TNCS Preprimary Workshop, Fall 2018

If you were unable to join the Fall Preprimary Workshop or if you are interested in learning more about the preprimary language immersion program at The New Century School, this blog post is for you!

Head of Lower School/Dean of Students Alicia Danyali describes the program in this overview:

Our youngest students at TNCS are immersed in Mandarin or Spanish all day by native-speaking educators who are passionate about sharing their language and culture. In the preprimary program, the child is the curriculum. The classroom offers an environment that includes a balance of structure, play, and social development.  Students are given daily opportunities to use their imaginations to create with age-appropriate materials as well as to strengthen their fine and gross motor skills.  Milestones, such as “toileting readiness” are supported throughout the school year.  Partnership with families is critical at this stage in development.

Preprimary Focus

The key point here is that language is the program focus and is hands down what sets the TNCS preprimary program apart from other preschools. But let’s back up a step—why is learning a second language important at an age when most children are still learning a first, in the first place? Language acquisition actually remodels the brain in ways that ultimately improve cognitive function. This article describes how language-learning supports brain function: Why Multilingual People Have Healthier, More Engaged Brains. You’ll see how this flows naturally in to the primary curriculum and how intentional is the interplay between the two divisions.

And now, on to the business at hand. “The workshop went really well,” said Ms. Danyali, ” and we had about 30 families in attendance.” She led the presentation and discussion with support from the three preprimary teachers: Donghui Song (“Song Laoshi”), Laura Noletto (“Sra. Lala”), and Elizabeth Salas-Viaux (“Sra. Salas”). Each teacher additionally has two or three assistants and one floating assistant. She first explained what TNCS does have in common with other preschools: “Your child will still get circle time, nap, playtime, snacks . . . but the format will be in the target language.” She also explained the importance of parents sharing enthusiasm for the program and for the child’s experience in it. “If you’re enthusiastic; they’ll be enthusiastic,” she said.

Another important message she wanted parents to come away with is to not expect your child to be speaking fluently on a timetable. They will develop at their own rate, as appropriate, and quantifying their language-learning is not the point at this stage—it’s brain development. “If they are responding appropriately to instructions, they are demonstrating comprehension, and, not only is the first step in learning, but this also transfers beautifully into the primary Montessori program, which focuses on ‘the absorbent mind’ and the taking of the next step—how you apply what you’ve learned.” (The focus of the primary program is on gaining independence: how teachers can encourage independence and what it looks like at school and at home.) Teachers know when a child is ready to transition to the primary program when he or she can demonstrate the ability to focus for brief periods. Back to that notion of interplay between the two curricula mentioned above, one of the ways that multilingualism reshapes the brain is to equip it resist distraction (read more on how in the article linked above).

Making the Transition to Primary

The Spring Preprimary Workshop will delve into this topic as well, but the moment your child enters the preprimary classroom, teachers begin the process of readying them for their next steps. They learn about structure and the rhythm of the day, for one thing. They learn how to participate in a community, even if they are still nonverbal. “Creating those boundaries throughout the day provides young children a sense of security and a sense of what comes next,” said Ms. Danyali. Once they feel secure, their confidence grows; from there, the desire to branch out and take (healthy) risks is possible, and that’s how true learning happens.

There are different milestones that students should have attained, such as toileting, but there are other aspects as well. Importantly, they will learn so much from making and subsequently correcting mistakes. (The “self-correcting” nature of the Montessori method will be covered in an upcoming post on the Fall Primary Workshop.) Thus, they have to demonstrate a willingness to take some risks, meaning to show the beginnings of what will blossom into independence.

The primary classroom is partial immersion in addition to following the Montessori method. Language-learning is still very much in evidence, but the goals for the primary program are on developing the ability to sustain focus. The ratio of teacher to student grows a bit wider, too, from 1:6 in preprimary to 1:10 in primary.

How Can You Support the Language Experience?

Whether you speak more than one language or not, you can readily incorporate language and model your support: Express your “likes” about the language environment they are experiencing, and avoid having expectations that student will speak immediately in the target language. “Know that the environment will support your child, and the learning will happen organically,” said Ms. Danyali. To facilitate your ability to engage in some of the activities below, use the resources (see bulleted list) to reinforce vocabulary your student is learning in class. Also, says Ms. Danyali, “The preprimary teachers make it really easy to extend learning at home by outlining what books they have been reading in class and what songs they have been singing as well as tips and suggestions in their weekly communications.” Here are some activities you can try:

  1. Play music in the language at home or in the car; combine with dancing.
  2. Experience the culture by exploring its holidays, food, and traditions.
  3. Watch short (2–3 minutes), age-appropriate videos in the language.
  4. Read story/picture books, especially about relevant topics for the age group (e.g., identifying feelings, understanding social settings).
  5. Play games and role-play with puppets in the language.

