Many moms from our Facebook Group: Motherly Notes have seen my original post The Battle of the First Grade Chinese Textbooks: China vs. Taiwan vs. States and have asked me about what to buy in KangXuan’s website because there seems to be a million items in there.
Well, the answer is… you should really buy all their workbooks because they work hand in hand.
The other question was whether they can just get the study at home version (自修版). It comes in one large book with a CD. My answer would be: if you want to do minimal work, sure. However, to be fully functional in writing the characters in each chapter, you really need more practice than the self study version. In addition, the self study version doesn’t give you enough practice writing space so you’ll need another blank writing workbook to practice writing the characters. I put the following books we buy in the order that we do it in.
- 課本 – Main Text book – There are two per grade for first semester and second semester. Each book contains maybe about 16 lessons. Each lesson is a set of text with highlighted vocabulary characters you’re expected to learn to write. At the end of the lesson, you’re going to get a page with the vocab words and stroke order and radical, etc. Then you’ll get some examples of how to use the vocab words in a sentence or a phrase or look at some similar words with different radicals. There isn’t a lot of written activities if any for the student in this textbook.
2. 語文習寫簿 – Vocabulary Practice – I call this the Vocabulary Practice book because it’s just writing the vocab words over and over to get used to their stroke order and hopefully memorize a few. After the individual vocab words, you get to write some phrases repeatedly and then followed by fill in the blanks for this lesson’s vocab along with previous lessons vocab. I always do this for the next step because I need them to at least know how to write the new vocab as a starter before using it in phrases and sentences.
3. 國語習作 – General Review and Practice – This is the step after they’re familiar with the vocab and lesson, they can now start playing with the vocab! Fill in the blanks, making phrases, sentences, splitting radicals, etc. It’s a nice introductory practice session to review and play with and learn more about the vocabulary words. Through this, I feel like they’re able to internalize the vocab a lot better because they need to recall from memory how to write it instead of just repeating it down a line in the previous book.
4. 練習簿 – Extra Review and Practice Book – This is just like how I named it. It has more review and practice of a little of everything and only contained to two pages. It has extra things like spotting for wrong words, etc. However, it’s to test their brains once more and hopefully solidify the characters in their heads up to 70%…. Every few lessons, you’ll get a review page of the previous combined lessons. I really like that.
5. 重點復習 – Main Point Summary/Study Extension – I’m not sure if calling it the main points is accurate if I’m just translating from the book title. I would call it “Study Extension.” For me, this is more of an extension of everything you just did. It goes over and beyond the stuff you just learned and basically introduces you to more in depth discussions of how to use phrases, how to make better sentences and … idioms. I like it for the idioms it introduces. It’s lesson, age, and level appropriate. Takes some work out for me in finding idioms that are children this age can easily relate to. There is minimal written exercise for these books in the back. This is more of a discussion book between you and your child. I like the parts where it’s comparing similar characters and one character with different sounds as well.
6. 測驗卷 – Test – I know most kids may think oh no, it’s a test! Nope, my kids actually really like these large pieces of paper with only two sides for each lesson. I think by the time they get here, they know all the words already and these take them 20 minutes and under to complete so it’s the day when their Chinese is said and done in a short amount of time. Each lesson only has one sheet (2 sides) of activities ranging from everything that were in the previous workbooks from fill in the blanks, making phrases, finding wrong words, making sentences, and reading comprehension. Very groovy. I think if you don’t have enough time, this isn’t needed. However, I do believe it takes my children’s written vocabulary retention rate to at least 80%, if not to 100%.
7. 教師手冊 – Teacher’s Handbook – I really do not think at home mothers need this book. It’s just repeating everything from these separate workbooks and then giving you ideas about activities to do in class or extra stories to tell your children that relate to the lessons. Most of the time, it’s class related. I think for tutors and classroom teachers, you can get it but we’ve only used it sparingly… or even less than sparingly. I think if we get to harder grades and I really need to pick my brain for more examples of phrases and sentences, then I would buy it again. Otherwise, the other workbooks are fine.
So … answer keys… they sell them. It’ll be labeled on the website. If you feel like you need an answer key, then buy it. However, phrases and sentences are subjective so the answer key may not help you. The answers to set answers would be helpful if you didn’t want to spend the time to read the questions yourself. Test book comes with answers in the back of the book so no need to buy the answer key for those.
Do you need ALL of the above books? If you are lacking in time, I would purchase the first FOUR … if you really want minimal work, then AT LEAST BUY THE FIRST THREE! Without it, your child just won’t retain very much and it’ll be harder and harder to move on to the subsequent lessons.
I find that after all the workbooks, they’re at least retaining 80% AFTER the entire grade is done. This is due to all the review practice lessons inside the separate workbooks. I think that’s already pretty great!
Can you do this also with the self study version? You can do anything if you put your mind to it but it just makes it a lot harder and more work for mom. Here, I’m just buying and throwing it in their faces daily. If I did the self study version, I have to buy another blank workbook, explain more, give more examples by myself… basically I have to use my brain more than I want to? LOL… I already have ENOUGH I’m doing for my children so I’m just saving myself the hassle and buying these individual thin workbooks so I don’t need to torture myself to come up with my own practice lessons!
Are there better systems out there? It really depends on what you’re striving for. Are there more practice workbooks out there? Absolutely. Are there other publishers? Absolutely!!! Why did I choose this publisher? I chose it because it’s been there for a very long time and I like the exercises in there. The other publishers I’ve seen as well and they’re all VERY SIMILAR, but again, I’m used to Kang Xuan now so I’ll just stick with it. We’re invested in it and the character list has already been fed into my children… no need to switch around. If the system works, don’t break it.
Every child is different. These texts are also used by the children in Taiwan as well. We’re using a native textbook because I want my children to reach native proficiency. However, there are many other textbooks made for children who are learning Chinese as a second language that do go slower. The Kang Xuan textbooks go faster than let’s say MeiZhou because it’s for natives and it really depends on your goals. Having said that, you’ll need a teacher or be a parent who understands Chinese in order to teach your child through this system. It’s not a self learning system for American children so be prepared to give more help and time to your child.
In summary, we’ve been on it for a while now and we like it. It helps with retention and it’s easy to follow. If you have a better system, feel free to share it with us in our Motherly Notes Facebook Group! It’ll be greatly appreciated!