Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Abby Collier

Mentor: Anna Zhao


Title: Chinese Radical Flash Cards

Description: Despite the fact that I had been studying Chinese all of my life, it was not until this summer that I realized how many aspects of the language I had not covered. Astounded that such basic and interesting parts of the language were left out of my education, I decided to design and produce a set of flash cards to aid children in learning Chinese. As Chinese characters were originally derived from pictures, my goal was to depict this by superimposing characters on top of digital photographs of their meanings.


Flash Cards

bamboo, bambooback, big, bigback, boat, boatback, bristle, bristleback, child, childback, claw, clawback, cliff, cliffback, dog, dogback, door, doorback, dot, dotback, downbox copy, downboxback, ear, earback, eye, eyeback, feather, featherback, field, fieldback, fire, fireback, gate, gateback, grass, grassback, hook, hookback, ice, iceback, knife, knifeback, legs, legsback, lid, lidback, line, lineback, mountain, mountainback, net, netback, one, oneback, openbox, openboxback, over, overback, person, personback, power, powerback, rain, rainback, rice, riceback, rightopenbox, rightopenboxback, river, riverback, roof, roofback, second, secondback, shortthread, shortthreadback, slash, slashback, small, smallback, snout, snoutback, speech, speechback, spoon, spoonback, step, stepback, sun, sunback, table, tableback, ten, tenback, three, threeback, two, twoback, twohands, twohandsback, water, waterback, work, workback

PowerPoint Presentation


I decided I wanted to make a lot of these said parts of the language more well known in Chinese language learning. Especially since I find that many Chinese language students are often left frustrated with their studies. With these goals in mind I had many directions I could take. I wanted to dive deeper into the culture and language, help others do that, but also do it in a different and engaging way.

I grew up learning characters the same way Chinese students generally learn; through repetition. I think this is why many Chinese language learners are discouraged; because they donÕt understand what they are really writing. This is where radicals and pictographs come into play. I love Chinese characters because they are like puzzles, and I wanted others to see that. Chinese characters arenÕt simply strokes and lines; they represent pictures and ideas.

The 214 radicals, or root words, are like Latin roots. Each part of the character hints at both the sound and the meaning of it. So I knew I wanted to do Chinese, and I knew I wanted to visually show the relationship between characters and their meanings, but I didnÕt know exactly how I wanted to do it. Mark Foard showed me a childrenÕs book by an author named Christophe Niemann, who had done exactly what I wanted to do. This inspired me to also write a book. However, as I began thinking of story lines and characters, I began to like the idea less and less.

After reading many books about writing for children, I realized that a book wasnÕt such a great idea for two reasons. The first was that 6 months is not enough time to produce a good book, and secondly I did not have a good, new, idea. I didnÕt want to force either of these. There are plenty of Chinese childrenÕs books, and I wanted to do something that had not been done before. Visiting China was a huge turning point in my project.

I visited my old school in Beijing and sat in on many classes. I also met with friends who were native speakers, and was able to make sure the idea made sense. I saw that flashcards, my favorite way to study, were extremely effective and engaging. ThatÕs when I decided to do flashcards. I looked on the Internet, and in bookstores everywhere from China, to China town, to the U.S., but couldnÕt find radical flashcards that directly associated the character with its meaning, especially through photography. This is when I knew my idea was perfect.

This leads to my challenges. With the knowledge I now have, if I were to do my project again, I am confident I could do it in a fraction of the time. The five step process including research, developing an idea, taking pictures, formatting cards, and finally printing the cards, held many hidden challenges. The first challenge was picking an idea. Generally I allow my ideas to come naturally, so forcing an idea was not an easy or short process. Researching was also a long process as I picked a topic I was very interested in, and was constantly going off on research tangents.

As for taking the pictures, it took about fifty pictures until I found one I liked. The picture had to be the right size, have the right lighting, the right angle, and look professional and clean. This was especially hard as I had never done any sort of photography before.

As for formatting, I ended up reformatting all 53 cards at least six times each. The format not only had to fit my aesthetic expectations, but also the computer of the printer. It took over forty emails, and four trips to the printer to finally format them right. Then I had to learn the printing process, and print the cards using InDesign; an application I was unfamiliar with. However, I acquired many skills and knowledge. The most important being that with all these obstacles, and frustrations, I ended the project without tiring from Chinese.

Works Consulted

"Artistic Child Photography in West Linn :: Portland Child Photographer." Portland Children's Portrait Photographer newborn child baby maternity Oregon. Web. Nov. & dec. 2009. <>.

Bolton, Lesley. Everything guide to writing children's books from cultivating an idea to finding the right publisher, all you need to launch a successful career. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2003. Print.

"Geography Site: Coasts - Cliffs." The Geography Site: coursework,teaching,lessons,information -. Web. Nov. & dec. 2009. <>.

Lee, Huy Youn. At the Beach. New York: Henry Holt and (BYR), 1998. Print.

"List of Chinese Radicals (Bushou)." YellowBridge Chinese-American Guide. Web. Nov. & dec. 2009. <>.

"List of Chinese Radicals (Bushou)." YellowBridge Chinese-American Guide. Web. Nov. & dec. 2009. <>.

"Migrating mountains." Inkycircus. Web. Nov. & dec. 2009. <>.

Niemann, Christoph. The Pet Dragon. New York: Greenwillow, 2008. Print.

Peng, Tan Huay. Fun with Chinese Characters 1 (Straits Times Collection Vol. 1). New York: Infini, 2004. Print.

Shepard, Aaron. Business of writing for children an award-winning author's tips on how to write, sell, and promote your children's books. Los Angeles: Shepard Publications, 2000. Print.

"Vista Wallpaper Water Droplets." Windows Vista Wallpapers. Web. Nov. & dec. 2009. <>.


Community Member (Details)

Du Hang

Professor of Chinese at Middlebury College Middlebury, Vermont