Languagenut (for Primary/Elementary Chinese)
Resource Review: Languagenut www.languagenut.com
Author: Jamie Fries (Languagenut)
Cost: 2 week trial www.languagenut.com/en/content/chinesestaffroom
then contact Languagenut via http://www.languagenut.com/en/subscribe for prices.
Available from: www.languagenut.com
Reviewer Profile: Paul Wilson is currently a Mandarin teacher at Brighton College. Brighton College was the first school in the UK to introduce Chinese to the curriculum. Paul is in his fourth year of teaching Mandarin and has experience of teaching KS1 to KS3. Paul studied Chinese Studies at Durham University, spending his second year of his course at Renmin University, Beijing.
Description: Languagenut has been designed to support primary school teachers in the delivery of Key Stage 2 Modern Foreign Languages. Covering the full four years, and linked to the KS2 Framework For Languages' objectives, Languagenut unlocks the business of learning languages in a way that is rigorous, progressive and fun. Children learning languages on Languagenut through various games such as:
Listen and learn, Pairs, Memory Multiple choice, Hangman and Noughts & crosses
With over 1000 words per language, many Languagenut games can feed into class projects.
Languagenut uses songs throughout. Children possess prodigious gifts for memorising and manipulating content through song. Relating songs and rhymes to appropriate levels of learning,
Finally Languagenut uses Storytelling recognising that narrative context has always been one of the major cornerstones of good classroom practice. This is especially true when it comes to learning a foreign language, where repetition is a core aspect of the learning experience. Stories create a context. They make things meaningful. Laced with humour, with pathos, they surprise, they satisfy, and they create in the listener a love for words. Interested, challenged, children actively seek out the repetition in stories, making the task of building up word banks, and of improving pronunciation, something to look forward to, something that is practical, concrete, fun.
Languagenut has also recently added a new tracking tool which allows teachers to track and reward student progress. Its a major addition to the site, and makes charting achievement easy. Teachers create a class list, print student login details, then track, reward and feedback.
Things I liked about the resource: I like the philosophy behind Languagenut, namely that two of the most effective ways of teaching children at KS2 level is through the use of song and through the use of stories. Several of the teaching tools also easily lend themselves to competitions between the students which is a great way of engaging the students. The site is, in addition, clearly designed to be fun and this is especially important when presenting material to KS2 children. I was impressed by the quality of the site: it is bright and colourful, with good quality graphics; items loaded quickly; it was easy to navigate around the site and units where laid out in a logical manner; teaching tools where well explained and easy to use; and the audio files were of a good quality.
One of the major advantages of the site is that students are given immediate feedback all the time when completing the various tasks. The developers have also included a useful homework module, where students can complete tasks for each of the units studied and, if done well, they earn themselves a gold medal. The teacher can easily review what homework has been done and to what standard and another nice touch is that the teacher can print out a certificate for the students which the system generates for each student.
The resource offers a total of 24 units, with each unit made up of 6 chapters, and each chapter covering 10 words or phrases. The resources for teaching each chapter are in the same format, with a total of 8 different activities. Some of these activities are good, such as the noughts and crosses game, a multiple choice game, and various matching games, done by either listening to a chinese word/phrase or by seeing it written down. Each chapter also has some useful additional printable resources, which, at the time of the review, consist of a printable page of the vocab covered and printable flash cards.
It should be noted that the resource is either entirely in pinyin with no characters, or, by choosing another icon from the start menu, entirely in simplified characters with no pinyin. If working with the character version, two of the games, spelling and hangman, are not available.
Ways in which it could be improved: I would have liked to have seen the resource combining pinyin and characters as much as possible rather than having to work exclusively with one or the other, though this could be overcome by having both programs open at the same time. The resource doesn't attempt to teach tones or to help students with the writing of characters, but it could be argued that the resource isn't attempting to be a bolts and braces teaching resource. At the time of the review, the Chinese module only had two stories and no songs at all, whereas the French module for example had a story and a song for each of the 24 units, but I expect the intention is that it will end up having a complete set of songs and stories.
Why and how did I use this resource? This resource show cases some fun and engaging ways of learning lists of vocabulary and it would be useful for teachers to review these different approaches for potential new ideas. The songs and stories format, when completed, provide memorable ways of seeing that vocab used in context.
Conclusions / other comments: Languagenut does not offer a comprehensive resource for the teaching of Mandarin at KS2 level. What it does do is offer an engaging and fun way of learning vocab. The teacher would then need to provide structures for how that language is used in phrases and sentences and test understanding through reading comprehension, for example. A further thought is that although some of the games would be able to engage the whole of the class, some of the games would only really work well if students were able to use it individually, and a teacher might well use this resource as a fun way of getting students to expand their vocabulary for homework or in a class where all students have access to computers. The resource also offers an effective way of monitoring whether the students have learnt a particular set of homework and it has a nice way of motivating the students through the awarding of medals. Having the pinyin and characters on separate packages might be a deal breaker for some teachers, but the best thing would be to try the free trial and see if it is indeed a problem. Having said that, some teachers who don't like using pinyin might actually be glad of the fact that they are separated.