Implementing National Standards in Mandarin Classrooms

Hi laoshi men! Today I audited a mandarin class for non-heritage, early-elementary school kids in California. It reminds me of my work with ACTFL standards for foreign languages, a.k.a the 5Cs. When I worked with standards and correlated multiple series of materials with them, I didn't realize how actually they can be implemented into our mandarin classrooms. Today I finally had the chance to experience this great implementation. Since the initial goal of learning a language is to communication, which is the first C of the national standards, I'll start from how students gain communication skills in class. Students learn interpersonal communication from the moment they step into the classroom and see the teachers. By greeting each other or asking/answering questions, students get a chance to interact with the teacher and peers, and to see how amazing it is to learn Chinese when they can build relationship with others via interpersonal communications. Therefore, it's really important for teachers to keep students interacting with each other in various ways. To facilitate interpersonal communication, students need to expand their vocabulary. It's critical for them to really understand the words they are saying, or to find out a way to say the word that they need in their conversations. Today in the class, I observed that when the teacher taught students colors, she used different methods to make sure that students understood the colors. The way one can that is to see whether students can interpret the words. For example, if the teachers says "Please raise your hand if your shirt is RED (红色)", or "Tell me in Chinese: what color is this (pointing at something red)" and students got it right, it means that students understood the term. When students gain some interpersonal communication experience and are able to interpret some words and phrases, they are likely to present themselves and express their opinions. To gain their presentational skills, it's good to have mini presentation sessions. For early-age students, the "presentation" can even be as short as several sentence. The point is only to help students speak out some sentences in Chinese while others are listening. Teachers can prepare little rewards for these mini sessions. In all, interpersonal, interpretational and presentational skills are critical for students to communicate in mandarin and in other languages. Teachers can design various activities to help students gain these skills. What do you do in your classroom to help students communicate better? Come share with us by posting. =)


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