Modern Chinese Poetry for Children

In a previous post, we included some fun ways to teach our children classic Chinese poetry that didn’t directly involve memorization.

In this post, we will be focusing on modern Chinese poetry.

Before we begin, here’s some quick background on what is considered modern Chinese poetry (新詩/xin shi). Technically speaking, it’s any poetry after the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912) so any poetry written after 1912.

Below is from one of the most popular 新詩 (written in 1928) which just about any Chinese of secondary school level or above knows:

輕輕的我走了,
正如我輕輕的來。
我輕輕的招手,
作別天邊的雲彩。

- 《再別康橋》 徐志摩 (1897-1931)

There is a rich array of modern Chinese poetry for children. A lot of them are very descriptive, constructing vivid images of sounds and phenomenon of the nature. Still many are more philosophical ones that explore topics such as passing of time, family and relationships. Here is a simple example:

我回家,把鞋脫下
姐姐回家,把鞋脫下
哥哥、爸爸回家
也都把鞋脫下
...
大大小小的鞋
就像大大小小的船
回到安靜的港灣
享受家的溫暖

- 《鞋》 林武憲 (1944-   )

Modern poetry also appear in the forms of tongue twisters, nursery rhymes or silly poems which are always children's delight. Here is an example of such poems:

弟弟妹妹別生氣
明天帶你去看戲
我坐椅子你坐地
我吃蘋果你吃梨

And here’s one that kids are bound to like because it mentions farting.

對不起,敬個禮,
放個屁,臭死你!

ACTIVITY OF THE WEEK - MODERN CHINESE POETRY ACTIVITIES

Please feel free to download a few poems to get you started.

   

Traditional Chinese version Simplified Chinese version

Act Out the Poem (age 3+, single or multi person)

 WHAT YOU NEED 

Modern Chinese poems or nursery rhymes for reference

 HOW TO PLAY 

1. Read 2-3 poems a few times
2. Ask your child to choose a poem and try to act it out
3. See if the other kids can guess what poem it is from the actions alone

You can make this easier for younger children by having them choose to act out a line from the poem and have kids guess the line instead. The point is to get the kids moving and active and being silly.


Draw the Poem (age 3+, single or multi person)

 WHAT YOU NEED 

Blank paper
Drawing utensils (pens, crayons, paint, etc.)

 HOW TO PLAY 

1. Read and explain the poem
2. Ask if children have any questions
3. Ask them to draw how the poem makes them feel, or illustrate the story of the poem

Again, in this case, you can use nursery rhymes or silly poems. Those are much easier to capture their imaginations.

If your children are younger, it’s easier to have them draw what happens in the poem or something tangible and concrete.

For older children, you can have them draw a more abstract representation of the poem. For example, instead of what is happening in the poem, they can draw how this poem makes them feel, or how the narrator is feeling, or the ideas/themes of the poem.


Write Your Own Poem (age 5+, single or multi person)

Since modern poetry is mostly free form, it should be relatively easy in terms of concept. Application can be harder, as children may be reluctant to try.

For our purpose, you can remind kids that poetry is meant to inspire, provoke, and instill beauty (even if it’s beauty in common, everyday things).

 WHAT YOU NEED 

Paper and pencil/pen

 HOW TO PLAY 

1. Choose a subject or topic
2. Start off the poem with a line you create or copy from a nursery rhyme
3. Ask a child to say/write the next line
4. Continue through each child and then read aloud

If your children are younger, you can write most of a poem and have them choose the rhyming words - or in this case, the words don’t even have to rhyme. It’s okay if the words don’t make sense.

The point of the activity is to get the kids’ creativity going and get them used to the idea of describing a subject or object or anything in a poetic manner.

Alternatively, you can have your kids write a poem by themselves about a given topic. Just remember to have appropriated expectations. The poems will most likely be terrible but that is okay!


We would love to hear your comments and see pictures of your kids doing the activities. Make sure you join our Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group and share with us!

TIP OF THE WEEK

Try lots of new things.

As people, we tend to be creatures of habit. When it comes to teaching our kids Chinese, these habits can be a good thing because it makes Chinese a routine part of our lives.

However, sometimes, that gets us in a rut and we get bored or only go for what we’re comfortable with. This usually results in our children not leveling up in vocabulary or exposure to different aspects of Chinese culture.

If you try new things – whether different teachers, activities, stories, YouTube channels, or subjects – your kids will learn new things and possibly even find new loves.

And if they end up not liking something, that’s okay! It’s all part of the process.

Have these tips been helpful? We’d love to hear from you in our Facebook Group and we hope to see you there.

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