The Magic of Picture Books (VI) — Picture Books and Multisensory Learning

We all know that picture books play a significant role in every child’s language development. Our Chinese immersion and elementary program also consists of a lot of picture book read-alouds. Why are picture books so powerful? One reason for this is that the picture book is a multi-sensory tool which stimulates children’s auditory, visual and kinesthetic senses simultaneously.

Every child has his/her own learning style with one mode usually stronger than the other two. However, when all the three senses are combined together, the information is reinforced that it is easier for children to understand, remember and recall. Using three avenues of senses together is especially helpful for children to understand the new language.

The following is an example of multisensory learning with one of the most popular picture books at Chinese with Meggie: Go to Bed Soon(《快点睡觉吧》). The auditory sense is about hearing. In our classes, children hear the story in Chinese. However, if they do not see the illustrations, they cannot fully understand the Chinese. Therefore, at the same time, they set off their visual sense by reading illustrations. Easily, they get to understand the whole story. But where does the kinesthetic sense go? During read-alouds, the story is accompanied by the teacher’s different gestures. For instance, she covers her ears to indicate: “Too noisy! Too noisy!(太吵啦!太吵啦!)” She puts her finger on her lips when she says: “Be quiet.(嘘,小声。)” Some children love mimicking the teacher and they connect the gestures with the Chinese sounds at the same time. Through multisensory immersion with picture books, children get exposed to new and interesting Chinese words throughout the class.

Now Chinese with Meggie has also made picture books into videos. The new way of reading enables our children to read picture books in Chinese at home. They will love it. The following is a list of picture book videos we have already uploaded to Chinese with Meggie’s Youtube Channel. More videos are on their way!

Go To Bed Soon 《快点睡觉吧》

Little Snake Takes a Walk 《小蛇散步》

I am… 《我是……》

Rainbow Flower 《彩虹色的花》

How To Use Music To Do Shared Reading

Music can let children experience foreign language in a pleasurable and natural way. Young children are naturally “wired” for sound and rhythm.  At Chinese with Meggie, music is an indispensable part in the classroom. Besides singing songs with the CD player, we sing catchy tunes while doing shared reading. Below are two examples:

1. 八只猴子(Eight Silly Monkeys)

The recreated lyrics:

五只猴子跳跳跳。    (Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.)
一只猴子掉下来,     (One falls down on the ground.)
妈妈给医生打电话,    (Mother calls the doctor.)
不可以在床上跳跳跳。 (The doctor says, no more monkeys jumping on the bed.)…..

We borrowed the tune from Five Little Monkeys written by A.J. Jenkins.  Children have no difficulty picking up the following vocabularies and phrases when learning the song:
猴子(monkey), 跳 (jump), 医生 (doctor),  床 (bed), 打电话(make phone call),
掉下来 (fall down), 不可以 (not allowed to). And they will also learn to count numbers from 1 to 8.

2. 晚安,大猩猩(Good night, Gorilla)

The recreated lyrics:

猩猩偷走了钥匙,钥匙, 钥匙,猩猩偷走了钥匙,管理员不知道。
(Gorilla stole the key, key, key. Gorilla stole the key. The zookeeper doesn’t know)
(Gorilla let go the elephant, elephant, elephant. Gorilla let go the elephant. The zookeeper doesn’t know.)…..

The original song is the famous The Wheels On The Bus. The tune repeats the animal vocabularies a lot which makes it easy for children to memorize.


Click the following links and right click “save link as” to download the songs:

八只猴子 Eight Silly Monkeys

晚安大猩猩 Goodnight Gorilla



Different from our regular immersion program, the aim of our advanced immersion program is to help students expand their Chinese vocabulary in theme-based classes. Through carefully designed curriculum, students learn about geography, biology, etc. in Chinese language. Since the vocabularies are more difficult than what we introduce in regular immersion classes, we find a way to help students reinforce what they learn in each class by making parody songs— familiar melody with lyrics made of the new vocabularies learned in that class.

