By Heather Clydesdale
To Grow Good Writers,
Feed Them Great Literature
How can learning Chinese help American students become adept writers? The question is simple, but startling.
Discussions in the field of teaching Chinese as a foreign language tend to focus on challenges presented by the language itself: thousands of characters, syntax that has no counterpart in English, and tones. These are fundamental, and new research and applications for addressing them are both needed and appreciated, but it is invigorating to hear from professionals who mark an ambitious target beyond language acquisition. At the 2013 National Chinese Language Conference in Boston, three experts from Cambridge Public Schools in Massachusetts essentially reached for the stratosphere, presenting strategies to help students use Chinese to practice and develop the craft of writing.
“Children are such natural storytellers,” explains Vivian Tam, previously the FLAP Chinese immersion project coordinator at Cambridge Public Schools, and now principal of Jing Mei Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington. “They want to tell you in their drawing and their writing.” Tam and her colleagues, Szu-Ming Li and Kai Tan, who both teach in the Chinese Immersion Program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. School, have successfully applied mentor texts and the study of authors to guide kindergarten and first-grade students in becoming writers.
and access resources for teaching with mentor texts!