Books, Websites, and Resources for Your Family’s Language Journey

Finally, Ms. Danyali feels it extremely important to help dispel the pervasive myths about bi- and multilingualism. These “fast facts” are taken from The Bilingual Edge.

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Closing out the preprimary workshop, Ms. Danyali said, “On behalf of TNCS’s preprimary team, we look forward to continuing the immersion discussion and your continued partnership.” A preprimary Observation Day will be scheduled for spring 2019 to give you the chance to see all of this beautiful learning taking place in your 2- and 3-year-olds!

MD Secretary of State Visits TNCS!

On Wednesday, October 17th, The New Century School welcomed some very illustrious guests. Maryland’s Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, Director of International Affairs Mary E. Nitsch, and intern Rosanna Mantova (Intern, International Division, Maryland Office of the Secretary of State) visited the TNCS campus to see the Mandarin Chinese program firsthand. Secretary Wobensmith met TNCS Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director Roberta Faux earlier this year, who told him about TNCS. Based on her description of how Mandarin Chinese is taught at TNCS, he was eager to see it for himself. As part of the Maryland Sister States Program, Secretary Wobensmith and his team find ways to promote the connection between Maryland and Anhui Province of China, and education is a key area.

Ms. Nitsch explains:

Anhui Province, China, is one of 20 Sister States that Maryland has around the world. It is also the state’s oldest Sister State partnership, having been established in 1980. The program was established to provide a forum for the promotion of international cooperation and understanding. Through broad-based citizen participation in a wide variety of exchanges in areas of mutual interest, like education, arts, and culture, and economic development, the Sister States Program offers countless opportunities to develop partnerships around the world.

Mandarin Chinese Program at TNCS

It was easy to showcase TNCS’s program, owing to the amazing teachers and students who participate. The members of the Office were met at reception by Ms. Faux, TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan, TNCS Dean of Students Alicia Danyali, and staff member Monica Li. After a brief welcome, the group began a tour of the school, starting from the ground up with Donghui Song’s preprimary classroom of 2- and 3-year-old students. Song Laoshi’s class is immersive; students are spoken to in Mandarin Chinese throughout the day. They are expected to understand and respond with the appropriate action to instructions given in Mandarin—and they do so beautifully. Not long after entering the classroom for the first time, they begin speaking a few words and singing songs.

The group next visited Lisa Reynolds’ primary classroom on the second floor. At ages 3 through 5 years, primary students are no longer in an immersion environment but are taught both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish (in addition to the Montessori curriculum representative of the primary program) and have native-speaking assistant teachers rotating through the classrooms and conversing with and instructing students in their native languages. At these ages, students are not just responding to instructions but are rapidly increasing their verbal skills. They demonstrate perfect intonation and pronunciation. They begin to recognize Chinese characters.

They charmed the visitors, saying “hello” and “welcome” in Mandarin.

Hope to see you again!

The group continued their climb through building south, headed next to Pei Ge’s kindergarten/1st-grade classroom on the third floor. The members of the Office of Secretary of State were very impressed by what they witnessed here. The entire classroom was bubbling with eagerness, a testament to Ge Laoshi’s teaching skills, and their Mandarin is nothing short of amazing.

Throughout the tour, Ms. Faux explained details about the school and its approach. “It’s less about being a linguist,” she said, “and really more about becoming a global citizen.” Thus, culture is an important emphasis and taught alongside the target language. So the visitors could get the full picture, the group also visited Barbara Sanchez’s 2nd-/3rd-grade Spanish classroom. These students also learn Mandarin, but, at the mid-to-upper elementary level, core subjects are partially taught in the target language, so, in addition to Spanish Language Arts, Sra. Sanchez integrates Spanish into her Math and Global Studies lessons.

Ms. Faux gave a quick powerpoint overview of the school, including the background, history, and overall ethos, and then the group finished up their classroom tour in Wei Li’s middle school lesson. Li Laoshi led the 6th- through 8th-graders in a conversation in Mandarin, then had them write sentences using Chinese characters and finish by making a presentation.

The group wrapped up the tour in TNCS’s beautiful Union Box space inside building North, which provided a chance to talk about the history of St. Stanislaus Cathedral and the Mother Seton Academy, and how they became part of TNCS’s campus.

Said Ms. Nitsch in a follow-up email: “One of the nicest parts of my job is having the opportunity to personally experience so many of the wonderful international programs and projects that are taking place around the state. As a former ESL teacher, I truly appreciate how important multilingualism and multiculturalism are to our state and country’s future success. And, as a Baltimore resident, it’s inspiring to know we have such wonderful resources like TNCS here in the city.”

For his part, Secretary Wobensmith declared himself “totally smitten” with TNCS. “Your enterprise. . .  is a remarkable effort, and it struck me that you have done it exactly right in all aspects. Congratulations!” he said. When he asked Ms. Faux about the possibility of expanding to other locations, she thought for a moment and then replied, “We have built a very strong community here, and that might be hard to replicate somewhere else.” It’s true—that foundation of families, teachers, students, staff, and everyone else who is part of the TNCS community is integral to the school’s continued success.