The melodies we choose are either from the songs they learned in our regular immersion class or ones they are familiar with. One reason is that children are always excited to show you what they’ve already known, so the familiar melody is a good warm up for them to acquire the new knowledge. Furthermore, it is important for kids to review what they learn in the past and build up new knowledge upon the old one, which many educators advocate as “scaffolding”.

The following are examples of how we use the vocabularies learned in class to make parody songs.

To help students remember different body parts of snails, we change our “Body Parts” song in regular immersion class to “Snail’s Body Parts” song. Kids can all sing the original song: “头(head)肩膀(shoulders)膝盖(knees)脚(feet)膝盖(knees)脚(feet), 眼睛(eyes)耳朵(ears)嘴巴(mouth)鼻子(nose).” Then we introduce “Snail’s body parts” song with the same melody but different body parts vocabulary: “壳(shell)眼睛(eyes)大触角(big antenna)大触角(big antenna), 小触角(small antenna)呼吸孔(breathing hole)嘴巴(mouth).”

In the class of introducing seven continents, we revise the song “Happy New Year” into a “Travel Around the World” song. The lyric is “我住北美洲(I live in North America), 我想去欧洲 (I want to go to Europe), 还想去亚洲和南美洲(I want to go to Asia and South America); 我想去非洲(I want to go to Africa), 还想去大洋洲(I want to go to Australia), 还想去南极洲看企鹅(I want to go to Antarctica and see the penguins).”

In this way, memorizing vocabulary is no longer painful. We also hope that after acquiring more and more vocabularies, students can be creative and make their own songs!

Here is the video link of students singing “Travel Around the World” song

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

National Chinese Language Conference

“National Chinese Language Conference (NCLC) is the largest annual gathering practitioners, policymakers, and school leaders with an interest in Chinese language teaching and learning in North America.”

Representing Chinese with Meggie, Weiky, our new instructor, attended the fifth NCLC in Washington, DC this April.  Below is Weiky’s report on the conference.

This year’s theme was State of the Field: Proficiency, Sustainability, and Beyond.  Many Chinese language educators have discussed about what the successful models for early Chinese language learning program should look like.  Many of Chinese with Meggie’s practices correspond to the suggestions of experts in the field promoting early childhood total foreign language immersion.

Regarding teaching methodology, there were several sessions discussing how guided play, games, and arts can support language learning for preschoolers.  This methodology is, in fact, what Chinese with Meggie has always emphasized and applied in our classrooms: using play-based methods to expose our children to the target language even without their full awareness of the outcome of the learning process.

Besides the teaching methodology, what makes Chinese with Meggie stand out is our respect to each student’s learning differences.  During a discussion of effective differentiated instruction, some of our peers complained that even though they understood respecting individual difference could promote students’ learning process, they could hardly apply that when they were facing 15-20 youngsters at one time. Unlike most programs with 15-20 students, our small-sized class allows our teachers to closely work with 4-5 children at one time. In this way, we can pay attention to each individual’s learning needs and differentiate our instruction accordingly.  In addition, during a “data-sharing practice” session of the conference, the speakers encouraged teachers to work as a team to share students’ information, including teaching tips, students’ personalities, etc. At Chinese with Meggie, this practice is one of the core values of our teaching team.  Our teachers work closely as a team and rotate to teach the same class so that we can get to know each student in the school and share teaching tips for different children.  In addition to that, we also strive to expand our “data-sharing practice” by providing feedback to parents as well.  Besides updating parents on each child’s progress, we also encourage parents to provide any information that can assist us to better understand each child.  Parents can also use the materials we provide to work together with their children after class.  In this way, our teaching team has cooperated both teachers’ and parents’ efforts to make the learning process the most comfortable and effective for our students.

With more attention to early childhood Chinese language teaching and learning in North America, Chinese with Meggie is glad to be one of the pioneers in this emerging field of early childhood language instruction.

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

The Magic of Picture Books (V) — A wonderful Experience with Interactive Books

One type of picture book used in Chinese with Meggie is an interactive book. Teachers at Chinese with Meggie use these types of books as great tools in facilitating the output of target language vocabulary.

Here is an example from Chinese with Meggie’s immersion class program.

