In Singapore, English is the language used for all teaching subjects. That is why we (parents) read to our children, exposing them to the language from young. In our multiracial country, children of different races will take a Mother Tongue subject. For Chinese like us, we have to learn and remember Chinese words (or characters) with strokes looking like pictures. When GerGer was four years old going on five, she found it difficult to write Chinese words, and as such she was not motivated to complete her K1 (Kindergarten One) homework.
It did not take me long to think of how I could help her. I took advantage of her intense interest and talent in drawing to help her. I told her that each Chinese word is like a picture. If she practice writing them well, it would improve her drawing skills. One magical suggestion and she had no more issues with Chinese words. Of course, my task was so easy because GerGer is a self-motivated, and hard working girl. She is able to put thoughts together to come up with her very own way to learn most things.
When BoiBoy started K1 this year, I knew it was going to be tough for me to motivate him and engage him. I am thankful that he has a very kind and motivating Chinese Teacher which helped him build up his confidence in the language. Her secret was kind and motivating words to feed his ego.
Being a busy self-employed Mom, my spare time was mostly filled with work related tasks. I feel guilty everyday for not spending enough time to coach them in their learning journey. So I asked myself what should I equip them with? A formula somewhat, … perhaps….., which will help them till they are into their Primary School learning journey.
I searched the internet and decided that I should teach them to memorize Poem (or Verbal Formula) about the correct sequence of strokes for Chinese character writing. There are plenty of such Poems when I “Google-d”, and not all suited children at 5 to 6 years old. Children their age need Poems with rhythm, or the same number of words, so that it is easier to recite and remember.
After a few days of research, this was what I picked out and taught them:
I taught them only two lines per week. They were told to recite after me for about six times. It only takes about ten minutes to teach three children (GerGer, BoiBoy, and BayBee). After five weeks, we recited the whole poem together as and when we have MeeMee’s classes. It had been more than six months, since I taught them the Poem. GerGer, who is a self-starter can recite the whole poem independently. BoiBoy who needs a lot of motivation to learn languages, can recite the poem too, well, except for the last two lines. He needs more practice, but I would not force him. I like to use a casual and fun way to teach them. No stress = better retention.
IMPORTANT NOTE for Parents:
Some stroke orders which we learned in our times might be based on an official publication 《现代汉语通用字表》 dated March 1988 (hmm.. I was in Upper Primary Level then). And in 1997, there was an updated publication 《现代汉语通用字笔顺规范》 which included some Word Order Strokes having different sequences from what we might have learned back in our days. Take a look at the image below on a couple of most discussed “changes” to the stroke orders.
I would term the changes as “Exceptions” to the rule. I am sure that the language researchers have a reason for how the stroke orders should be, and these are not exceptions to them.
Oh well, when my children get confused, I’ll need to make up a story to help them understand that sometimes not everything falls within rules.