Mandarin Motion Chinese New Year Celebrations!

We had a lovely song and story time this week to celebrate Chinese New Year!  Learning about the Chinese Zodiac, and Chinese New Year Traditions through song. (click here for song video)

We had out own ‘Dotting of the Eye’ ceremony so that our Lion could ‘see’ for our dance.

Ended up with a Lion Dance and lots of noise to scare all the bad things away for the year.

祝贺大家新年快乐! Have a happy Chinese New Year!

舞狮开光 Dotting the eye of the Dancing Lion

Kids have been busy making our new Dancing Lion 舞狮 (wǔ shī) for all the kids to participate in a Lion Dance at our Song and Story Time this week!


It does not have eyes yet…its eyes are closed at the moment!  On Wednesday at our special Chinese New Year story time, we will have a special ceremony called 开光 (kāi guāng) which means ‘opening light’.  We will use a calligraphy brush to dot eyes on our lion, sometimes called ‘Dotting the eye’, which means our lion will then be able to ‘see’ and be ready for us to make a noise and have a dance together, to scare away any bad things for the New Year!

Here is a pik of a 开光 (kāi guāng) ceremony.

Kids can easily make their own dancing lion head, just grab a cardboard box, paint it (red and gold are good Chinese colours, but there are dancing lions of all colours!!).  Make a cut similar to the one in our piks, so that the mouth drops down, making an authentic looking Dancing Lion mouth, and also makes a hole for children holding the head to see out of!  Then search for some piks of Dancing Lions, and decorate with anything shiny, sparkly, feathery or furry! Don’t forget to dot his eyes before he dances!!!! Use a piece of material for other children to get under behind the lion head….usually only 2 people for head and tail…but of course we will have a long parade of children under our really long Lion!!!!

Here is a song I wrote that children can sing to while dancing with their Lion, don’t forget to bang drums and bash cymbals to make a noise too!  Wooden spoons and pans work really well!!!  Sing the song to the tune of ‘London Bridge’. (For details of some of the other things we will do this story time visit our Chinese New Year Story Time page

看看舞狮跳舞跳 跳舞跳 跳舞跳

kàn kan wǔ shī tiào wǔ tiào tiào wǔ tiào tiào wǔ tiào
kàn kan wǔ shī tiào wǔ tiào
xīn nián kuài lè

Look at the Dancing Lion dancing and jumping, dancing and jumping, dancing and jumping
Look at the Dancing Lion dancing and jumping,
Happy New Year!

Then replace the bold with 尾巴摇 (wěi ba yáo) ‘shaking tail’, and 转个圈 (zhuǎn gè quān) ‘turn around’.

Happy Dancing!  Get ready to dance and make some noise on Wednesday 🙂

Chinese New Year Song and Story Time Wed 25th 2017

Special Chinese New Year Song and Story Time!

We will read this book and learn all about the Jade Emperor’s way to develop a system of time, one such legend of the Chinese zodiac:

We will learn this New Year song from Groovi Pauli

Here are the lyrics :

穿新衣服                      (chuān xīn yī fu) wear new clothes
吃年夜饭                      (chī nián yè fàn) eat the new year’s feast
拿个红包                      (ná ge hóng bāo) get a red envelope
说恭喜恭喜                  (shuō gōng xǐ gōng xǐ) say “congratulations”
恭喜恭喜恭喜你           (gōng xǐ gōng xǐ gōng xǐ nǐ) “congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you”
恭喜恭喜恭喜你           (gōng xǐ gōng xǐ gōng xǐ nǐ) “congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you”

舞龙舞狮                      (wǔ lóng wǔ shī) Dragon dance, lion dance
去拜年                          (qù bài nián) Give new year’s wishes
听到鞭炮                     (tīng dào biān pào) hear firecrackers
说恭喜恭喜                 (shuō gōng xǐ gōng xǐ) say “congratulations”
恭喜恭喜恭喜你          (gōng xǐ gōng xǐ gōng xǐ nǐ) “congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you”
恭喜恭喜恭喜你          (gōng xǐ gōng xǐ gōng xǐ nǐ) “congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you”

Don’t forget our new year song from last week too, click on link to watch it again. If you want to learn about how Chinese New Year is responsible for the world’s biggest human migration every year click on this old blog post ‘a time to connect’.

