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Skritter for children

Aurora   January 8th, 2011 10:34p.m.

Can I just say first this program is just FABULOUS!

That's why I would love my kids to use it...

At the moment there are some great features for kids to 'play around' on like 'showing the character' and tracing over it etc. And you can set kids up with characters they know on a scratchpad etc.

But - there are many features that are not suitable for kids under 7...they can't read, and they can't type pinyin etc - (of course I am not teaching my kids with pinyin anyway, they are learning to just say the characters and recognise them without the use of pinyin - while kids are learning how to read 'English' pinyin is too confusing).

So would it be possible to be able to switch off certain parts of the program? Kids (this age) really only need writing the character, and maybe the section where you see the character and click on the correct tone. You could then click to add these other features as they got older.

Also, they would need Skritter to SAY the character it is asking them to draw, together with SAYING the meaning - as they can't read the meaning etc. Or, maybe say the character, and have a picture of the meaning - I know some dictionary piks can be ambiguous, but they would learn to associate that pik with the correct character to draw when it was initially introduced as a new character.

I really think that my 5 yr old is ready now to have her own Skritter account, she could build on the characters she is learning then - and even though we would be only adding a few characters at a slow pace I still think $10 a month is worth it!

I think there would be a big market for it - with kids you have to strike while they are interested - there will be a time when my kids come home and tell me that they aren't learning flippin Chinese - maybe with stronger language :-) So this truly is the age to get them learning!

Also you would need to have a dinosaur run across the screen with a crowd roar every time they got it right - or even your Skritter logo do a silly dance :-)

At the moment, I think even with being able to switch off the program parts that are not suitable for her yet would be enough for me to get her own account- and I would just say the character she needs to write for her - but of course her being able to do it on her own would be better...

Any other parents / teachers of K-3 that would like a Skritter for kids?


menglelan   January 8th, 2011 11:42p.m.

I've got my kids learning Chinese and I actually asked skritter about it. Then I realized my kids would just treat skritter like a game where they keep cheating and cheating - like randomly click somewhere and let skritter finish the stroke for them. They were cheating so much that finally I made them go back to the old pencil and paper where they copy and copy and copy. Sometimes I use a magic doodle slate instead of pen and paper.

Neil   January 9th, 2011 12:17a.m.

Hey Donna, to turn on or off the writing, definition, tone or reading, click on settings in the top right while you are practicing, and it's right there "Parts to Study"

I have never used the reading/ pinyin practice actually.

Byzanti   January 9th, 2011 2:00a.m.

You can also add pictures yourself. It will be a bit time consuming, though.

You can use this: img:http://blah.com/blah.jpeg

nick   January 9th, 2011 8:49a.m.

Yeah, so you could currently turn off reading, definition, and tone practice. That would make it say the word as part of the prompt. Then you could use Byzanti's method to add pictures yourself to the words they'll be learning, although it would take a while. (Find an image URL you want, like with Google Image Search; click the definition of the word; add the URL with an img: prefix.) Skritter doesn't have silly dinosaurs now, so you'd have to provide the entertainment.

Although we would like to make a more kid-friendly version, we're still a long ways away from having the time to devote to that kind of specialization. I think it's very cool the way you're getting your kids started early!

Nicki   January 9th, 2011 9:23a.m.

Also, using the raw squigs method would keep the kids from cheating so much.

Keeps me from cheating so much, anyway!

Mandarinboy   January 9th, 2011 1:44p.m.

I have been using Skritter with my 6 years old daughter for some time and it works great. Raw squigs is a must and for some characters I have to add a picture as guide for her. She is Swedish but she is studying first grade in Hangzhou, China. All her new characters from school we add to skritter and she study them every evening. It is just like a game for her and she loves it. Yes, it would be great with more features for children but it do work great as it is as well. We still have to sit with her when she is studying to keep her on track but since i use Skritter my self that is no problem. The only problem is that she is learning so much faster than I do;-)

Aurora   January 9th, 2011 6:09p.m.

Hi all,

Thanks for the tips on parts of study and piks etc, I didn;t know you could do that!

Byzanti - sorry if I am missing something obvious I could not open the link - I tried a few variations of the link plus just the basic www.blah.com and could not get to anything - is it an image site?