The visit by the members of the Office of the Secretary of State will not soon be forgotten. TNCS will cherish the memory of this great honor!

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TNCS Annual Spanish Heritage Night Was Muy Divertido!

The New Century School hosted its third annual Spanish Heritage Night on Wednesday, October 17th, for the culmination of Spanish Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th through October 15th and celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Why does the 30-day span start in the middle of the month? That’s because September 15th is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16th and September 18th, respectively. Columbus Day (Día de la Raza) also falls within this period.

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This year was better than ever, with more songs, more performances, and more comida! The auditorium was beautifully decorated, and faculty and students worked super hard to put on a fabulous show, videos of which are below for your convenience! This year was special for a couple of other reasons as well. First, note that the students themselves emceed the show, first in Spanish and then translated into English. Secondly, scholarship recipients presented a heartfelt thank-you to school founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner, without whom none of this would have been possible. Speaking of folks who went above and beyond to make this all happen, Sra. Fabiola Sanzana, the TNCS community is so grateful for your commitment and effort—not to mention your beautiful singing and guitar playing! And thanks also need to go to Sra. Barbara Sanchez, who was Sra. Sanzana’s partner, as well as to all teachers, volunteers, families, and administrators, It was truly a wonderful occasion!

Performances started with a rousing entrance to the stage.

Next, a few elementary students introduced the evening.

Next, other students explained that the kindergarten and 1st-grade classes would be singing a medley of !Hola! (Hello!); Buenos Días (Good Morning); Buenos Días, Amigo (Good Morning, Friend); Hay Siete Días de la Semana (There Are Seven Days of the Week); Enero, Febrero (January, February); Había Una Vez un Barco Chiquito (Once Upon a Time There Was a Little Boat); Al Son de Crocodrilo (To the Rhythm of the Crocodile); Más Vale Dar que Recibir (It Is Better to Give than to Receive); and Habia un Sapo (There Was a Toad).

It was amazing—see for yourself!

A very moving speech followed by a middle schooler who described his experience at TNCS. It was beautifully written and expertly given.

Two students introduced the 2nd- and 3rd-graders who even sang a song from the movie Coco—-who didn’t love that movie?!

The first song was the lovely Verde Luz by Antonio Caban Vale from 1942 in Moca, Puerto Rico.

Poco Loco  from Coco came next.

Next, a reading of the poem Corazón Coraza was introduced first in Spanish . . .

. . . then in English.

And now, here’s the poem itself!

Next, the 4th- through 8th-graders were introduced very sweetly by one of the younger students.

They first sang the traditional Chilean folk song, Te Extraño Tanto.

The ever-popular Cielito Lindo followed.

A second poem was introduced, and a middle school student presented Hay Quién Precisa by Cuban songwriter and poet Silvio Rodriguez.

The audience was truly delighted when next a TNCS dad took the stage and absolutely nailed the popular Corazón Espinado by José Fernando Emilio Olvera Sierra.

Closing out this section, twin siblings presented “Interesting Facts about the Spanish Language.”

The entire elementary and middle school student body was introduced, and the grand finale was underway!

First they sang Que Canten los Niños by José Luis Perales from Spain. There are four great solos within!

Madre Tierra by Chayanne from Puerto Rico came next.

And finally, La Chica Ye Ye brought down the house.

Head of School Shara Khon Duncan closed the stage performances with a gracious thank-you to attendees for coming and for contributing to such a great evening.

!Gracias por leer!

TNCS Elementary and Middle School Students Get Moony!

On the last day of summer 2018, elementary and middle school students at The New Century School got a very special treat. In honor of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival coming up on Monday, September 24th, they spent Chinese class making the traditional Chinese “mooncake.”

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhōngqiū Jié [中秋节]) is a harvest festival, dating back many millennia as far as the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE). It is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, thus always on a full (harvest) moon. (Note that, although the day is always the same on the lunar calendar,  the date will vary on the Gregorian calendar used in the United States, corresponding to late September or early October.)

TNCS Lead Mandarin teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”) explained that making and sharing mooncakes is one of the most representative and best-loved traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival: “It is a time to be together with your family. We gather to watch the moon and eat special food,” she said.

<li>oll it out in a smooth circle.</li> <li>Add filling in the center of the flat dough circle.</li>  <li>Return to a ball shape, keeping the filling inside.</li> <li>Stamp with a special, symbolic pattern.</li>  <li>Steam for 30 minutes.</li> <li></li> 	<li>oll it out in a smooth circle.</li> 	<li>Add filling in the center of the flat dough circle.</li> 	<li>Return to a ball shape, keeping the filling inside.</li> 	<li>Stamp with a special, symbolic pattern.</li> 	<li>Steam for 30 minutes.</li>

Test run.

