Filling Your Bag of Tricks

Scarce.

That’s how I would define the lack of teaching resources for Chinese education at the junior high level. No one seems to think Chinese language learning can occur at the junior high school level. -__- This is the reason I’m blogging in the middle of my free period instead of grading papers. (Well, it’s my lunch period and I’m allowed a few mins of ‘me time’ by law.) I’m blogging b/c I get frustrated. I alone encompass the Chinese dept at my school. It’s got its pros and cons. Pros – no one looking over my shoulder. No one checking my curriculum. Not that my administration isnt helpful. They totally are! (Which is more than most teachers in NYC can say.) They just dont know what’s out there. They’re not the Chinese teachers, I am. So, I now touch the cons – I have to do the hunting. I have to contact publishers and wade thru website after website. I have to create my own teacher-made reproducibles. That is a lot tougher than it looks! Creating a worksheet which fits the needs of your kids is already hard, without having to throw in a language component. Not to mention that just to get American computers to type Chinese, I need to have my tech-admin log in first, then download the software (I highly recommend Google Pinyin), then log out, then re-log me in as a user, then add the language to my control panels, then go to Add… and find the Google Pinyin option written in Chinese all the way on the bottom of the list, add it, and finally start to use it! @__@ If you’re like me and you write only in Traditional Characters and like using Zhuyin more than Pinyin, then you’re really in trouble! >_< All this makes for a very frustrated Chinese teacher. I have no one to collaborate with.

Daunting.

That’s how I would describe the task of creating a fitting middle school currciulum that is language standards-based. (ACTFL standards are great!) And then creating a curriculum for each grade. I teach 6th, 7th and 8th. For all intents and purposes, even by 8th grade, they’re still at a beginner’s or Novice level in the language. It’s a matter of getting them to reach a certain level of fluency. First in listening, then in speech, then in reading, and finally in writing. Each will lag behind the other in proficiency. As a teacher, it’s extremely daunting to prioritize what to teach, even when you have a framework within which to operate. 

It is my blessing right now to be taking wknd grad classes at Hunter in Chinese teaching methodology. (Should I go for the whole Master’s program? Sigh.) My current prof is Wei-Ling Wu, the author of “Far East Chinese for Youth,” “Far East Everyday Chinese for Children” and a myriad of other workbooks, character books, teacher’s manuals, cd’s and curriculums. It’s wonderful! I love all the expertise and sympathy she brings to the table having navigated through this field for over 20 yrs. I know that with her I can fill my bag of tricks.

Filling Your Bag of Tricks

This is what teachers call getting all your materials, lessons, games, films, etc. together in order to always have something to teach – not just fill time! (Time fillers are ok occassionally, but EVERYTHING you do – esp games – should ALWAYS be educational.) Some of it has to do with classroom mgmt. (Teachers, you all know that everyday can be a crisis! 😛 ) But essentially, it’s got more to do with always having a trick up your sleeve to teach something better. I’m already using two suggestions that Prof Wu made in class these last 2 wks. Teachers – fill your bag of tricks!! Whether it’s worksheets, review games, brain teasers, sudoku, whatever! For language teachers, this is even more essential! Anything we can do to make language learning fun and exciting, esp one as difficult as Chinese, we have the obligation to do! After all, what the kids learn is a direct reflection on our ability as teachers. We may teach something, but they may not necessarily learn it. (Thank you, 吳老師!) 

This can get expensive. Esp if there are certain resources only to be found overseas. I’m constantly asking my friends that live in China and Taiwan to send me stuff. I almost feel the need to create a website where all these resources can be consolidated and used by other Chinese teachers. I’m a big internet person and I can never find what I’m looking for to help me teach all in one place. I always have 100 tabs open. It gets to be crazy. 😛 For now, I have to be content with what I have, which is actually a lot more than what I had last yr! 

So, that’s my rant for today. This is something I’m constantly dealing with – everyday, in fact. As Chinese becomes less an under-represented language taught in America, and more of a common language, I hope to find a lot more resources to help me become a better teacher.

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One comment on “Filling Your Bag of Tricks

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