Teaching chinese characters in the virtual classroom

Report
Man Gao, Lung-Lung Hu, Jia Yan , Tao Yang
TEACHING CHINESE WRITING
SYSTEM IN WEB-BASED
EDUCATION
Challenges of teaching Chinese
characters
1. One of the biggest challenges for the
Westerners to learn Chinese is the
Chinese writing system. For every
individual character, students need to
learn its meaning and sound separately,
as well as remember its structure,
composition (various strokes) and
produce it in writing.
Challenges of teaching Chinese
characters
2.
In the Chinese distance courses at Högskolan
Dalarna, our teachers can only demonstrate how to
write characters and give feedbacks to our
students by using a mouse to draw on the
whiteboard. Needless to say, drawing with a mouse
is largely different from writing with a marker pen or
a chalk .
by mouse
by pen
Challenges of teaching Chinese
characters
3.
To find an efficient and effective
method of teaching Chinese characters
to students who study Chinese as a
foreign language as adult and through
web-based courses has become a big
issue.
What did we do?
We did an research by the support of NGLcenter of Dalarna University to face these
challenges. Our research included three parts:
 A student survey to collect the students’
opinion
 Equipment test of some possible
complementary equipment
 Seeking research contribution from other
researchers to the similar topic
Student survey
Student survey
The purpose of the student survey is to
gather students’ opinion on teaching and
learning Chinese characters in a web-based
teaching environment. The questionnaire
instrument is chosen.
• The questionnaire is designed as an online
questionnaire, and was sent to 329 students.
• The sample are those students who are taking or
have taken our Chinese character courses
• We got 65 returned questionnaires, with an answer
rate of approximately 20%.
Student survey
Questionnaire design:
• Background questions
• Main body questions (7-Likert scale, with 1: strongly agree
and 7: strongly disagree)
• their opinion about the importance of writing Chinese
characters in online classroom
• Their opinion about the effectiveness of our online
classroom in terms of teaching Chinese characters
• Their opinion about teaching methods in terms of teaching
Chinese characters in web-based teaching environment
• Open-end questions
• The most difficult part when learning Chinese characters
• The most important thing in terms of learning Chinese characters
• suggestions
Student survey findings
The answers to the open question:
What is the most difficult part with regard to learning
Chinese characters?
• To remember the characters
• They are many
• Some of them are very complex 餐、嘱
• Difficult to remeber them for a long period of time
• To distinguish the differences of the form-like
characters (土 / 士; 尤/龙)
• To match sound, meaning and written form of a
character
• To write a character neatly
Student survey findings
The evaluation to: The importance of writing Chinese characters by
hand. (7-Likert scale, with 1: strongly agree and 7: strongly disagree)
Student survey findings
The evaluation to: The importance of the teacher’s demonstration of
writing Chinese characters stroke by stroke by hand in online
classroom. (7-Likert scale, with 1: strongly agree and 7: strongly
disagree)
Student survey findings
The evaluation to: The importance that the students are given
opportunities to practise writing Chinese character by hand in online
classroom. (7-Likert scale, with 1: strongly agree and 7: strongly
disagree)
Student survey findings
The evaluation to: The effectiveness of the equipment in our online
classroom with regard to writing Chinese characters by hand. (7-Likert
scale, with 1: strongly agree and 7: strongly disagree)
Student survey findings
Age group distribution of the statement: Whether using pictures helps
the studnets recognize the Characters in written form? (7-Likert scale,
with 1: strongly agree and 7: strongly disagree)
Student survey findings
Age group distribution of the statement: Whether using vedio films
helps the studnets recognize the Characters in written form? (7-Likert
scale, with 1: strongly agree and 7: strongly disagree)
Student survey findings
Age group distribution of the statement: Whether written assignments
help the studnets recognize the Characters in written form? (7-Likert
scale, with 1: strongly agree and 7: strongly disagree)
Main findings from the student survey
 It is very important that the students learn to write the Chinese characters
by hand, thus:
 It is very important that the teachers demonstrate how to write a Chinese
character by hand during online class-room teaching.
 Pictures and videos are very helpful in learning Chinese characters,
however, different age groups have differed opinions, younger students
value these methods more.
 The traditional written assignments of handwriting practices is regarded as
a very effective way to recognize and remember the characters. Again,
different age groups have differed opinions, older students value this
method more.
 The explanation of the origin and development of the characters under
time is also proved to be a good way of helping the students to recognize
and remember them.
Equipment test
WRITING PAD & CAMERA
Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch 460
Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch 670
Written with
mouse
Written with
writing pad
Written with
writing pad
Written with mouse
Students evaluation of the
tested equipment
After testing of each equipment, we gave
students a questionnaire to let them
evaluate the teaching result.
The next slide is an example of the
summary of students’ respondents to such
a questinnair.
Equipment test
We found the tested writing pad is also
good at helping the teachers to correct the
students’ handwriting assignments, which
are usually handed in as pdf-files or jpgfiles.