Her faithful assistant for the day’s cooking session, Qin (known to the TNCS community as “Monica”) Li gave a similar account:

On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the moon is especially round. A Chinese tradition is to bring mooncakes and sit outside with all the family. Together, they appreciate the round moon and eat mooncakes, which are also round. Circles represent union, so the round mooncakes symbolize family reunion. Most people in China get 3 days off so they have time to return home if they have been away on business. Since I cannot go to China on Monday, I’m going to make mooncakes and eat them with my friends.

Because a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion in Chinese culture, the mooncake tradition signifies the completeness and unity of the families who enjoy them together.

Making Mooncakes

There are many varieties of mooncakes, including baked or steamed and with all manner of sweet fillings and combinations. TNCS students made a steamed version using the following basic steps:

    1. Mix flour (wheat, rice, etc.) with water to make dough.
    2. Shape it into a ball.
    3. Place in foil and roll it out in a smooth circle.
    4. Add filling in the center of the flat dough circle.
    5. Return to a ball shape, keeping the filling inside.
    6. Stamp with a special, symbolic pattern (see photos below).
    7. Steam for 30 minutes.

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This video shows how Li Laoshi provides instructions in Mandarin, and students follow them easily. During activities such as this, in which students are absorbed mentally and physically (even through their senses), it all comes together, and their fluency increases by leaps and bounds. They comprehend without translating—they are thinking and doing in Mandarin.

Cultural Significance

Although cooking Chinese dishes—especially the ever-popular dumplings—is fairly common in TNCS Chinese class, this is the first time Li Laoshi has attempted mooncakes with her students. She explains why, this year, she felt it was the right time:

Recently, I was missing my family and felt homesick for China. But I have my students, I have my colleagues, I have my friends, so I feel so happy about that. That’s why I wanted to introduce it to students this year—we have all been enjoying ourselves and this special time together. It has been a lot of fun, and it’s a very meaningful experience.

Monica felt it was important also: “It’s a very special tradition in Chinese culture. I think kids should learn and explore the culture to better understand China.” The beautiful, traditional stamp patterns below indicate what the mooncake is filled with or what it represents.

Students and faculty alike enjoyed their red-bean-paste filled delicacies.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone!
中秋快乐!
Zhōngqiū kuàilè!

TNCS Hosts Chinese Teaching Interns, Summer 2018

To start off the 2018–2019 academic year, The New Century School hosted a group of 12 university students visiting from China to gain some intensive training in how to teach. In addition to sharing their talents and gaining insight into the American education system, they also wanted to experience what typical American daily life is like and were happy to be placed with host families to participate in cross-cultural immersion. Wenya Liu, Leisi Ye, Xiaohan Fang, Lihui Xie, Jianping Wu, Huizhu Gu, Bixia Wang, Yidong Fu, Buqing Sun, Ziyu Long, Qi Wang, and Xiao Ma, from Shanghai, China arrived at TNCS on August 22nd, and, although their visit was brief, they made a lasting impression on TNCS students.

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For their initial tasks, they assisted teachers with classroom setup and new-student orientations. TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”) was always on hand to provide guidance and help with acclimatization. In fact, she provided many of the photos in this post—xiè xiè (谢谢), Li Laoshi!

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When school began on August 27th, the interns supported TNCS teachers inside the classroom.

Toward the end of their 2-week program, they were given free reign during Chinese class to take over. The videos below show them instructing TNCS middle school students in some games—the Chinese charades was especially fun to watch!This is the second annual hands-on training program that TNCS has hosted for the start of the school year. Last year, a group of nine college sophomores and juniors majoring in teaching were the first group to have come out of this partnership with a Chinese organization and the University of MD. Other similar groups (interns, teachers, families, etc.) visit regularly throughout the year.

Working at the school is only part of their overall experience, however. Equally vital and enriching is what they do outside of the school day, and that’s where the host family comes in. One component of the TNCS identity is cultural exchange, so, multiple times throughout the year, TNCS families have the opportunity to be hosts to students and/or instructors.

Hosting exchange students is a wonderful way to engage the entire family in a cultural exchange, and these relationships can last a lifetime. For this particular program, hosting families received a per-student stipend to cover any associated expenses like food and travel. The interns partook in daily activities during regular school hours on and off site. Outside of school activities, host families provide any number of enjoyable excursions and recreation.

Veterans at hosting, TNCS families like the Eibs and others curate activities to give their guests authentic and meaningful experiences true to the setting. To provide a taste of Baltimore, for example, they took interns to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for some good old American baseball. For some good old American history, they traveled to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, to see actual the United States constitution, perhaps the single most important symbol of this country. (See TNCS Hosts Education Training Program for Chinese Interns! for more fun from last year.)

