

Come and enjoy the food and see the performances. There will also be vendors, kite-making demonstrations and free activities for the whole family.

Admission is free and open to the public. Make sure to join us!

Please visit our website at for more info

36th Annual Utah Asian Festival
Saturday, June 8, 2013  10:00am until 7:00pm
South Towne Expo Center
9575 South State Street, Sandy, Utah 84070