Theoretical support
VISUAL COGNITION IN ONLINE
TEACHING
Basic knowledge of Chinese characters
1. One Chinese character has three basic elements: semantic
radical, phonetic radical, and non-semantic or non-phonetic
element. Ex: 河
(river)
2. Singular-character: as a semantic-radical or as a picture, with
self-sufficient meaning and sound. Ex: 口
(mouth)
3. Multi (or compound)-character: can be dissected to semantic
and phonetic radicals, which possibly can be taken disassembled
also. 淅
(clear)= 水 + 析 (= 木 + 斤)
1. Strategies on Chinese character learning
Non-Chinese native speakers uses many strategies to
memorize Chinese characters, one of these strategies is to
memorize Chinese characters according to their shapes and
radicals. (Visual cognition)
[T]he students (English-speaking first-year college students) used seven types of strategy.
1. Rote repetition. 2. Creation of their own idiosyncratic stories about the characters. 3.
Use of orthographic knowledge (beginner)…. Most students considered knowledge of
radicals more useful than creating their own stories. (McGinnis, 1999; Ke, 1998)
Learning strategies among German-speaking college CFL learners at (all) levels… used 15
kinds of learning strategies…. 1. Repeated writing. 2. Using vocabulary cards (flash cards).
3. Decomposition of the compound characters into radicals or other components….
(Tseng, 2000)
The results indicate that among the cognitive strategies, the learners considered
orthographic-knowledge-based strategies (make use of the three aspects of radical
knowledge, graphemics, semantics, and phonetics) to be most useful for leaning
characters and this perception became stronger as the learning level increases. (60)
“Shen, Helen H.. An investigation of Chinese-character learning strategies among nonnative speakers of Chinese. System 33 (2005) 49-68”.
2. Visual Cognition and Chinese characters teaching
2.1. Where is it in our brains and its activation
Different from alphabetic system based languages, mind is
functioning differently when we read Chinese characters.
More bilateral activation in the visual cortex has been shown for Chinese
character reading, and some have suggested that this is due to the greater
demands on visual-spatial analysis. The left middle frontal gyrus is often
found activated in Chinese character reading, but rarely in alphabetic
reading. (1865)
“Yuan Deng, James R. Booth, Tai-Li Chou, Guo-Sheng Ding, Dan-Ling
Peng (2007): Item-specific and generalization effects on brain
activation when learning Chinese characters. Neuropsychologia 46
(2008) 1864-1876”.
2.2. The relation between Chinese characters and visual cognition
For beginners, categorization of Chinese characters is based on their shapes,
radicals, structures, strokes, and some special features.
Categorization provides a mechanism for rapid information processing (e.g.,
Ingling, 1972)…. In this aspect, since Chinese is a logographic system, it may
depend more on the visual/graphemic aspects than alphabetic system
(Biederman & Tsao, 1979; Chen, Flores d’Arcais, & Cheung, 1995; Chen & Juola,
1982; Leck et al., 1995; Park & Arbuckle, 1977; Sasanuma, 1975; Wang, 1973)
“Su-Ling Yeh, Jing-Ling Li, Tatsuto Takeuchi, Vincent Sun and Wen-Ren Liu (2003):
The role of learning experience on the perceptual organization of Chinese
characters, Visual Cognition, 10:6, 729-764”.
3. Radical based Chinese characters teaching
3.1. From characters to radicals
Previous researchers thought that Chinese characters were recognized
orthographically which means that Chinese characters in learning are holistic
and inseparable units, and that semantic radicals contribute less than
characters.
But in ‘Laurie Beth Feldman and Witina W. T. Siok (1999): Semantic Radicals
Contribute to the Visual Identification of Chinese Characters. Journal of
Memory and Language 40, 559-576, it mentions that although the research in
this article does not confirm that radical is more important than orthography,
but it tells us that semantic radicals are equally important.
The present study examines how Chinese characters are processed and
organized in the mental lexicon and focuses on the processing of one type of
character component, the semantic radical. (559)
And also, in ‘Connie Suk-Han Ho, Wai-Ling Wong, and Wing-Sau Chan (1999):
The use of orthographic analogies in learning to read Chinese. J. Child Psychol.
Psychiat. Vol. 40, No. 3, 393-403’: making phonological and semantic analogies
by radicals can help students to learn Chinese characters; and Chinese teachers
also “should consider starting to teach the roles and functions of the phonetics
and radicals” to help student using their ability of analogy.
4. Pedagogy in Chinese characters teaching
Teaching semantic and phonetic radicals
1. Collect Chinese characters that share the same semantic radical. Focus on the
shape and meaning of radical and then the shape and meaning of character that
can increase students’ visual cognition.
2. Collect Chinese characters that share the same phonetic radical. Focus on
semantic phonetic compound Chinese characters, help students remember the
pronunciation.
3. Collect “semi-regular” characters and phonetic families that contains partial
information about the pronunciation and. (1, 2 and 3 can be proceeded altogether
because one Chinese character is a unity which is composed of semantic and
phonetic radicals)
4. Clarify the relation between semantic and phonetic radicals to prevent students
from choosing the characters which have the correct sounds but wrong meanings.
5. Chinese characters “autopsy” practice: dissect one character into many elements.
6. Teaching exceptional radicals and characters.
The shapes of Chinese characters
1. Collect Chinese characters with the same or similar shape, help students
memorize.
2. Collect Chinese characters with different shape, help students distinguish.
Other possible ways of teaching
1. For helping student memorize, teachers can improvisationally interpret Chinese
characters.
2. Orthography and rote repetition remained.
3. Apply traditional Chinese linguistics on teaching the pronunciations of Chinese
characters.
4. Apply the advantage of e-learning on Chinese characters teaching.

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