Said Mr. Eib:

We took our interns to Philadelphia to see Independence HalI; to Washington, D.C. to visit the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the National Gallery, the Washington & Lincoln Memorials, and to my favorite bookstore in the world (Kramer’s in DuPont Circle); and, in Baltimore, to see the Orioles take on the Yankees, the zoo and the Baltimore Museum of Art, to Hampden to experience a local neighborhood for dinner and bubble tea, to Great Wall Market to show them that we can actually get a few Chinese food items, and to Blue Pit Barbecue for a nice divey dining experience where (probably) no tourist has ever visited before.

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The big thing on every visitor’s mind, is, indeed, usually food. The best way to experience a new place is to sample its cuisine, and sample they did!

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September 5th was their last day at TNCS, and the closing ceremony, moderated by TNCS Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder Roberta Faux with assistance from TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li, was held in their honor. The group was awarded certificates earned for completing their training; they also gave and received speeches of gratitude that provide a peek inside what the interns’ days were like at TNCS as well as how valuable the experience was for the teachers they helped support, the students they interacted with, and for themselves. In the words of Yidong Fu, “it’s so wonderful to see what American school is like–it’s completely different from what we have in China! We have had an amazing experience!”

For TNCS, too, Fu Laoshi, the experience was unforgettable, having an incalculable impact on students’ cultural learning. You all will be missed! Until next time, zài jiàn 再见)!

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TNCS’s Annual Elementary and Middle School Back-to-School Night: Your Source for Need-to-Know Info for the 2018–2019 Academic Year!

Now that summer has unofficially ended, and school is back in full swing, The New Century School kicked off the 2018–2019 school year with its annual Back-to-School Night. The focus of the evening was to meet your student’s teachers and to present the student’s daily schedule, a curriculum overview, and school policies. In other words, students have had 2 weeks to acclimate—now it’s our turn!

As TNCS enters its 12th year, it’s worth noting how the school and its programs have expanded and grown to what they are today. Changes each year are inevitable, but TNCS has stayed true to its identity and has successfully weathered those changes, transforming would-be obstacles into opportunities and growing the student body to more than 200 children, 117 in the preschool and 88 in the elementary and middle schools.

An overview of tips and policies is given here, and specific documents can also be downloaded at the links provided at the end of this post as well as from the TNCS Parent Hub.

Welcome to Some Great New Enhancements!

The evening began in the gymnasium of building north with Head of School Shara Khon Duncan warmly welcoming parents, new and old: “It’s nice to see all of your faces again—welcome,” she began. She next introduced teachtncs-back-to-school-night-2017ers, who then returned to their classrooms to prepare for the group breakouts by division. Sra. Duncan then addressed the parent audience and presented some important school year expectations.

Just a few things before we get started—that you’ll probably hear the teachers reiterate because these things are really important. First arriving on time to school is very important for all of our students. It gets the day started right, it helps the students feel that they are coming in and ready to go. So, please, as much as possible, arrive on time. That includes preschool. We have to get them modeled right from the beginning. I know from experience how hard it is to get out of the house—I had two girls who did not want to cooperate, so I totally get it.

Next, be sure that when you pull up into the carline rectangles at drop-off and pick-up times that you are actually in the lines and not blocking the crosswalk, so that walkers can cross safely. Also do not walk anywhere but the crosswalk for everyone’s safety. Again, we’re trying to model as best we can what we want our children to do.

Another thing I’d like you to remember is that you have been sent the Parent Guide by Admissions Director Mrs. Sanchies, which is a fabulous resource that breaks down all the essential things you need to know—such as signing up for before and after care or school lunch, what happens when it snows, and so on—so please refer to that often. You also should have received the Family Handbook, so please take some time to look through it and sign the second page.

Yet another exciting new thing this year is that, in addition to receiving weekly emails from your child’s homeroom teacher with pertinent information about what’s going on in the classroom and what’s coming up, we’re moving toward implementing software called Sycamore that will allow teachers to have class web pages. This will be very easy to log in to and use to see class-related information. The weekly emails will be sent every Friday around 5; emails about specials will be sent every other week.

Finally, please remember that we are a nut-free school and are also committed to having a sugar-free environment. So when it comes time to celebrate birthdays, for example, please make sure that you talk to the teacher ahead of time and discuss what kind of treat might be appropriate.

With that, have a lovely evening and a great year!

Elementary and Middle School Breakouts

Once the initial introductions and welcome message concluded, parents moved on to spend time with their child’s teachers. This was the opportunity to learn about what the school day looks like, what the educational goals are for the year, and what the specific class-related expectations are of both parent and child. Upper Elementary and Middle School was jointly hosted by veteran Math and Science teacher Nameeta Sharma and veteran English language arts and Global Studies teacher Ilia Madrazo.

