Chinese Curriculum Design: Live and Learn - 学无止境


  As more and more Chinese teachers become homeroom teachers, our responsibility has shifted from just teaching the language to cultivating a well-rounded student in a second language. As a result, what kind of challenges do we teachers face in curriculum design? How do we overcome them? 1. Challenges in Chinese Curriculum Design The challenges Chinese teachers face nowadays around 1) what materials to use especially for immersion environments, 2) establishing a positive learning environment in students’ second language acquisition, and 3) creating a sustainable program. Material selection is often a long process that involved reviewing multiple resources and creating a comprehensive program. Since foreign language classes are small and the duration is often limited, teachers need to think through how to design the curriculum to provide adequate opportunities outside the classroom for language practice. In addition, Chinese is a tough language to acquire. Therefore, how do you design the curriculum to keep students engaged in learning Chinese. 2. How to Conquer the Challenges? Backward Design Currently the most popular and widespread instructional methodology for curriculum design and planning is Backward Design. It is an easy 1-2-3 step to curriculum planning. 1) It requires the teacher to plan with the end in mind, and to start from identifying the goals (Enduring Understanding/Big ideas) and Essential Questions or instruction through the use of national standards, and 2) Decide how you will assess and measure student learning outcomes based on the goals and standards previously established, and 3) develop thematic units and/or learning experiences accordingly.  For example, teachers can plan thematic science units and develop Essential Questions and lines of inquiry through the use of Next Generation Science Standards. A scientific process known as 1-LS1-1 uses materials to design a solution to human problems by mimicking how plants and/or animals and use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.
If I were to design a unit based on this. My central idea might be how humans solve problems by mimicking plants. The summative assessment could be a short play about one example of the central idea. Those examples could be designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants. Once the assessment is in place, I would start to map out the unit and decide learning objectives for each week. Teachers also have to consider students’ interests and classroom management before planning any class activities. For example, if I were to design a game to reinforce the words 走 (zǒu, "walk") and 跑 (pǎo, “run”). The first idea that comes to my mind would be for students do the actions as I direct them with 走 and 跑. Young students enjoy the Total Physical Response (TPR) approach since they enjoy moving around. However, before I actually use this activity in my lesson, I also need to consider classroom management. I spend time thinking about what could go wrong if some students run too fast or run into each other or make it into a competition. After thinking about the potential scenarios, I might think of some basic rules or change the game to have the students run in place when I say 跑. Professional Development In order to better help students develop both academically and mentally, I often find myself discussing thoughts with other teachers and seeking chances to observe other classes. Apart from that, I would find time to read books related to different kinds of hands-on activities and classroom management strategies. I’ve also tended professional development like Responsive Classroom and Startalk. Other great opportunities include the Curriculum Design training in Chinese or English from Better Chinese. I think summer is a great time for teachers to grow in order to thrill the next school year.

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