HSE Students Learn Chinese (video)
A typical day in First Grade at New Britton Elementary School is not so typical these days, after all. That’s because along with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, these kids are learning Chinese!
The Hamilton Southeastern School District was selected as one of the districts to study Mandarin Chinese by the Department of Education this year. A one-year Taiwan Teacher Exchange Program was set up, and Instructor Chia-fang “Joey” Tsai (pictured here) arrived to start the pilot program at New Britton, Fishers and Hoosier Road elementaries.
HSE Elementary Curriculum Director Dr. Flora Reichanadter wrote the program after her J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship sent her to China last summer to observe how Chinese teachers are trained to teach English.
There are about 120 students in six first-grade classrooms at New Britton Elementary learning Chinese. I stopped in one of the classrooms last month to get a first-hand look at how the students are doing.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/u_MuYB22cuE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]First Grade Teacher Carrie Hower says she thinks the exposure to Chinese is great for the kids, especially considering today’s business enviroment. Students enjoy the class, but Chinese is a difficult language to learn, she adds.
“They usually speak the language, and they also do a great job of reading most of the words, but writing Chinese is too difficult for most of them right now,” explains Hower, who says she hopes her students will be able to continue learning the language in second grade.
Whether they will be able to continue the Chinese language program is the big question. Principal Michael Zahm says the school is looking for feedback on the program.
“Teachers, parents and students were recently surveyed regarding their experience with the Chinese language instruction program this year and their thoughts for its continuation,” said Zahm. “The information from the survey will be shared with the Hamilton Southeastern School Board, and they will then make a decision regarding the future of the program sometime this month (May).”
On my visit to the classroom, I heard kids saying the words for family members (brother, sister, mom, dad, etc.) and counting in Chinese.
Tsai says the kids seem eager to learn but cannot be expected to learn the language as quickly as Chinese children learn English.
“The difference is,” she explains, “Chinese students spend a lot more hours a week on English than these kids spend on Chinese.”