Ms. Madrazo handled many of the practical details, reminding families of the importance of being on time. Class begins promptly at 8:25 am with key information and planner assignments, all things you don’t want your child to miss. She promised parents that any questions or concerns about anything going on in the classroom would be responded to within 24 hours. She also went over the handout that enumerated class and school policies as well as gave a deeper dive into each subject’s curriculum. First up, the fun stuff!tncs-2018-2019-back-to-school-night

Specials

New art teacher Jia Liu will be profiled in an upcoming Immersed “Meet the Teacher” post, and art happens twice weekly. Students also have music taught by the illustrious Martellies Warren twice a week. Physical education now includes 1 day of teacher-led PE consisting of yoga, plus 1 day of regular coach-taught PE each week. Teacher’s Choice is also now considered a once-weekly special, and this 45-minute block can be used for exploring a topic students want to learn more about, an activity the class collectively would like to pursue, or anything different from the usual academics, explained Ms. Madrazo. This might even be making a fun visit to the Ozone Snack Bar!

Ozone Snack Bar

Speaking of “the ‘zone,” students can also visit the snack bar housed in the second-floor Union Box space of Building North, from 8:10 am–8:25 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings starting the week of September 10th. Teachers will have sent permission slips that allow parents to set a spending limit for their children as well as opt for cash payment or convenient billing through FACTS. Li Laoshi will supervise these morning visits.

Recess

New this year, students will be going outside every day, regardless of weather. “Rain, shine, snow,” said Ms. Madrazo, “whatever happens, we’re going out every day. We’re taking them to Thames Street Park currently, so they have plenty of space to run and have fun.”

Field Trips

At least four trips are planned this year (at least one per quarter). Parents–chaperoning field trips is a fantastic way to not only experience a fun trip with your child but also to rack up some of the obligatory 10 volunteer hours! This quarter, a trip to the Irvine Nature Center is scheduled (9/17). Next up, the ever-popular National Aquarium! Successive trips will be announced as they are confirmed.

Math

Ms. Sharma took over to explain the math curriculum. “We have four rotations,” she explained. “Students will work on the computer on Success Maker, in small groups playing math games, independently in their workbooks, and one on one with me.” The primary resource is Singapore math, which returning students are already very familiar with and probably worked with over the summer to stay in practice. Middle school students will use the Go Math curriculum. TNCS students may also once again opt in to participate in the Math Kangaroo competition in March—TNCS’s third annual!

English Language Arts

Ms. Madrazo took back over for ELA. “I had the pleasure of going to New York this summer,” she began, “to take training in teaching writing. We will continue using the Lucy Calkins writing curriculum.” (See State-of-the-Science Elementary Writing at TNCS for more on Calkins’ acclaimed approach.) “We will use ‘mentor texts’ that are great works of literature that help students figure out what was done really well that they can incorporate in their own writing. They write every day in class for 20 minutes. The biggest indicator of success in high school is the volume of writing they have already done. It is extremely important for them to be able to take notes, to write deep and long, and to develop ideas.”

ELA uses the Daily 5, which consists of: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, and Word Work.

Wordly Wise 3000 will once again be used for ELA homework. Wordly Wise 3000 focuses on improving students’ vocabulary by furthering their understanding of new words and concepts. By focusing on vocabulary development, students are able to read increasingly challenging texts with fluency and improve their chances for success in school and beyond. Additionally, spelling practice will also help improve student writing. (See more on ELA homework below.)

Science

The major science themes throughout the year that will guide learning and understanding will include Unit 1: Macrobiology and Genetics, Unit 2: Engineering, Unit 3: the Scientific Method (Science Fair), and Unit 4: Astronomy and Weather.

Interdisciplinary learning is a big part of TNCS’s approach, so ELA and world language reading will routinely relate to science and global studies units.

Global Studies

Global studies will comprise both United States history and World history. The Elementary and Middle School programs will focus on the same unit of study but will be differentiated based on grade level:

  • Quarter One, Ancient World Cultures with focus on India, Greece, and Rome
  • Quarter Two, World Cultures and Geography with focus on India and Africa
  • Quarter Three, Civics
  • Quarter Four, American History

Surprise! Ms. Madrazo plans to teach in and incorporate as much Spanish as possible here! (Reinforcement in English will always be available, but learning a subject in another language deepens language fluency exponentially.)

Spanish

Spanish learning will be taught through the use of different games, dances, and songs. I was born in Chile, and this is my third year as lead Spanish teacher,” said Sra. Sanzana. “Spanish class is a little bit of everything—grammar, culture, vocabulary, talking, reading, and listening,” she said. As in other subjects, teaching is differentiated. “I divide students into groups based on levels after making a differentiation plan for each child,” she explained. “Don’t be afraid of whatever comes; I will be here helping them.” Note that, as TNCS has evolved, Spanish class now happens daily, with Friday being reserved for fun and games in Spanish.

