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The sights and sounds of Chinese are also quite distinct from English. Students therefore are immersed as much as possible in the sounds and spoken words of Chinese, the meaning of which is made clear through participation in active listening and action-related talk, gestures, dramatisation and games. Students are introduced to common characters associated with routines and their immediate experience, and draw on explicit models to communicate.

Students socialise in structured situations and activities in the classroom and at school, with a focus on topics such as self, home, family, and daily routines. They begin to explore Chinese language and culture by participating in experiences such as celebrations; where relevant, they identify similarities and differences between Chinese culture and their own and other cultures.

Students engage with a variety of texts and text modes, including picture and caption books, songs, cartoons and movies.

From the Classroom: Working with Chinese ELLs

They hear the different sounds of Chinese in stimulus material such as stories read aloud, multimedia resources and internet sites. Learners are immersed in listening to, viewing and reading Chinese. They become aware of Chinese as an alternative code to English and that other languages exist within their own classroom, their country and overseas. They begin to recognise the importance of tone in Chinese speech and observe that the sounds of Chinese can be encoded in Pinyin using familiar letters. Students view characters through appropriate text types that may be glossed in Pinyin.

They learn to recognise characters that represent familiar objects and ideas and convey significant cultural meanings. Visual displays, gesture, and specific and concrete contextual clues are continuously used to support understanding. Learners will experiment with various software and technologies as communication tools. English is used by teachers and learners as appropriate for clarification, reflection, questioning and explanation, to support learners to comprehend and acquire Chinese.

They use the four tones of Chinese but not always with accuracy. Students use strategies such as imitation and basic contextual cues for comprehension. They create simple informative and imaginative texts by selecting and practising learnt characters and familiar words and phrases to describe, list, label and caption. Students recognise that Chinese is a major language in Australia. Many people believe that the Chinese are only good at numbers, and in schools, I heard so many negative stereotypes; learning a bit more about a culture and a community, however, can go a long way in fighting those stereotypes.

Most of my students are second-generation immigrants, but each year I may have some newcomers from China or Vietnam. The majority of them are from economically-disadvantaged families where both parents often work at a number of low-paying jobs for long hours. Often my students are in bed by the time their parents get home. The parents often know very little English or none at all, and usually the families do not go outside the confines of their ethnic communities.

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For many of these students, besides watching television, school is the only place where English learning and American culture acquisition take place. Yet even at school, the children they talk to and play with are mostly Chinese because they are in the bilingual program through third-grade.

Although Chinese parents cannot provide as much support in terms of time because of their busy work schedules, they value education very much. They hold teachers in high regard, and trust the teachers' opinions and decisions. For the most part, they will do everything they can to support the teachers and the school so that their children can fulfill the dreams that they themselves couldn't due to a lack of education and the inability to speak English.

Communication with parents in Chinese is crucial in order to keep them informed about their children's academic progress, their classroom behavior, and what they as parents can do to help their children to achieve success. At my school, once a week, parents get a school newsletter translated into Chinese sent home with the children, and everyone in our school office speaks Chinese. Our school provides bilingual paraprofessionals as well, and they act as interpreters at parent-teacher conferences.

For schools that don't have teachers that speak Chinese or other languages spoken by students and their families , it is imperative to use interpreters and to translate important school documents — otherwise parents will not be able to participate in their children's education at all. It is also helpful to remember that Chinese parents are typically shy. They feel embarrassed when they don't speak English.


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For example, parents are often willing to help on field trips — I usually have all the help I need and parents are even willing to take time off from work — but they are willing because they know they will be with other Chinese-speaking parents. If their child is in a non-bilingual class and all other parent helpers are speaking English, parents may think, "I will be embarrassed. Why should I go? I would recommend that ELL teachers who want to have increased parent involvement find a group of two or three parent volunteers who speak the same language so that they have someone to talk to on field trips — it will make a big difference.

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Another issue is that of fundraisers. It's hard for our families to contribute, but we always raise the money we need to raise. Many times, the issue is simply that parents don't know that money is being collected, and that it is used for their children's education. Communication is the key. At back-to-school night, I try to make parents aware that their children need to keep the home language alive even as they learn English.

I encourage parents to do whatever they can to make that possible. My students' parents usually think they cannot play a role in helping their children to learn English because they don't know English. I tell them that native language literacy skills can transfer to new languages, and I encourage them to read to their children in the language they feel comfortable with whenever they can.

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I also talk about how important Mandarin is. Cantonese is more common in San Francisco, but it is only spoken by people in Hong Kong and one province in China. There will be lots of opportunities for our young people because China is developing so fast, but those opportunities will be more available if they know Mandarin.

I encourage parents to speak Cantonese at home, and then find schools where their children can study Mandarin.


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In addition, I encourage parents to supervise what their children watch on television, and to watch news and other educational programs together because it is a good way for their children to learn English and build background knowledge. At the beginning of a school year, I give my students an informal survey to measure their interests and abilities. Over the years, I have consistently identified math as the subject my Chinese students are best at and most interested in when they first enter third grade.

Since math is often their strongest subject, I use it as a stepping stone for instruction and accelerate instruction in the beginning of the school year. The other advantages of this strategy are that my students love solving challenging problems, and it's an area where parents can provide immediate support at home.

First, we read math word problems; I demonstrate the logical thinking process while translating words into pictures and, finally, into number sentences.

2. Teaching Numbers Through Students’ Birthdays, Ages and Holidays

Soon, they start to explain their own thinking after reading complicated word problems that involve several steps. They correct each other, and argue about which number sentences they should use to arrive at the correct final results. As they sharpen their math skills, I capitalize on their enthusiasm to teach them how to extract the most important information from texts, and move them toward the oral and reading fluency they need to understand and discuss more challenging texts. When new immigrant students arrive, math is the usually subject with which they have at least some prior knowledge.

Besides giving them extra support in phonics, encoding and decoding, and exposing them to the basics of sentence structure and grammar through daily language spiral review, this is another way I introduce them to academic English. From learning math, they pick up frequently used words and phrases and learn how to understand questions posed in English.

They also start to acquire a "language feeling" automaticity in English that will later help them understand other content-knowledge science, social studies et al.

Learn Chinese in 3 easy steps: Numbers 1-10, yī dào shí, 一到十, English - Pinyin - Chinese Characters

While it is challenging to bridge cultural and language gaps, the effort is necessary — our students' success depends on our ability to help them and their parents make those transitions. If your school is serving a community whose customs and cultural expectations regarding education seem to differ from yours or those of the school staff, talk with your principal about the possibility of working with liaisons who can offer staff training and provide you with the tools you need to communicate effectively and include all families in the school's activities.

Not only will your students and their parents appreciate the effort, but it may go a long way in bringing the family together around the children's education — a goal we all share. With generous support provided by the National Education Association. I have several Chinese students as ELLs. This article has helped me greatly in understanding why I am having difficulty in overcoming some language patterns with them.

I have been asked to teach a year old boy English.