After children’s snack time, the teacher planned to read a story about different animal’s meeting for lunch in a forest. We initially introduced many of the friendly and colorful animals featured in the book, such as “大象”(elephant), “老虎(tiger)”,“熊(bear)”,etc. Once we had captured the imagination of the children, the teacher started the interactive element of the class as she read the story. The interactive elements in the book attracted the children’s attention throughout the whole of the storytelling process, as it required students to discover the plot by themselves. On one page of the book, every animal is holding their own lunchbox. However, we could not see what was inside the box as the box was covered with a paper lid. With the natural characteristic of children’s curiosity, they were eager to discover what exactly those animals would have for lunch. The teacher asked each student to lift the small paper lid in the book one by one, and tell everyone the answers in Chinese. Therefore, we had our students produce the words instead of the teachers just telling them the words. Underneath the paper lid, there was an abundant variety of “foods” that helped the children to learn the target vocabulary such as “鸡蛋(egg)”,“肉(meat)”,“青菜(vegetable)”,“寿司(sushi)” etc.

Learning language involves both input and output. At Chinese with Meggie, we have multiple ways to facilitate children to achieve both sides. Using interactive books is an effective and motivational way for children to discover the language by themselves. They enjoy activities which require them to participate more. It’s a wonderful experience for both children and teachers to realize the power of language.

(Composed by Summer Liao, a graduate candidate in Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania)

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

Greeting from Ms. Keyi — a New Instructor at Chinese with Meggie

Hi, my name is Keyi Qin. I am very excited to be a new instructor and curriculum developer at Chinese with Meggie.

I am originally from Shanghai, China, and I graduated from New York University’s graduate program in Foreign Language Education (Chinese). After graduation, I have taught in a high school and some private institutions in NYC. I recently came on board to Chinese with Meggie to start training. Here is what I want to share with you the main difference between Chinese with Meggie and the schools I have seen in New York.

First, Chinese with Meggie skips Pinyin instruction in teaching students in both immersion and elementary programs. Like many Chinese teachers, I was trained to believe that Chinese teaching “should” follow the pattern of teaching pinyin first and then Characters. Before, some teachers even told me that kids of or less than six years old have no aptitude to recognize Chinese characters. But for younger students, Pinyin instruction is not absolutely necessary because they have sharp ears that allow them to catch the characteristics of the pronunciation just as we pick up our mother tongue. In addition, young children have stronger visual learning capabilities than older students. They memorize characters as images. As the young students at Chinese with Meggie show, they are also quite able to recognize Chinese characters and to build up a visual vocabulary without ever encountering Pinyin. Pinyin is not an indispensable element in the class here. In this way, it gives children more room to learn Chinese characters and help them to build up a more well-round and authentic system of Chinese language.

Secondly, compared with traditional language instruction, Chinese with Meggie emphasizes a play-based method to immerse children in the target language. I have observed several kindergartens’ Chinese classes in some private elementary schools in New York where they taught vocabulary to the kids using Powerpoint. All the while, kids are fidgeting, talking and asking when the class will be finished. The teachers had to stop teaching and retain their attention regularly. The class usually lasted only for 30 min. If they had been one hour, it’s unimaginable how the teacher could last.  Here at Chinese with Meggie, students learn Chinese in a comfortable and warm environment. Students, both young kids and elementary students, sit on carpet to learn. Teachers would also take kids outside to the beautiful garden in a sunny weather. This reminds me of Suggestopedia, a foreign language teaching method developed by Georgi Lozanov. One of its main beliefs is that letting students to feel comfortable and confident in the physical environment is very important to their learning.  And the teacher should love her students and teach them with personal participation through games, songs, arts and pleasure.

Any specific school system carries with it the city’s impact. Chinese with Meggie’s approach reflects the spirit of innovation of Austin. Its focus on small class size and quality makes a real difference, and I’m excited to be here.