Spanish class will adopt a Daily 4: Read to self, read to each other, independent work in their folders, and work with the teacher. Reading comprehension will be a big emphasis. A big addition this year for students who are ready for it will be writing 100-word essays in Spanish. For everyone, learning by teaching will be introduced—the big kids get to read to their smaller compatriots in Spanish and work with them on vocabulary and so on. “They will become the teachers,” said Sra. Sanzana. “They will solve their own problems to do so, such as figuring out how to pronounce an unfamiliar word.” This idea was happily embraced by parents, who well know the benefits of this popular TNCS approach.

Mandarin

Li Laoshi believes Mandarin Chinese is best learned through pursuing various real-life activities that connect to what lesson is being taught. “I really believe that interest is the best teacher,” she explained, “so we cook, do calligraphy, go on trips, and other do other activities that the students really enjoy.” Project assessments are mainly performance based—in other words, she wants to see her students successfully using their Mandarin skills. Like Spanish, Mandarin class now happens daily.

Better Chinese will continue as our backbone curriculum as well as our Daily Four,” said Li Laoshi. In Daily Four, students are divided into small groups and use different levels of books according to their language proficiency. The students rotate among the four centers, which are meet with teacher, computer, reading, and games. “Friday will be the weekly Activity Day featuring various activities that integrate Chinese culture, such as calligraphy, Tai chi, Kung Fu, Chinese games, and cooking Chinese food,” she continued. “On Friday, September, 21st, we will make mooncakes in honor of China’s mid-Autumn Festival, and the students are very excited!”

Li Laoshi got big laughs when she suggested that parents allow themselves to be interviewed by their students as part of homework and thereby begin to pick up some Mandarin themselves! Around the room, parents began counting to themselves (“yī, èr, sān, sì, wǔ, liù, qī , bā, jiǔ, shí . . .”), rightly proud of their Chinese prowess! She suggested the websites Hello World for beginners and Duolingo for other students to get further practice at home.

Students will be assessed the traditional way (pencil and paper); however, the main approach of assessment will be performance based. For every new unit, formative assessment will be used daily and summative assessment will be used at the end of each unit.

Homework

The big question on BTS attendees minds’ was, “what’s up with homework this year?” There’s good news: The bottom line is, homework is necessary but should never be onerous. “Our purpose here is to help the kids to succeed,” said Ms. Madrazo, “not to have unrealistic expectations and make everyone unhappy.”

Homework in math, ELA, and world languages will be assigned each Monday and is due on Friday. Other important points to note are:

  1. Students are expected to record their homework assignments each Monday in their planners, but please check that they are doing so.
  2. Students are expected to complete this work independently with minimal support as needed from parents. This is key—helping your child to an extensive degree will not show teachers where and how they need to adjust assignments and better meet students where they are.
  3. After care participants are given time to complete homework as well as as-needed support from Sra. Sanzana.
  4. Your child’s teachers are flexible. If a student needs more time to complete an assignment well, communicate this, and teachers will work with you to accept it the following Monday.
  5. Mandarin and Spanish alternate weeks for elementary students, whereas middle school students should expect weekly Spanish homework.
  6. Additional Internet research may be assigned when pertinent to, for example, specific global studies or science lessons.
  7. To great applause from parents, weekly science homework will not be assigned, however.
  8. Altogether, weekly homework assignments should take about 2 hours or less, depending on division, apart from daily reading and writing and any music practice (if your child takes instrument lessons).

Here is the breakdown:

  • Math: Homework will consist of ~30 minutes per week of problem solving or Workbook completion (translating to four pages in the workbook for 4th- and 5th-graders and two or three for 6th- through 8th-graders).
  • English Language Arts: Each week, there will be one lesson (~30 minutes) in Wordly Wise per week, which includes a list of vocabulary words to know, and various assignments to complete.
    • In addition, this year, students are expected to spend 20–30 minutes reading independently and at least 10 minutes writing (or mind-mapping, which is a critical part of the writing process) every day.
    • Daily writing should be in cursive and in pen; students will have been given prompts from Ms. Madrazo or can free write. Journals are provided, but separate sheets of writing are also acceptable when a student forgets to bring the journal home.
  • Spanish: Grades 4 and 5 will work on a small packet the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month; 6th- 7th, and 8th-graders will have homework weekly. Homework will be reading-comprehension based.
  • Chinese: Grades 4–8 will work on a small packet the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month.

What Lies Ahead!

Although BTS night is over, know that teachers and administration are always readily available to answer any questions regarding your student’s development. Also know that you’ll be meeting teachers new to TNCS in Immersed profiles throughout the coming year as well as hear more from staff and administration who are adopting new roles and taking the school in new directions.
Finally, expect to hear more about forthcoming parent volunteering opportunities and service learning initiatives. Stay tuned!

To get a look at past year’s back-to-school nights or just to reminisce about the school’s early days, read:

Spanish Immersion Camp 2018: Fun Times! Tiempos Divertidos!

The New Century School was fortunate to welcome Señora Begoña Bredberg to teach the 2018 2-week Spanish immersion camp this summer. Read about Sra. Bredberg in TNCS Spanish Immersion Camp 2018 Features Talented Guest Instructor from Spain!.

This post, titled by one of the camp attendees and a huge fan of both Spanish immersion camp and of Sra. Bredberg, will explore what campers actually did during their 2 weeks of Spanish-speaking fun! Camp started July 23rd and ran through August 3rd, with 9 students (including TNCS’s first-ever camp raffle winner) attending Week 1 and 16 in Week 2. They ranged in age from 4 years to 11 years, and the level of Spanish spanned from none to quite proficient. This meant that Sra. Bredberg had to determine how to differentiate classroom activities right away. “They can all follow instructions, and I use some English only when it’s essential, along with the instructions given in Spanish. But to get this many different children to speak,” she explained, “means having enjoyable activities to do at all times, that do not take very long, to keep their interest.”

Habilidades Fundamentales

Her approach was to first give campers a chance to get to know her as well as each other so they could acclimate to the environment and feel comfortable. This also included explaining the differentiated areas of the classroom so they know the structure and also for classroom management, given the age and proficiency ranges. On Day 2 and henceforth, she moved into her curriculum, introducing more learning-related activities now that the students were familiar with expectations. Mornings meant convening in a circle to get an overview of the day’s events; from there, the day progressed quickly from one activity to the next.

For practice work, she used Aprendo jugando—actividades de español para niños de 6 a 9 años (I learn playing—Spanish activities for children 6 to 9 years) and Español para ti—Iniciación en ambientes comunicativos multiculturales (Spanish for you: initiation in multicultural educational environments). These workbooks of games and other activities provided the foundational vocabulary campers would need for application in real-world settings—from sports, to clothing, to food, and so on.

“I also used this YouTube video to show the students some of the popular songs I used to learn at their age,” said Sra. Bredberg. “At that time there were a group of clowns—all family—who created a television program, ‘Había una vez un circo,’ and all the kids loved them. This video shows a modern animated video of their most popular songs. The kids learned two of them: ‘La gallina turuleca’ (the first camp) and ‘Susanita tiene un ratón’ (second camp).”

tncs-spanish-immersion-camp-2018Susanita Has a Mouse
Susanita has a mouse
A little mouse
She eats chocolate and nougat
And balls of anise
Sleep near the radiator
With the pillow on your feet
And dream that you are a great champion
Playing chess
He likes football, cinema and theater
Dances tango and rock ‘n’ roll
And if we arrive and notice that we watch
We always sing this song

The Hen Turuleca
I know a neighbor
Who has bought a hen
That looks like a canned sardine
It has the wire legs
Because she is very hungry
And the poor thing is all plucked
Put eggs in the room
And also the kitchen
But she never puts them in the corral
The hen Turuleca
It is a singular case
The hen Turuleca
She really is crazy
The hen Turuleca
She has laid an egg
She has put two
She has put three
The hen Turuleca
She has put four
She has put five
She has put six
The hen Turuleca
She has put seven
She has put eight
She has put nine
Where is that little hen?
Leave her, poor thing
Let her put ten

Desfile de Moda

One day in Week 2 saw many of the foundational lessons being put into practice. On this day, students made muñeca de papel (paper dolls), dressed in all of the various clothing they had learned to identify and name in Spanish. “With clothes, it’s a lot of words to learn, so we have been practicing to say what they are wearing,” said Sra. Bredberg.

“When they are active, it’s good. I can do Spanish with them individually or in groups because I see that that helps a lot. They are able to say many more things and understand many more things now. Even those who had no Spanish on entering camp have picked up an amazing amount.”

The muñeca de papel exercise was then followed by a highly anticipated event—a desfile de moda! Fashion Show!

Each student had the opportunity to walk the “catwalk” and describe what he or she was wearing. It was a hoot!

Al Final del Día

At the end of each day, campers once again convened in a circle to debrief the day’s events. They reviewed and reinforced vocabulary, and everyone had the chance to contribute.

Said Sra. Bredberg of Spanish immersion camp:

The experience to teach Spanish immersion camp at TNCS has been great—to work with kids in this way. I had worked with kids before, but only for private lessons. Spending the whole day with them is a lot different. A lot of what I’ve been doing is improvisation but also getting to know them. To see what’s important to them allows me to adapt as I go along. I get them engaged in an activity, and I keep the classroom very dynamic at all times. They come together in groups, then we stop, disperse, and do something else. We come back together, and the day flows like this to they will not get bored or tired, which will not help them speak or learn.

Her and her husband have loved their time in Baltimore, as well. “This area is so great,” she said. “We love to look at the architecture and take in all that Fell’s Point has to offer.” TNCS hopes to welcome you back soon, Sra. Bredberg!

tncs-spanish-immersion-camp-2018