Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Using Rhythm and Tones In the Classroom and At Home

One of the things that we prioritized when creating our new Chinese language learning book and CD set, Rhythm and Tones, Inventive Chants and Songs for Learning Chinese, was the ability to use it both in the classroom and at home. In order for language learning to be successful, it is important that children get as much exposure to the language as possible. The songs used to teach words in Rhythm and Tones are catchy and easy to sing, which make it easy to incorporate Chinese language learning into every day life.

We created the book so that it could easily be used both as guided coursework in the classroom and at home for self-study. The textbook is straight-forward enough that parents, without any formal knowledge of Chinese, can use the book to teach their children Chinese words, phrases, numbers, and even basic principles of the written language. Chinese teachers can take the textbook's simplified format to the next level by challenging the students with games and questions that cause the students to think more deeply about what they are learning.

The book's colorful illustrations are designed to illuminate the meaning of the songs and chants. The pictures tell the story without interference from the native language. The book's authors, Pauline Huang and Robin Harvey have been developing the Rhythm and Tones coursework in their classrooms for years. Below are some of their suggestions for incorporating the text and CD in your own Chinese language learning efforts:
  • Study the pictures first. What do you think the song is about? Can you name the children? Try to describe the pictures. Lesson 4 will help you say “This is…” and “That is…”
  • Listen to the song or chant. Do you recognize any words? You might hear the names of children, or phrases from earlier songs. Begin to put together the meaning.
  • Read along. You will see that each character is one spoken syllable. (Sometimes two or more characters join to form a word.) Explore the beauty and logic of Chinese characters through radicals searches.
  • Play along! Small xylophones and percussion instruments enhance the rhythms and allow us to immerse ourselves in the music, forgetting that we are learning language.
  • Practice pronunciation naturally. Our chants emphasize the natural speech patterns and four tones of Chinese, which are introduced in chapter, The Four Tones Chant. Try Tones Yoga and move your body with the tones.
  • Play the language-based games we suggest. Try out different roles as you sing and chant. Act out the songs or chants. Play and learning are not mutually exclusive!
  • Take advantage of the karaoke versions on the CD and musical scores in the back of the book. Use the original lyrics, or make up your own!
What are some of your suggestions for using Rhythm and Tones to teach Chinese language?