Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Foreign Languages K–12

A Library of Classroom Practices

Chinese: Communicating About Sports
Class Context
- Jie Gao

It's very helpful, I think, being a second-language learner myself. You know the process. You know what frustration you have to go through. I tell my students, "Listen to me. This is my English. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. I went through exactly what you go through right now." So I tell them, "If you don't make a mistake, you don't learn. You learn from mistakes."

- Jie Gao

Year at a Glance
Basic Greetings
Classroom Objects
Family Members
Animals; Likes and Dislikes
Countries and People
Body Parts

School Profile
Jie Gao teaches sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade Mandarin Chinese at the Bigelow Middle School in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The school has a diverse student body from the neighborhoods of Newton as well as from the METCO program, a city-to-suburb educational desegregation project. Bigelow is also the home of the citywide Chinese and Spanish bilingual programs. All Bigelow students study a world language.

Lesson Design
The Newton World Languages Department determines the curriculum for the two middle schools that offer Chinese. The curriculum was designed based on the Standards, the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, and Newton's Benchmarks (see Resources). Within this curriculum, Ms. Gao developed her own lessons and shared them with the other middle school Chinese teacher. Both teachers now teach very similar content, although they use different teaching methods and activities.

The Lesson
In the videotaped lesson, Ms. Gao used Total Physical Response (TPR) to introduce new sports vocabulary. She believes that students learn the words very quickly when they can observe and then imitate the actions that represent these words. "I'm sometimes like a maniac," she jokes. "I jump from one end [of the room] to the other. And with my hand gestures and facial expressions, [students] will say, 'She likes this' or 'She hates that.'" Ms. Gao informally assesses her students during TPR activities. First she acts out a sport and observes how many students are able to name the sport. Then she observes her students' listening comprehension by reversing the activity: She names a sport and then watches as her students act it out. If students are having difficulty identifying the sport during either activity, Ms. Gao knows that more instruction and modeling are needed before the class can move on.

Key Teaching Strategies
  • Challenging Native Speakers: The teacher adapts instruction for native speakers so that they pursue tasks that recognize and build upon their competencies in the target language while their peers do more basic work.
  • Preparing for Communication: The teacher provides opportunities for students to express their ideas or feelings in the context of the language structure and/or content being learned.
  • Role-Playing : Role-playing is an activity in which students dramatize characters or pretend that they are in new locations or situations. It may or may not have a cultural element. This activity challenges students by having them use language in new contexts.

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