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

Bilingualism Enhances Self-Control

Recently we have come across an article on New York Times: Building Self-Control: the American Way by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang. The article describes parenting issues in general, but also touches on the benefits of language learning. Compared to monolingual children, bilingual children have advantages in developing self-control. As quoted from the article:

“Learning a second language strengthens mental flexibility, an aspect of self-control, because the languages interfere with each other and because children must determine which language the listener will understand. Bilingual children do well on tasks that require them to ignore conflicting cues, for example reporting that a word is printed in green ink even though it says ‘red.’ Bilingual children are better at learning abstract rules and reversing previously learned rules, even before their first birthday. People who continue to speak both languages as adults show these benefits for a lifetime.”

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

The New Program at Chinese with Meggie: Advance Immersion (III)

A Classroom Snapshot

In our previous two blogs, we have introduced briefly about the new program at Chinese with Meggie: the Advance Immersion. How does a Chinese class of this program look like? This blog is a snapshot about one of our classes on Butterfly. We have prepared 2 sessions for this theme. Each session lasts for 2 hours.

The first session is focused on the body parts of butterflies. Children first finish a butterfly puzzle. Then they are given flashcards of “触角(antenna),” “复眼 (compound eye),” “足 (foot)” etc. They put the flashcards on the corresponding parts of their butterfly puzzle. Through this process, they listen to these new words and also see new Chinese charaters. Then they make a butterfly collage. During the craft-making, they review the vocabulary again.

The second session is focused on the life cycle of butterflies. Children read one fiction and one non-fiction book on the topic. Through reading, they learn “蛹(egg),” “毛毛虫(caterpillar),” “茧(pupa),” “蝴蝶(butterfly).” To help them remember the four stages, there is a nursery rhyme with the four key words. Then it is the craft time. They make an egg on a leaf, a caterpillar, a pupa with paper. They stick the three items onto a paper plate along with the butterfly they made last class. Then they either copy, or stick the Chinese flashcards provided by the teacher onto the plate.



The New Program at Chinese with Meggie: Advance Immersion (I) — A Brief Introduction

The New Program at Chinese with Meggie: Advance Immersion (II) — Why and Who?

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

The New Program at Chinese with Meggie: Advance Immersion (II)

Why and Who?

We develop the Advance Immersion program for several reasons. First, we have several 4 to 5 years olds who have been in our Regular Immersion Program during the past several years. Through our Regular Immersion Program, they have are already capable of understanding classroom instructions, and can interact with teachers as regard to simple daily conversations. They need something new in class to boost their Chinese to the next level.

Second, even though those 4 or 5 years old are ready for a boost in their Chinese, they are not ready for our elementary program which is designed for older children. Instead of learning through flashcard recognition, we think these 4 to 5 years olds need to learn through play. However, we need to provide more structured and complicated “play” than what we currently have in our regular immersion classes.

Third, since those children have already developed their Chinese skills in our Regular Immersion Program. They are capable of being in a 100% Chinese classroom.

Because of the above three reason, we think it is a good time to start the new program.

Who are eligible for the Advance Immersion Program? At the end of each semester, we select children from our regular immersion classes. When selecting, we mainly consider a child’s maturity and Chinese skill. The child should be ready to learn something new and challenging in Chinese. The child should also be willing to commit some time outside of the classroom for their Chinese learning.

The New Program at Chinese with Meggie: Advance Immersion (I): An Introduction

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

The New Program at Chinese with Meggie: Advance Immersion (I)

An Introduction

This semester, we have started a new program called Advance Immersion. Four of our current students have begun a new journey of Chinese learning in this brand-new program.

Unlike our Regular Immersion Program where classes are made up of independent short or long activities, Advance Immersion is theme-based. Children meet for 2 hours every week. They focus on one theme every 2 to 3 weeks. Under each theme, children participate in a series of activities and learn vocabulary related to the particular theme. Some possible themes include the Life of a Butterfly, Our Solar System etc.

Through carefully designed curriculum, we hope children in this program can expand their Chinese vocabulary in a systematic way.

There is another important feature distinguishes the new program from the Regular Immersion Program. Children are also exposed to Chinese character reading in Advance Immersion Program. They get flashcards of Chinese characters after each class. We hope children in this program think Chinese reading is fun once they start it.

The New Program at Chinese with Meggie: Advance Immersion (II): Why and Who?

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas