Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Better Chinese's Discovering Chinese Curriculum Review

This fall, we started more formal Chinese lessons than our previous informal lessons that introduced them to many common words. It was a bit haphazard, since I had no rhyme or reason to what words and concepts I taught (unless it related to a specific unit in science that we were studying), and I had no direction of where to go.

We decided to give Better Chinese's Discovering Chinese a try.  This is their introductory Middle-school/High School curriculum.  They now have a newer edition (Discovering Chinese Pro) than the one we bought, with more online resources and expanded content, but even without all that, I feel like it is a pretty effective curriculum. I think it helped that my kids were already familiar with many of the first few lessons' words, so it wasn't so overwhelming to learn all those words at once, but even so, I think it's a good pace. There's maybe 8-10 new words per lesson, and there's a workbook that goes along with it that allows the kids to practice the words in a variety of ways-straight copying, fill-in-the-blanks, rearranging sentences, answering questions, identifying radicals. I like the focus on reading and writing (whereas in our informal lessons before, I often taught words without teaching the characters, because I felt they were too complex to learn, but in this curriculum, complex characters are introduced, but we are focusing on just reading them, not writing them). There are also cut-out flashcards at the end of the book for the new vocabulary, which we have used for games like bingo, flashcard race to read it fastest, and unscramble the sentences.

Some features I liked when we decided to go with this curriculum:
  • The option to purchase a simplified vs traditional version of the book
  • The use of pinyin
  • The little cultural notes included in each lesson
  • The comic book format for teaching the new lesson
Some of the other resources I looked at often seemed to only have pinyin with Simplified characters or zhuyin with Traditional characters, and since we had already started with pinyin, and having grown up with Traditional characters, I really wanted that combination of pinyin and Traditional characters.

We go at about 1 lesson per week, sometimes using 1.5 weeks to finish up a lesson, if the words are harder to remember. As the lessons progress though, I'm finding we need longer in order to review previous weeks' words as well.

The new online app looks really good, but I'm not sure if we will sign up for it. We are doing ok with just the textbook/workbook, but I think it's great that this curriculum offers a web interface. The overall curriculum is classroom-oriented, but works really well for homeschooling as well.