Cheating- my daughter is just learning how to cheat to win games like snakes and ladders, and of course manipulates any challenge she sets for her and her younger brother to 'win' herself - it is so amusing to watch them develop these 'skills' - 'winning at any cost' must be innate as most parents don't role model these 'skills'! I will have to monitor how she goes on Skritter - I think even when 'cheating' kids are learning sometimes - never used raw squigs so will have to give it a go. Maybe start without them, and change to them as she gets more used to the program. She doesn't seem to 'cheat' on computer programs/games yet - she enjoys the challenge - so maybe it is older kids that eventually learn how to 'get around' study!

Thanks to the parents for sharing, any other tips or encouragment would be appreciated!


menglelan   January 9th, 2011 10:30p.m.

My boys being boys, they do a lot of computer games so they do a lot of "cheating" to win games. They will take the easy way out on anything computer related including skritter no matter how I set the settings. Also they spend so much time on computers at school and at home, so I've not been using skritter with them anymore. For writing they use paper and pencil to write characters from memory, when they start learning a character I start them on tracing and copying the strokes by sounding out the stroke names and the radicals. When they are reviewing old characters they use a magic slate.

Byzanti   January 9th, 2011 10:49p.m.

Donna, the blah thing was just an example. I was meaning for you to replace the blah part with your own.

The important part was the first bit "img:". if you write img: then a link to an image in the definition for a word of character, then the picture will show up. It is quite time consuming though, as I said.

rgwatwormhill   January 11th, 2011 9:41a.m.

Are you sure you want your kids to learn hanzi before they can read and write English? Obviously, the sooner the better for speaking, but I'm not convinced that it's effective use of time to start hanzi so young. Things like concentration and fine motor skills are so important for writing, that you could spend a very long time teaching children not very may characters, which they could learn for themselves much more quickly when older. I'd have thought the child's time was better spent watching mandarin tv and learning mandarin songs.

I don't worry in the slightest if my kids "cheat" on Skritter. If they are skrittering at all then some of it will sink in, possibly just as effectively as doing it the "right" way.
For myself, I switched to raw squigs a few months ago, and confirmed what I suspected about getting lots of cues from where the strokes slide to. I think I'll probably stick with raw squigs now, but that doesn't mean I was wasting my time when I used the cued option. Especially for beginners, the as-you-go corrections are great. They are more satisfying, and probably help to reinforce the common shapes and proportions of chinese strokes.


Aurora   January 11th, 2011 7:47p.m.

Byzanti - oh:-) Thanks, I havent had time to try it out yet, on my list of things to do but will get to it in next few days.

Rachael - You are right - My kids have been singing Chinese songs and watching Chinese DVDs for several years, and I read story books to them in Chinese every day :-) so my 5 yr old is very ready to write (and is doing so on paper amazingly).

I run a Mandarin Song and Story time (for 0-5 yr olds) at our local library, and a class for 5 yr olds. My website has lots of songs and popular story translations to help parents include Mandarin in their children's lives www.pandacubs.info (please note the My First Chinese Words page takes a long time to load - I am working on transferring to a bigger website with more pages - another thing on my list to do :-) All parents please feel free to use any resources on the site with your kids.

With writing, kids have to know how to draw shapes - like a straight line, triangle, sqaure, circle etc. This normally happens any time from 3- 5yrs old. Throughout this period they start to 'write' messages - an example would be a child writing a note to their grandma, or writing a shopping list with mum etc - of course it is just squiggle - but in their mind they are communicating in writing - this is the amazing stage to show that children are naturally trying to 'write' to communicate. Of course in a country like Australia they will then learn (quite quickly) how to write letters of the alphabet, and then form words etc because of their strong motivation / need to communicate. They do this because they are immersed in (English) written communication everywhere - TV, Shops, Books, Computer etc.

The most important thing to get children learning how to write Chinese characters (with meaning to them), is to try and replicate that immersion - so that they see Chinese characters as a natural means of communication, otherwise it has no meaning to them. So if I write a silly note to my children in Chinese, there is a meaning for them to write a silly note back in Chinese etc. If I write a shopping list in Chinese they can see there is a point to understanding what the list says etc.

So yeah I completely agree that the most important thing in the very early years is to immerse, through story, song, and if possible in daily life too.

My kids see me 'Skrittering', see me reading/studying Chinese (they dont know that I struggle to actually understand ha ha!), so they naturally want to do what mum does - with my 5 yr old she is really keen to write at the moment, and to give her her own Sritter account hopefully will maintain that eagerness (while it lasts!). But to Sktitter in isolation would not work - it has to be done with all the other exciting things that promote a meaning and motivation to learn.


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