Little kids and mums also learned why the Chinese character 福 (fú) is hung everywhere in China, and why you often see it hung upside down.  Below Lucas is holding it the right way, Aurora is holding it upside down. Can the older students find out why before they come to class??? See if you can and let me know on Wednesday!!!!




Mandarin Motion Song and Story Time Wed 18th Jan 2017

A story all in English this week, but a lovely story to open up conversations with your little ones about the experiences of many children in China.  Often one or both parents of children in rural China must travel to the big cities for work.  Because this is usually a very long journey, parents will only get to see their kids once a year, when the whole migrant working community of China returns home for Chinese New Year celebrations! It is common for children to be raised by grand parents while their parents work away.

Here is the link to the Chinese New Year song we have been learning:

新年好呀   新年好呀  祝贺大家新年好    我们唱歌   我们跳舞    祝贺大家新年好

xīn nián hǎo ya    xīn nián hǎo ya       zhù hè dà jiā xīn nián hǎo      wǒ men chàng gē      wǒ men tiào wǔ     zhù hè dà jiā xīn nián hǎo

Happy New Year, Happy New Year   Wish everybody a happy new year    lets sing   lets dance     Wish everybody a happy new year

See you Wednesday!

Why should our kids learn how to read Chinese?

Learning how to read Chinese sure may lead to some business deals and economical benefits for our kids in the future.  But do our kids really care about that at the moment? That maybe a bonus benefit, something our kids might, when they are adults, thank us for giving them the opportunity to learn from being a kid (because starting as early as possible is another advantage – that’s for another article though!).

But really, why would all of our kids benefit form learning how to read Chinese?


Chinese characters are pictograms, containing phonetic and semantic components.  They are like a code waiting to be cracked! It is not rocket science that the analytical skills, memory, logical thinking and attention required to learn Chinese characters would improve a child’s cognitive development.

Take Maths for example…through the fun analysis of character strokes and components, children use counting, grouping, ordering, spatial configuration, and identifying similarities, differences and patterns, so by reading Chinese our children are meaningfully consolidating skills which are all fundamental mathematical concepts! Really important skills!

But we are all becoming aware that Creativity is an even more important skill for cognitive development to take place.  Take a look at this video:

A mnemonic through story visualising is being used here. It requires a set of rules for building blocks, engaging children’s logical thinking, then creativity is called upon to use this logical system to create stories and visualisations.  Both logic and creativity used to make meaning of individual characters within the bigger story they are reading!  In the above video, a story has been created to help remember the character for ‘light’ or ‘lamp’ which is 灯 in Chinese.  The ‘fire’ and the ‘nail’ represent the components of the character.  Shrek the Ogre represents the first tone of the character, and the English word ‘dung‘ helps to remember the sound of the character ‘dēng’.  A system of rules (which can be created by the child) is combined with creativity and visualisation leading to a ‘how to learn’ strategy, a strategy that can then be used by the child independently (see Matthews reference below). This way only around 200 basic character components need to be memorised, and logical thinking and creativity are being exercised to master complex characters. These skills can be transferred to any learning area.  We can see here how the ‘skills’ of learning ‘how to learn’ Chinese are actually a more important part of the journey, than just merely learning the language!

You would expect that learning ‘Chinese grammar’ is part of learning Chinese…but what about English grammar?  Chinese has different word order, grammatical particles that don’t exist in English, different ways to convey tense, different ways to use verbs and adjectives, and so on.  When we learn Chinese through story, we experience all of this and naturally learn Chinese grammar, without the need for an isolated ‘grammar’ lesson.  But another amazing thing happens …even the youngest of children then naturally ‘compare and contrast’ these sentences with their first language.  Through learning a second language, children consolidate English grammar from a completely new perspective. This natural reflection, is far more meaningful than isolated English grammar exercises!

Take the verb ‘to be’. Not many children could conjugate this verb in English upon request! Through Chinese reading children soon learn that 是 (shì) means ‘am, is, are, was, were, will be, am being, is being, are being, were being, has been, have been…etc.’ all depending on the context of the sentence, but the word always stays the same in Chinese: 是. Children use their ‘English’ common sense to pick the right translation, because they conjugate the verb ‘to be’ in English everyday naturally without thinking! Connecting all these English words though, to one Chinese word 是, allows them to connect all these words to one verb ‘to be’.  This doesn’t happen thinking in English alone, and there is no need for children to know this in their everyday English life…which is the reason why they shut off when an isolated English grammar lesson on verbs is presented to them! The teacher literally sounds like this ‘blah blah blah…!’  Trying to make meaning in Chinese has allowed this ‘light bulb’ connection to happen without the ‘blah blah blah’ English grammar lesson!  There are endless comparisons of English and Chinese grammar that children make a ‘light bulb’ connection to as they journey through reading in Chinese.

What about deeper meaning though? Stories have long been a  springboard for integrating many learning areas.  When our children enjoy stories in a new language, not only are they experiencing the benefits of learning how to read a second language, not only can they consolidate their understanding of English grammar through the comparing and contrasting of the two languages, the story in Chinese can be a springboard for deeper learning of other learning areas.  When children (and adults) read a story in a second language, their brains are tuned and focused on a much higher, deeper level in order to make meaning. This higher level of attention, together with the natural desire to make contrasts to their existing ‘meaning’ in their first language, means that the child is actually switched on more to the actual purpose of the text.  They make connections to the purpose of the text that they may have missed reading passively in their first language.


Take the very popular song ‘Let it Go’! (Click on link for song and complete lyrics in Chinese). Often kids (and even adults!) will sing along to a song, but the lyrics are just words to be memorised.  It often takes some guidance to take a child through a textual analysis of a song text.  But when a text (in this case a song) is read in another language, there is another layer of processing that has to happen.  ‘Meaning’ or ‘Sense’ has to be made to make sure that you have understood correctly.  So take the line in the song ‘The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside’, in the Chinese version is 风在呼啸想心里的风暴一样 (fēng zài hū xiàoxiǎng xīn li de fēng bào yī yàng). Literally in Chinese the characters 心里 mean  ‘in my heart/mind’.  So to make meaning, we are picturing a ‘storm in her heart/head/mind’.  So by comparing and contrasting the Chinese and English versions, the child then has to ask ‘what does it mean the storm is in inside her?’.  Learning the song in another language has opened up the discussion of what the song actually means, there is something more than just a regular icy storm here, why would somebody feel like they had icy howling stormy wind in their heart/head?  In the bigger picture of the song, it opens the discussion for a conversation about feelings, anger, sadness, mental health, well-being, biology, psychology, family relationships,  similes, metaphors… What before were merely words belted down a hairbrush without the need to think at all (because there is no need to think in a first language when learning a song-just memorise the words), the analysis of a Chinese version has added a layer of thinking to make deeper connections to other learning areas.  This is gold when the essence of these other learning areas are connected to the child…what child has never had feelings of frustration or anger so much that they feel something weird happening in their heart or mind?  Plus the deeper meaning attached to all of this means that they will never forget those Chinese characters/words – it is a win win learning experience situation!


Then there is just that ‘Sense of achievement’. There is nothing more satisfying than reading a book in Chinese, and saying out loud ‘I just read a book in Chinese!’  It’s a pretty cool achievement!  Learning how to read Chinese is much more for our kids’ development than world economics!

For details of my awesome reading programs in Chinese visit the link!

Thanks to the book : ‘Matthews, Alison. 2007. Learning Chinese Characters. Tuttle’, which outlines the story visualising strategy for learning Chinese characters.

中文名字 Chinese names

When things just don’t have a word in Chinese…but we want need to write about them, or talk about them, they are often given a 中文名字 (zhōng wén míng zi) or a ‘Chinese name’.  Sometimes it is given a phonetic name, a name that sounds like the original name, sometimes a name that shares the same meaning, or sometimes a bit of both.

So when a person, or a character from a movie/book, or a product (not from China) becomes famous enough to be talked about in China, they get a Chinese name!  Can you guess who or what the following are in English?


1.Justin Bieber  2. Harry Potter 3. Darth Vader 4. Coca Cola

Here are the names of our Wednesday older students group in Chinese.  Can you guess which one is your name?



huò lì 艾丽西


ài lì xī yà


lài ān 斯稻姆


sī dào mǔ


léi diàn 泰丽亚 tài lì yà


qià lā 斯科特


sī kē tè


dān ní ěr 芦卡思 lú kǎ sī

You can copy and paste your Chinese name into any program, change the font, colour, add the characters to photos etc.  Send me your work of art on our facebook page when you have done!

Here is the Groovi Pauli song we sang last week…you can now substitute your 中文名字 (zhōng wén míng zi) ‘Chinese name’ into your answer!


弹钢琴 Playing the piano, Mandarin and Fractions!

我们一起弹钢琴打鼓 (wǒ men yī qǐ tán gāng qín dǎ gǔ) Playing the piano and drum together!

我们一起弹钢琴打鼓 (wǒ men yī qǐ tán gāng qín dǎ gǔ) Playing the piano and drum together!

Kids have been enjoying learning the piano with Hoffman Academy…absolutely recommend his lessons! Integrating a little maths and Mandarin for a wall display has not only brightened our classroom, but consolidated their music learning too!

They wrote the music to one of the recent songs that they have learned, on a big sheet of paper to display on our wall.


They have been learning the names of the different types of notes, so they used the piece of music to create a chart with the names of the notes in 中式  (zhōngshì) Chinese style, 英式 (yīngshì) English Style and 美式 (měishì) American style.  Music is another beautiful language to learn! But even learning the difference between how the English and Americans refer to the notes, has helped consolidate fractions in Mandarin!  For example a ‘quaver’ in the English language is an ‘eighth note’ in American, and a 八分音符, (bā fēn yīn fú) or literally ‘eight part music note’ in Chinese.


They then made a musical fraction chart, to visualise this ‘musical and foreign language’ in a mathematical way!


Awesome work and beautiful music!

瑜伽 Yoga

I like doing Yoga in the outdoors!

I like doing Yoga in the outdoors!

Our kids did Yoga with the lovely Areti from Sunny Soul Yoga yesterday, and enjoyed every minute of ‘being’ with Areti, their friends, and the trees around them.   

Through their Mandarin journey and travels they have come across lots of amazing arts from Lion Dancing to Hip Hop Stilt Acrobatics, and have learned that the skills needed for such arts come from the basic arts of Kung Fu…and even skills from that one where you kind of stand still on one leg like a rooster breathing and moving an imaginary ball around…Tai Chi…is also needed for such amazing performance art.    

But when I asked the kids where ‘Yoga’ comes from, they first said ‘Yoda’ :-), closely followed by ‘China’…, then a random list of countries came out waiting to hit the right one, including a desperate ‘Katkanistan’…but they didn’t get there!  They concluded it is ‘a bit like Tai Chi’.

I am sure they will learn lots about Yoga as they travel along a new Yoga journey with Areti!  But in the meantime, we have learned a little about the ‘word’ Yoga in the Chinese language….


Yoga in Chinese is 瑜伽, pronounced ‘yú jiā’.  It is what is called a ‘loan word’ in Chinese.  This means that this word never really existed in China, so they had to make one up using either sounds or meaning.  (Could this be a clue that Yoga does not come from China? :-))

This ‘loan word’ has a little bit of both ‘sound’ and ‘meaning’ in its formation.  The 瑜 character alone (yú) means ‘excellence’ or the ‘luster of gems’.  The 伽 character is pronounced ‘jiā’ in the word for Yoga.  When you break this character’s components up, it is made of ‘亻’, the ‘standing person’ radical and ‘加’ which means ‘to add, apply, give support’.  Beautiful characters to convey such a meaning for ‘Yoga’: excellence in giving support for the standing person!

伽 is also phonetic character used in names, and is also often pronounced ‘ga‘ such as when it is used in the Chinese word for ‘omega‘ and the name ‘Galileo’! You would think retaining the ‘ga‘ pronunciation sounds better for a word that sounds like ‘Yoga‘ in English…so why have it as ‘jiā’?  Well when you look at the origins of the word ‘Yoga’ it comes from the root ‘yuj’ means “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, so the ‘jia’ pronunciation actually makes more sense and sounds more like the original word!

But until we learn more about ‘Yoga’, its origins, philosophy or what a Yoga lifestyle is, we can just ‘be’ with it and say ‘我们喜欢在户外练习瑜伽’ (wǒmen xǐhuan zài hùwài liànxí yújiā ) ‘We like doing Yoga in the outdoors’ (literally, or as Yoda would say We like in the outdoors practice Yoga).


Mandarin Motion Song and Story Time Wednesday 21st September

We will read this book this week…拉㞎㞎 (lā bǎ ba), or ‘Doing a Poo’!

doing a poo book

We will weave what we have been learning up to now with some new stuff! So keep practicing the songs from the last two sessions!

For older kids this week we will be working out how to ask ‘Where is the toilet?’ 厕所在哪里?cè suǒ zài nǎ lǐ?or 洗手间在哪里?xǐ shǒu jiān zài nǎ lǐ? by substituting words from the song ‘Where is the teacher?’ with our new words from our book!

We will also be introducing the tones of Mandarin through some funny parts of our story, for more info on tones you can see an old blog post on tones and poo!

They will also get to learn how to ask and answer questions about colour…as our main character in the story has to try many toilets with different coloured doors! 这是什么颜色? zhè shì shén me yán sè? What colour is this? A strategy to remember the colour names to answer the questions will be going through our colour songs.

Older kids will also be introduced to a technique of remembering our words called ‘kinesthetic music review’ which involves saying the words with a hand gesture to the beat of an instrumental song!

Little kids will enjoy the songs they are getting to know, enjoy our ‘Doing a Poo’ book, and keeping with the theme, get to dance and sing to this cool ‘Wiping Bottom’ song! Older kids can have a laugh at this song too! For the full transcript and lyrics of this video, you can visit an old blog post on ‘Wiping Bottoms’.



改革英雄!Heroes for change!

goals FB

The ‘World’s Largest Lesson’ is an initiative to help the UN achieve their 17 global goals for sustainable development by 2030! It’s about telling the world about the goals so that we can all use our creativity and super powers to work together and all be part of the solution.

 We are reading the comics, learning about the goals ourselves and have made posters of each goal, in English and Chinese, to hang in our classroom.  We have done it so that whatever project we work on in the future, we can talk about which goal we are actually working towards, to make our world a better place!  Our first project we will work on will be the Solar Buddy Project. We hope it will inspire conversation about the goals to the visitors of our classroom!  


Some links to find out more info, lesson ideas, or what your school / home school can do are World’s Largest Lesson, Global Goals, World’s Largest Lesson Toolkit

 For advanced students in Mandarin, you can use the World’s Largest Lesson Mandarin website,  Mandarin Sustainable Goal website , and read the ‘Superhero Comic’ in both Mandarin and English.   Here is the video to introduce the goals in Mandarin:

学生介绍可持续发展的全球目标 from World’s Largest Lesson on Vimeo.

And the video in English:

We watched some cool videos amongst the resources that shared what some children are doing around the world to help achieve these goals, to inspire us to use our creativity to do the same.  We already have many ideas in the pipeline! But we went to the beach for a play after watching these videos, and my little girl decided to write a message using sand, that was read by lots of other children and parents.  We also made a little joke, what else is there only one of?  ‘n’ in ‘planet’ 🙂

sand pik