Go Real: Creating Authentic Learning Experiences for K–12 Chinese Language Learners
Reflections from the 8th annual Chinese Language Teachers Institute
Following are reflections on the 8th annual TI by Chinese language teachers from around the country.
A Unique, Inspiring Workshop
By Xi Sun, from Jingmei Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington
Among countless language conferences and workshops across the country, Asia Society’s Chinese Language Teachers Institute (TI) is my favorite one. Though not the most famous, nor the largest, TI brings unique value to the participants that no other conferences could do.
The participant-centered workshop mode brings maximum value to us, the participants. Firstly, the workshop discussions are around a theme that is selected to help teacher participants improve in the most important area in their day-to-day planning and teaching. The group of teaching fellows and the TI leader, Dr. Wei-ling Wu, carefully observed past TIs and figured out these areas from the discussions of participants. For example, this year’s theme was “Go Real: Creating Authentic Learning Experiences for K–12 Chinese Language Learners”—which is among the most important teaching philosophies and tools every teacher should be familiar with. Secondly, the workshop is designed based on the “teach/practice/use” model. At TI, we are all students learning together and TI uses the same approach to guide participants. TI always starts with lectures led by Dr. Wu, who explains theories in simple language. After that, the teaching fellows share their best practices. Then participants work in groups to brainstorm and discuss ideas that puts theories into practice. The participant-centered discussions guided by teacher fellows guarantees the internalization of the methodologies.
What’s more, TI is inspiring. If you want to be a better teacher but don’t know how, TI will help you diagnose your problems and help you practice the solutions. The most exciting part of TI is the discussion session. Teachers would not stop sharing and discussing even when the session has ended! Everyone was so excited about the methodologies they mastered in two days. There is nowhere else you can experience these. We are a troop learning like sponges, all together.
Another highlight of TI is the master teacher Dr. Wei-ling Wu. I got to know her when I was a student at New York University years ago. Dr. Wu has the magic that makes all the teaching theories and approaches so easy to understand. She is such an experienced teacher, and her teaching philosophy stays on the cutting edge of this area. She is like a superstar in the Chinese language teaching field. If she gets to lead any professional development opportunity, surely it will be awesome! And after attending TI for the first time, I knew I was addicted and would love to attend every year. It is really a hit.
Last, but not least, TI always prepares a special experience for participants. This year, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art! It is a completely different experience after the lectures about authenticity. We explored the museum from the perspective of a Chinese language educator. Discussions on what we can bring back to the classrooms are really inspiring and insightful.
Always Teach "For Real," and Try to Relate to Your Students
By Hui Chen, from Oneida-Herkimer-Madison Boces in Utica, NY
This was my first time attending Asia Society’s Teachers Institute. Compared with other conferences I have been to, this conference impressed me in several unique ways: very informative and intensive, well organized, a small learning cohort of teachers with more interactions, and a field trip experience to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I not only enjoyed meeting Chinese teachers from all over the U.S., but also noticed growth professionally as a high school teacher who works hard to help bridge the understanding and communication between China and the United States.
The most important message I took from this TI is to always teach for real, and to relate to our students. Relating to the students is the glue that links how we are supporting students to explore and construct in real world contexts.
When we feel frustrated that students cannot remember Chinese holidays and food, why not allow them to experience it? Why not bring them to Chinatown? Why not let them have a Chinese holiday party? Why not work with them to make Chinese dishes? When we feel it’s difficult to explain Chinese folklore, why not design a role play for students to better understand the main characters, plots, and meanings of the text? Why not let students share the folklore they know well and explore the connections together? Chinese language and culture won’t be appealing unless the learners are finding some connections with them.
Making Connections between China and Students' Lives
By Junrui Garcia, from Sharpstown International School in Houston, Texas
After a series of systematic PD training, the Asia Society Teachers Institute has led nationwide Chinese teachers to 2018’s topic: “Go Real: Creating Authentic Learning Experiences for K–12 Chinese Language Learners.” This topic is inspiring to every teacher who would consider her or his job is not only to teach students Chinese language, but also guide them to understand Chinese culture, and motivate and inspire them to make connections between China and their own lives.
In the TI training, Dr. Wu’s instruction first defined the concept of “Go Real,” which can lead students to authentic learning in the Chinese language classroom. Second, Dr. Wu introduced the three principles, i.e. real-word contexts, relevant to students, and real-world applications to plan and process “Go Real” class activities. Third, we were guided to analyze some class activities that were or were not “Going Real.” Following Dr. Wu’s instruction, seven well-experienced teachers and an administrator shared their wonderful cases about how to facilitate students toward authentic Chinese learning.
Another part of the 2018 TI that I loved was visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with an assignment of selecting some of the Chinese arts and brainstorm activities which will lead students to authentic learning.My colleagues and I are excited not just to share but also to start “Go Real” practice in our classrooms.