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


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

Review Chinese Characters with a Short Play

— Picture Book Series: Eat All Your Peas

Children in our elementary program get flashcards of Chinese characters each class. How to help them digest and practice these characters in class? One method we use is to make short plays with Chinese characters.

The following is an example of how we use the picture book 《吃掉你的豌豆》(Eat All Your Peas) to make short plays.

In this cute story, the girl does not like eating peas. The mom bribes her with chocolate factories, ice creams, rockets, zoos, pets etc. The mom in the book says: “如果你吃掉豌豆,我可以给你买冰淇凌/ 巧克力工厂/ 火箭…… (If you finish all your peas, I can buy you the ice cream/ the chocolate factory/ the rocket…” And the girl replies: “我不要冰淇凌/ 巧克力工厂/ 火箭! 我不爱吃豌豆! (I do not want to have ice cream/ chocolate factory/ rocket. I do not like eating peas!)” Children learn the sentence pattern: “我不要……!我不爱吃豌豆!” (I do not want…! I do not love peas!) They also learn different objects appear in the book.

Afterwards, they make a short play with their flashcards. The teacher plays the role of the mom, and the children play the role of the daughter. The teacher first says: “如果你吃掉豌豆,我可以给你买冰淇凌。 (If you finish your peas, I can buy you the ice cream.) ” The students then use their flashcards to make the sentence and say: “我不要冰淇凌! 我不爱吃豌豆! (I do not want to have ice cream. I do not like eating peas!)” The teacher then says: “如果你吃掉豌豆,我可以给你买巧克力工厂。(If you finish your peas, I can buy you the chocolate factory.” The children response both orally and with flashcards: “我不要巧克力工厂! 我不爱吃豌豆! (I do not want to have ice cream. I do not like eating peas!)” The short play covers all the pages in the picture book.

There are several benefits of using the short play to practice the language. First, it is a very vivid learning method combining both Chinese character reading and Chinese speaking. Second, the short play simulates a real situation for children to use the language. Instead of reading out the flashcard to the teacher, they get the chance of interacting with each other during the short play.

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

The Magic of Picture Books (IV) – The Use of Picture Books in Elementary Program

In our previous picture book series, we introduced the use of picture books in our immersion program. As a matter of fact, picture books are also important learning materials in our Chinese classes for elementary students.

One of the major goals of Chinese with Meggie’s elementary program is to develop children’s Chinese reading skills. However, instead of following Chinese text books, we make use of picture books. We find that a picture book makes the learning fun and flexible. Here is how we combine picture books with Chinese reading teaching.
Usually, one 1-hour elementary session features one picture book. We choose the picture books with a repetitive structure. Every page features one or several descriptive sentences. A series of flashcards accompanies every book. For example, the famous picture book “The Old Woman Swallows a Fly” is used with our elementary students. One of its pages has the following descriptive sentences: “老婆婆吞了一只苍蝇。老婆婆的肚子里有一只苍蝇。怎么办?” (The old lady swallows a fly. There is a fly in the old lady’s stomach. What to do with it?) After finishing the whole books, the series of flashcards children get includes old lady, swallow, stomach, all the insects appeared in the book, and “What to do with it.”

After each class, students are able to use Chinese flashcards to make sentences accompanying each page. They are also able to tell the story orally.
Children are easily attracted to the picture books which makes learning fun. Also, since there are so many great picture books out there, the teaching becomes flexible. The most important of all, children are highly motivated after completing one book after another.

Elementary Program (I) – From Reading to Speaking

Every week, our elementary children are introduced to one picture book. The class is organized following the language learning order of “input –> output”. Thus, they are exposed to Chinese characters and sentence structures from the particular picture book first and then they are required to produce the story by themselves using what they just learned.

In the academic field, scholars have emphasized the function of “output” in second language learning. Particulary in the case of language learning, the “output” is not viewed as a product, but as a process. It can be defined as the process of language learners producing language with their existing knowledge of the language (Swain, 2007.) Therefore, they are pushed to evaluate their existing knowledge of the target language, and think about what more they need to know/ learn.

For example, in our last blog, we have introduced a picture book called The Rainbow Flower. As a matter of fact, the book is not only used in our immersion program, it is also used in our elementary program.

The students are first introduced to the story. For this book, they learn to recognize Chinese characters for “红色,黄色,蓝色,绿色,橙色,紫色” (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple) as well as characters for “蚂蚁,老鼠,蜥蜴,鸟,刺猬” (ant, mouse, lizard, bird, and hedgehog.) And then they learn the sentence structures such as: “小老鼠问小花:‘小花小花,你可以不可以给我一片花瓣?’,小花说:‘可以可以。’” (The little mouse asked the little flower: “Little flower, little flower, would you please give me a pedal of yours?” The little flower responded: “Sure.” )

After that, students are required to tell the story by themselves following the book. In this step, they are experiencing the language output with the knowledge input to them just now.


Note: Swain, (2007) Retrived from 10.21.2011

-Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

The Magic of Picture Books (III) – The Rainbow Flower

The picture book we will talk about in this blog is called The Rainbow Flower. (To view the book, please follow the following link:

The first thing we love about this book is its simple pictures with bright colors. Children are attracted to the pages once the teacher opens the book. Every two pages feature one color and one animal with no other distracting elements. When going through the book, there are chances to repeat the animal names and colors several times which makes it a perfect book for teaching colors and animal names.

The second significant merit of this book is its repetitive structure which can be adapted flexibly to the needs different levels of learners. For beginning learners, the whole book can be interpreted with the following conversational structure:

“‘小花小花, 你可以不可以给我一片花瓣?’‘可以,可以。’***拿着*色的花瓣走了。” (“Little flower, little flower, would you please give me a pedal of yours?” “Sure.” *** went away with the *** pedal.)

On the other hand, for more advanced learners, the book can be interpreted with a more complex descriptive structure such as:

“***想问小花要一片花瓣,小花给了***一片*色的花瓣。***拿着*色的花瓣开心得走了。”(*** wants to ask for a pedal from the little flower. The little flower gives a *** pedal to ***. And *** went away with it happily.)

Children are not bored when reading the book for the second, or even the third time. With older immersion children, usually beginning from the fourth time, it is the time for the teacher to let students guess which animal comes on the next page, and what the color of the pedal the animal takes is. Students get very excited with the guessing game and therefore it is very natural for them to produce the colors and animal names in Chinese.




-Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas