Tag Archives: language

Book review: 布布爱上动物园 (Bubu loves going to the zoo)

In a previous post, I promised to introduce some books that piqued C’s interest in Chinese. Here is a recent series that she has read.

布布 series was introduced by C’s school as part of the recommended reading for Primary 1 students. Written by Singaporean author Lee Kow Fong, also known as Ah Guo (阿果), this series of books follow the life of a boy named Bubu (布布). In this review we will take a look at the first book in the series.

IMG_4187 Continue reading

Learning Chinese – the journey


Chinese? Difficult!

Chinese has always been a tough subject for C. When she was much younger, around 2 or 3, she used to ignore anyone who spoke to her in her mother tongue.

Who could blame her? To her, it was a totally foreign language.

Although we are ethnic Chinese, 99% of our conversations with her were held in English. We read English books, she watched cartoons and DVDs in English, even the punishments were meted out in English.

Our initial attempts at introducing Chinese were half-hearted at most. Truth be told, I had assumed (or maybe, hoped) that she would be able to pick up the language sooner or later. After all, she was Chinese, wasn’t she? Her grandmother watched Chinese shows, and she was exposed to the language at school. We had also enrolled her in a weekly 2-hour Chinese enrichment class. I never remembered any difficulty picking up the language myself, so I thought it would be the same for her.

How wrong (and deluded) I was. At 5 years old, she was barely able to conduct a conversation in Chinese. She could read some Chinese sentences, but understood little.

Alarm bells started ringing for us when we attended the Primary One Preparation Seminar conducted by the enrichment centre in May last year. In the seminar, the speaker covered the syllabus for primary school Chinese, in which the oral component played a major part (gasp!). We were shown sample test papers, and I found myself shaking my head… C had a loooong way to go, and it was all uphill.

We set to work trying to get her interested in Chinese. In a previous post, I posted about doing a lapbook on China. I had a reward chart marking each day that we managed a short conversation in Chinese. It was difficult to stay consistent, and I lapsed back to speaking in English from time to time. I started reading more Chinese books to her.

Fast forward one year later. I’m pleased to report that some progress has been made, and in her first term show and tell, she scored 19 out of 20 points. She is now able to conduct a fairly decent conversation, and picking up more vocabulary from reading Chinese books.

Although the push to start picking up Chinese was academic, I hope that in time, she will be able to appreciate the beauty of the language, and not treat it as another subject to study for.

The journey has just begun.

Do you face difficulties introducing a second language to your child?

p/s: I’ll be introducing some books and tools that helped C learn Chinese. Do stay tuned!

Product review: Meet the Sight Words by Preschool Prep

Recently I’ve been working on introducing sight words to G.

Sight words, also known as high frequency words, are words that occur frequently in print material. Some examples are “the”, “of”, “she”. In order to be able to read effectively, it is recommended that children memorize a list of sight words, so they will be able to recognize them instantly without having to decode them. There are several compiled lists of sight words – the Dolch list being the most well-known among several others.

Some of the common methods used to teach sight words include using flashcards or simple readers. I’ve tried the above, but found that the simplest and most effective method was to use DVDs (yes, I’m a lazy busy mum who is not adverse to letting the kids watch a bit of tv).

The DVDs that I use are from the Meet the Sight Words series by Preschool Prep Company.


In this set of 3 DVDs, sight words are presented using colourful, animated characters. There is lots of repetition involved, and a short story at the end of each DVD where the sight words are used. When playing the DVD, we are able to choose between playing selective lessons or the whole DVD.

In total, 47 sight words are taught in the 3 DVDs, covering the top 30 words in the Dolch list. Here is the word list:

DVD 1: A, and, for, have, he, I, in, is, it, of, play, said, that, the, to, you
DVD 2: are, as, but, go, had, here, his, like, my, on, see, she, they, was, we & with
DVD 3: all, at, be, by, from, her, him, look, one, on, some, there, this, up & word

A screen shot

A screen shot

Previews of the videos are also available on the Preschool Prep website

G’s and C’s review
I’ve had this series since C was 2. Although she has outgrown it now, she still enjoys watching it with G. Meet the Sight Words is one of G’s favourites at the moment. G requests for specific discs by the sight word shown on the cover – “it”, “on” and “by”. He loves to act out the actions,  and can easily recognise about 90% of the sight words after watching the DVDs four to five times. He was so proud of himself when he pointed out the sight words in random posters and books.

