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Eszter

Teaching writing with CI (Comprehensible Input)

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Eszter

I've been learning how to teach Chinese with CI methods, which is drastically different from the traditional ways. Some CI teachers don't give their students any previous guidance on the characters, they start to learn them like natives do - with a good speaking ability (even though with a limited vocabulary) and nothing else. So they start by matching up those weird-looking things on the paper with words they already know by reading full sentences. It's called Cold Character Reading, invented by Terry Waltz. I've tried it with my students before and it works pretty well as long as the students are really confident in their oral knowledge of the words. But there's more to this method, as relatively soon students will be asked to create their own stories. I haven't done it to my students yet, but here's a picture of a story written by a student who started from zero and received about three weeks of Chinese instruction, all CI, at the summer Startalk program in Hawaii with Terry Waltz. She posted this picture online and I asked her permission to share. The story was written under testing circumstances, so no way of cheating, the only resource they could use was a chart with the characters they learned - but with no English. The did not receive any instruction on how to write the characters, no stroke order or anything like that. 

The story is relatively simple, but it uses correct word order and grammar, even things like 因为。。所以. I think it's pretty impressive to see a full paragraph of Chinese after such a short time, especially knowing that with the "traditional" methods, students can't do much more after three weeks than introducing themselves and maybe asking for someone's name.

I wonder if any of you have had any experience with CI methods before? Also, as a teacher who's in the process of learning this method, I'd like to hear your questions about this approach and see if I can answer them. 

post-58286-0-90954200-1437847967_thumb.jpg

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Shelley

I am glad to see you are still learning new ways of teaching.

 

I have started a course with edX 3 weeks ago, its very good. (see my blog for details - http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/blog/108-my-chinese-learning-blog/ )

 

我的老师叫Estella。她从台湾,她的中文很好。

 

This new method you mention above for writing, looks good but as I know quite a few it would be an unfair trial for me to test it out.

I will however be watching this with interest.

 

It does look impressive.

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ZachChao

Hi Eszter, I am really impressive about the fact that this article was written by a students who just learned Chinese only 3 weeks, I mean it's impossible in a traditional Chinese class, just like you said. And I also very curious about the the CI instruction, How do you apply CI in class?

I once worked in several Chinese programs in Beijing, and my students was all college students, most of them were from the United states. And this is what I did in my class to make the language input more comprehensible: Since they were required to preview the article which would be taught in next day, so I designed some questions as well as the answers. Student's answers need to be exactly the same as I designed, which was important. Because the answers included those new words and grammar items, and students could fully understand the meanings and the way to use by answering the questions. And this really worked on my students. Is this an CI instruction?  Further more, how did you teach them writing characters, I still looking for some efficient way to teach how to writing.

Anyway, Thank you for your sharing, I learned a lot!

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ZachChao

Thanks for sharing! Impressed by student's article! I mean it's almost an impossible mission for a traditional Chinese class. and I also very curious about the CI instructions. I do have some teaching experience and also try very hard to make the language input more comprehensible. I once worked in a Chinese program in Beijing, and my students were all college students, and their language level were advanced at that time. And here is what I did: I designed several types of questions, some were closed-ended and some open-ended. The students were required to review what we gonna learn the next day, so they kind of familiar about the contents. I use the questions as clues, which corresponding to the articles, and students definitely could find the answers. And I provided tips like "说整个句子",“用课文里的词回答” to correct their answers. Finally we could have a perfect answer which included the new word and grammar item. In this way not only could they better understood the meaning of the articles, but also the ways to use new words and grammars. Then, I asked questions which is totally out of the articles but the answers also need to use those new words and grammar items. The reason I did this is to testify if they fully understood them or not. Based on my students' reactions, I think this is a good way to make language input comprehensible.I am not sure what I did is CI or not, and how do you apply CI in your class?

As for the handwriting part, I'm still finding some efficient way. I followed a rational way to teach: Usually, characters for the beginners are the basic and easy ones, I will make sure that every one understand the meanings, which I think is important. Because the easy ones could be parts of the complicated ones, right? What's more, once the students know part of one complicated characters, they will make some predictions about the character's meaning, and this is what I want to see from my students. And I also think that the stroke orders are really important, http://web.csulb.edu/~txie/azi/page1.htm this website is very useful for teaching stroker orders. 

 

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Hofmann

I wouldn't call comprehensible input a method. It's rather a part of Stephen Krashen's input hypothesis, which forms the basis of many classroom practices of many different "methods." That a program is developed around comprehensible input alone is no surprise, as language acquisition depends most on it.

 

So it's good to be good at providing CI, but I wouldn't rely solely one it. A good teacher must have a diverse set of instructional tools and strategies.

 

Also, don't get too into methods. The methods era is long gone. We're now in the post-methods era, where the general consensus is that good instruction depends more on individual teachers than the method(s) they subscribe to.

