If you can say ‘Do you want to speak Spanish with me now?’ and you can also say ‘I’d like to practise speaking with you tonight’, then see how many different ways you can chop them up. Have a go at ‘I’d like to speak Spanish with you now’ or ‘Do you want to practise speaking with me tonight?’ – challenge yourself to make up as many different phrases as possible.
So, I thought this was a really good idea, but I knew that Hero was going to need some support to make this happen, so this is what I came up with: 3x5 cards. Each card has the word written several different ways. There's kanji at the top of a number of them, and hiragana below that. Those are what real live Japanese people use. But Hero's an American kid, and he has yet to master either, so below that, I wrote little romaji letters (that's the English transliteration). And I broke it up into syllables, thinking that it might help him to improve his hiragana that way. It's hard to see in the picture, but the English translation is also down in the corner. Then, we split up the cards, and we each made up sentences.
今何時ですか。 (What time is it now?)
九時です。 (It's 9 o'clock.)
He asked me for some of the animals they've been learning from YouTube. Why, yes, I'd be delighted to give you more cards. I added the ones I could remember off the top of my head, and we reshuffled. Now, he was really having fun. This was his favorite sentence:
すみません、うさぎのよるです。 (Excuse me, it's the bunny night.)
His confidence in his ability to produce sentences was noticeably improved by the end of the game - he was playing. We got to talk a bit about word order. He's developing a better grasp of this type of sentence structure. It was just an all around good thing, and when it was done, he said he had fun and was looking forward to playing again, soon. I'd call that a win.
Our other game is probably even more successful. It's nothing fancy, just war. It really is the game that's worth 1000 worksheets. The kids have begged me to play this one with them every day this week. The red cards are single deck; Dragon loves red, and that's the one he usually uses. I often pull out the big cards for him, since he's just starting addition. He still counts the little clubs and hearts to figure things out, which is fine. But that's tough to do on the 11s and 12s, since those are face cards, but he really didn't want me to throw them away. Hero is working on multiplication, so I often pull out the small numbers, and have him practice the more difficult problems. We have a multiplication table that goes to 12x12 that he keeps handy so that he can reference it. Looking things up repeatedly will help him to start to remember.
And, when the English math is finished, we will often play another round in Japanese. Dragon is still challenged by just naming the numbers in Japanese when they are out of order, but Hero is working on doing addition in our second language. This works for me, as I'm in need of some practice manipulating the numbers. Doing it with the kids is really interesting. I'm realizing that my concept of three is attached to the word: three, and not to the numeral: 3. Learning to do math in Japanese is making me move more toward the numerals. I don't know how much difference that's going to make, but I find it interesting. I'm not super surprised; I'm very text-oriented in my thinking. Even dreams aren't pictures. So it will be interesting to see how my thinking evolves as we play around with building numerical fluency in Japanese as well as English.