My review
When I first bought the DVDs way back in 2008, I was doubtful of its claims that it could help the little ones master the sight words. In fact, the first time I watched it with C, I was literally bored to tears because there was so much repetition! But I was very pleasantly surprised at how well C and G took to the DVDs, and the speed at which they picked up the words (due to the repetition). And the best part? I could leave them to watch the DVDs for 20 minutes while I completed my chores. Meet the Sight Words really works!

I highly recommend getting this set of DVDs – it really does make teaching sight words so much easier!

Note: Knowing sight words is just a small part of the journey to literacy, as is letter recognition and phonemic awareness.  Reading is still very much a part of our daily routine 🙂

How do you introduce sight words?

B week activities

In the previous posts on B week, I had posted activities done mainly with C. Of course, G was not left out. Here is a roundup of what was done:

B is for book
The book chosen was the classic “We’re going on a bear hunt”. I printed some cards showing the journey to the bear’s cave, and asked G to place it in sequence. This is similar to the linking memory game in Heguru/Shichida. Of course in this case it’s a story well-known to G and linking memory will make sense to him later.

We're going on a bear hunt!

We’re going on a bear hunt!

Scenes from "We're going on a bear hunt"

Scenes from “We’re going on bear hunt”

I also placed bear counters in a container of cotton balls for G to find. I think he found the cotton balls more interesting, haha. The bears are shown peeking out here:

Can you see the bears?

Can you see the bears?

B is for body
We also learnt about the parts of the body.
For G, it was the identification of parts of the body, using flashcards. He loves flashcards, especially this set. When shown the cards, he would point to the corresponding parts of his body.
To make things more interesting, we included songs in different languages in the repertoire for the week – “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes“, “Where is thumbkin“, "身体が元気?”, “Savez-vous planter les choux“.

Parts of the body flashcards

Parts of the body flashcards

Where is your teeth?

Where is your teeth?

C learnt about the internal organs and bones in the human body. Coincidentally, I saw the same information on the bulletin board in her class!

Matching the names of internal organs

Matching the names of internal organs

B is for black (and white)
One of the few words that G is able to say is black. So he had fun pointing at all the black and white animals in this book, as well as simple sorting of colours. We also did some shadow play 😉

Black and white!

Black and white!

B is for broom
Haha, this is a life-skill we wanted him to learn – to be able to do household chores. For him, it’s still part of exploring how tools work, and it’s great fun 😉 I think he enjoyed this part the best.

G learning to sweep :)

G learning to sweep 🙂

Not that much done in a week (and a half), but G was a little down under the weather during the week (a flu bug that he caught in school :() Hopefully the little guy recovers soon, and we can start on C week.

What suggestions do you have for B week?

Lapbook – Dora

After completing our first lapbook on birds of prey using ready-made templates, I wanted to try doing one from scratch. C is a huge fan of Dora the explorer, from the Nick Jr. animated series, so I decided to use Dora as a theme for our very first DIY.

Dora the explorer – basic geography
Since Dora is an explorer, I included some basic geography and famous landmarks in the lapbook. I had already introduced the various landmarks to C, so it was a good recap of what she had learnt previously.

Famous landmarks and naming the continents

Famous landmarks and naming the continents

Learning Spanish with Dora
In the Dora cartoons, C is also exposed to the Spanish language. She has shown great interest in learning spanish, so part of the lapbook was also dedicated to the language: basic greetings, colours, numbers and common words used in the cartoon (all googled, haha). We do not speak the language, so I’m amazed that she is able to recognize the words, name the colours and count to ten in spanish (which goes to show how much the children absorb from a half an hour cartoon!)

Learning basic spanish with Dora

Learning basic spanish with Dora

There, our very first DIY lapbook! Not very impressive, but C loves it 🙂

Lessons learnt
Although the result looks simple, quite a bit of preparation work was involved. Starting from the topics, to how the contents were to be presented, I spent some time picking out the right format to be used.

The effort was worth it, as C takes it out everyday to go through the Spanish phrases. Me? I managed to learn how to count in Spanish!

What kind of lapbook are you working on now?