 

All this stuff (Richards, J. and Rodgers T. (2014).  Approaches and methods in language teaching: A description and analysis (3rd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

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Demonic_Duck

I don't see any “因为……所以” structures in there. I guess what you're referring to is this bit: “Billy哭了。因为他不要牛肉。所以Billy偷Pepe Juan's Pizza。” It's difficult to tell because of the punctuation problems and the fact that it could logically work either way, but I would assume “因为他不要牛肉” is intended to be logically attached to “Billy哭了” rather than “所以Billy偷Pepe Juan's Pizza。”

 

Also, interesting to see the Taiwanese influence there in the quote marks and use of “跟”, yet the characters are all simplified. That's not a negative criticism, just interesting. My guess would be that the instructor speaks Taiwanese Mandarin, but teaches simplified characters because of ease of writing or widespread use (my first ever Chinese teacher was also Taiwanese and also taught simplified characters, but she used mainland-style punctuation).

 

Out of interest, how old is the student?

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Eszter

I call it a method because the teachers I talk about in the post are using only CI-based techniques in the classroom. Maybe I should have called it "approach". (I also called it a method because I'm not a native English speaker so please bear with me if I'm not always accurate :) )

I agree on having more tools is better but if we accept Krashen's theory about aquisition then using anything that is not CI makes not much sense.

 

I'm not a fanatic and I do teach with other methods, but I also see the differences in the students' progress. Oh, and that book, "Approaches and methods..." I like it a lot, it was one of our textbooks at NTNU, it's a great lesson about "trends" and fads in the language education field.

 

Yes, there's no 所以 in the text, only 因为. Still not bad from a beginner.I'll ask about the students' age and post it, I think they are high school students but I'm not completely sure.

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querido

I would be comfortable in your classroom, Eszter, because you're using a method (approach, whatever) that I myself can see looks reasonable and which you could explain to me even though I am not an expert; "no method" leaves me more dependent on the "good instruction" of the "individual teacher", but how should I know whether or not that teacher is especially good? I would go home after class and employ the method of my own choice.

 

A lot of things are "long gone" now. Need I continue?

 

"I think it's pretty impressive to see a full paragraph of Chinese after such a short time, especially knowing that with the "traditional" methods, students can't do much more after three weeks than introducing themselves and maybe asking for someone's name."

 

I agree.

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Eszter

Thank you, I wish I had a classroom! :) Right now I only teach online private classes (I live in a small town, I don't have teaching license AND I'm not a native speaker of either English or Chinese, so it's hard to find a regular school job), which is convenient and I love it but I would love to try out a lot of fun activities that you can't do with only one student.

But it's an exciting challenge for me to convert those classroom-focused techniques for my private lessons. I hope one day I can be as good and efficient as the teachers at the workshop that I have this students writing from!

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querido

This post to Eszter:

 

I'm studying Cantonese now. I'm sorry I missed the chance to be your student! :-)

 

When I can get my tutor/friends to stay within my little circle of competence I can spend my time with them in a little Cantonese-speaking world and it feels great. I think they can't imagine how easily this spell is shattered - at least for me, maybe because I'm old - and they can't stop themselves from teaching me new words, etc. I must stop and look up what they're saying so I can be sure I'm hearing it right, as neither of them know a Cantonese romanization system. It's unpleasant for me; if I can say "my shirt is blue" I already know that it would be a good idea to learn red, green, etc., and I can do that easily on my own. They're just eager to teach me something and can't restrain themselves.

 

I'm using Glossika now. It's "comprehensible input". It teaches me sentences that it will expand later. For example, very early it teaches "my brother and I are good tennis players". Well, that doesn't look essential at this time but I can trust that they will build something out of it later. But when I've asked to make the Glossika materials the basis of our tutorial sessions my tutors/friends haven't wanted to follow the program. They want to pick and choose what seems essential to them. That changes my approach from just learning everything to something more complicated. I'm getting pretty weary of it now.

 

Maybe it's a blessing - for now, for somebody - that you don't have a class full and can keep track of each person's needs.

 

Ok, byebye! 

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Eszter

ZachChao: The basic concept of CI is that everything that is presented to students in the target language has to be comprehensible - sounds very simple but it's easier said than done. Only small chunks of new language is introduced and there's tons of repetition. 

 

For the writing: this sample is not from my students, but I know that they were taught without any instructions on how to write the characters, no stroke orders or components introduced. First they mastered the vocabulary by using the words in sentences and questions and when they were familiar with everything, they started to read the characters, so they link the look of the characters to words they already know.

 

If you are interested about it, you can check out "cold character reading" that's the name of the technique, created by Terry Waltz. Also, her book about teaching Chinese with TPRS just came out, it can give you a nice overview: http://www.amazon.com/TPRS-Chinese-Characteristics-Terry-Waltz/dp/0692442901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437943455&sr=8-1&keywords=terry+waltz

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CathaySpecific

Eszter, gratulálok, így tovább!  (= 加油)

 

Terry Waltz - if I'm not mistaken, that is ironlady of Forumosa fame - a longtime Taiwan expat and respected educator.  Very neat results - I've to look into this CI stuff more ...

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Eszter

Update:

The student is 13. Here's what his teacher had to say about him:

He was my student at camp. He is 13. I can tell you he could not read anything in Week 1. Anything. He could not remember any characters at all when he read. It was painful when he read to me each day. I just don't know what happened, but somewhere in Week 2 it just "clicked" with him and he started to read. In week 3 he was starting to write. This was the pic that Terry posted. I have no idea how this happened. I thought he was on the spectrum and had no chance to produce this kind of stuff. Obviously I was wrong. Very humbling experience.

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