What are predictable books?
Predictable books , also known as patterned books, are stories with a predictable pattern. These books contain repeating words, phrases or sentences throughout the story. Predictable books are written so that children can easily guess what comes next. BILINGUISTICS (here) has a detailed post introducing the different types of predictable books and how they can help with speech and language.
One of the earliest English predictable books I own are by Eric Both. Both “Have you seen my cat” and “Polar bear polar bear, what do you see” contain predictable story elements that are fun to read and easy to understand for young children.
How do predictable help with reading?
Since predictable books all have repetitive pattern and structure, you will often find children “reading” predictable books because they could easily memorise the repetitive parts of the story. They may be able to easily guess the events on next page, the final word of the sentence, or the ending of the story. Predictable books help children feel successful with reading, and build confidence in young readers.
There are countless blog posts on the benefits of using predictable books to help with reading skills. I am, however, not a huge fan of using predictable books to teaching reading and Learning with the Primary Pond (here) expresses the same view.
Instead, I feel that predictable books are GREAT for supporting WRITING SKILLS, and serve as ideal mentor text.
How predictable books help with writing:
A few months ago, I invested in the Odonata 《幼儿学句型》series which I purchased from the official Luka website (here). Deziremi also carries the series all the way in the UK if you are located there (here). Popular also sells them in their stores in Singapore.
These are all the topics that the series cover:
Mandarinhomeschool (here) has a detailed blog about the Odonatta 《幼儿学句型》series, and how the books have supported her daughter’s reading. At first glance these books seem too easy for Kai, who can read much longer and more complex Chinese stories. However, they are actually ideal for teaching sentence structure and writing.
Why is the Odonata 《幼儿学句型》series ideal for practicing sentence-writing?
EACH book in the Odonata series features the same sentence pattern many times with only one or two changes in each sentence. A child reading these books can easily grasp the usage of each sentence structure. The simple sentences, with so many examples supported by pictures, can encourage children to write stories with similar patterns. Children can also mix and match these sentences with their own words.
This chart shows all the sentence structures that are used in each books of the three levels:
How to use the Odonatta patterned books to encourage sentence writing:
When encouraging Kai to write his own bilingual booklets, I asked him to choose the books from the Odonatta series that interest him. The first book that he chose was 会飞的东西 (Things that can fly) which contains the sentence pattern … 在天空飞 (…is flying in the sky). Kai chose it probably because he wanted to incorporate his own flying elements in the story.
This is what Kai wrote in English and Chinese after reading 会飞的东西 :
The plane is flying in the sky 飞机在天上飞 The hot air balloon is flying in the sky 热气球在天上飞 Superman is flying in the sky 超人在天上飞 The butterfly is flying in the sky 蝴蝶在天上飞
In another book, 水里的动物，the core structure XXX 可以在水里游 is used.
This is what Kai wrote in both languages (I modified the English translation for Kai so the sentences would be shorter):
The submarine is in the water. 潜水艇可以在水里游。 Dory is in the water. 多莉可以在水里游。 The sunfish is in the water. 翻车鱼可以在水里游。
Finally this is the third book Kai wrote based on 地方。 Kai’s version of the story is full of imagination!
What if my child doesn’t like to draw or make booklets?
Below are some examples from 精明師奶幼教分享會 that show that focusing on one sentence structure at a time is a good idea for beginning language learner / developing writer. Notice that only in the last sentence, one part of the sentence changes. The sentences are written in a Chinese notebook, without any drawings. If your draw is not interested in creating booklets, this may be a simpler option for you using the sentence patterns from Odonata books.
As you can see, just when you think your child has outgrown their predictable / patterned books, you can actually use them to encourage sentence-writing. Not only are the simple, repetitive sentences ideal for modelling correct grammar and structure, but the theme and topics are also great for introducing new vocabulary.
Here are other posts related to Chinese learning:
- Maximizing 洪恩识字 to learn Chinese (7 tips and printables)
- How we practice writing Chinese at home without using any worksheets
- Supporting your child to write stories with a clear Beginning, Middle and End- foldable trilingual template
- What we need to know about children’s stages of writing development
- Using “Touch and Tell, Touch and Say, Touch and Read” strategies to foster independence in writing
- My favorite Chinese storybooks with a “magical” element
- 10 ways to use sticky notes to support literacy at home
- Ms. Claudia’s 10 Mandarin-pop songs for kids
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