I (obviously) swear by TPRS to produce the maximum oral proficiency in students in the minimum time, and there’s nothing that can compare for building listening skills. But the method was built with Spanish in mind, and then expanded to encompass other alphabetically-based languages. In Chinese, it simply is not feasible (at least not with the levels I teach; I think you could in college where a “just go memorize it” approach is considered appropriate) to do PQA or a story day 1 and then read what you’ve presented on day 2 — especially if your ultimate goal is to read in characters.

Also, let’s face it — if you’re teaching language, instead of having the kids color a lot or endlessly cycle through groups of color words or days of the week — the kids get tired. They’ve got other classes going on (believe it or not!) and in Chinese they have a double dose of work to do as they must acquire not only the spoken form of the language, but also manage to learn to read characters, which means a lot of memorization no matter what we try to do in our limited class time to help them with that.

Literacy stations are (I sincerely hope!) a partial answer to this. At present I have six different stations ready to go. The kids cycle through them in 10 minute segments, and they seem interested and engaged in the activities.

The thing to remember in setting up these stations is that less is more in lit stations just as it is in stories. Limiting the number of items (unless there is a specific reason not to) will make the stations less intimidating to the students who are acquiring the written forms more slowly.

Grouping is another consideration. If you have squirrelly kids, or a lot of ADHD or other special-needs in your classroom, it can be a challenge to figure out whom to place with whom so as to keep the maximum number of kids on-task for the maximum amount of time. Having a worksheet product or packet that goes with the stations helps to focus the kids’ attention in that they are required to produce something to hand in (if only for a checkmark for completion) rather than just “playing”.

Setting up lit stations keyed to the vocabulary being presented is obviously a huge undertaking, particularly if you’re being free with where your classes are going so as not to be able to produce things very far ahead of time. But even solely as a break in the normal class routine, the stations surely have a lot more value than a lot of the “sponge” activities that are often advised. If they are used only once or twice per cycle (a cycle lasting 7 to 9 days in my classes, usually) they will probably stay fresh, and can easily be updated and changed when needed.

Anyway, tomorrow it’s back to holiday caroling. Let’s see if anyone can follow the Chinese translation of “Dreidel, Dreidel.” 😉