On Wednesday, November 13th, upper elementary and middle school students at The New Century School accomplished another big first—they sat for the Youth Chinese Test (YCT). The YCT is an international standardized test and was launched by Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) to encourage non-native students to learn Chinese and improve their Chinese language proficiency. It assesses students’ abilities to use Chinese in their daily and academic lives and consists of a writing test and a speaking test, which are independent of each other. The writing test is divided into four levels; the speaking test is divided into Beginner and Intermediate levels.
From a handout that TNCS students were given:
The YCT Speaking Test assesses test takers’ ability to express themselves orally in Chinese. It is the counterpart to the Level I and II Chinese Proficiency Scales for Speakers of Other Languages and A Level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEF). Test takers who are able to pass the Beginner YCT can understand and use familiar everyday expressions that meet specific needs for communication.
Miss Lily and Miss Jasmine, both from the Confucius Institute at Maryland in College Park, came to TNCS to proctor the tests, which Wei Li (Li Laoshi) had arranged well in advance. Li Laoshi had been preparing TNCS students for the test for weeks. It lasted about 20 minutes and was divided into three parts comprising a total of 25 items:
Part I: Listen and Repeat (15)
Part II: Listen and Reply (5)
Part III: Describe Pictures (5)
See how a select few TNCS students fared (understandably, only a few consented to having a videographer in the room!).
“The students did a great job on the test,” said Li Laoshi afterward. “Our school will get the final results after 1 month, and the certificates will ship to our school from Beijing 2 weeks later!” The maximum score of the YCT is 100, and 60 is considered a passing score. Li Laoshi also offered an explanation about why this test was important:
The reasons why our students need to take the YCT are, first, they can improve their test skills, which is very crucial when they move to middle or high school. Meanwhile, through the test, our students can realize what their current Chinese levels are, which can help them to set a clear learning goal for their Chinese learning in the future.
For practice in the meantime, here are two Chinese websites Li Laoshi uses in class for Daily Three rotations:
On Monday, May 20th, middle schoolers at The New Century School took a very special jaunt to Washington, D.C.—they went on a Chinese field trip! The trip was organized and led by TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”), and middle school student whisperer Adriana DuPrau also accompanied the group.
Culture (and Communication) Club
“I really want students at our school to know more about Chinese culture as well as practice their Chinese in an authentic environment,” said Li Laoshi, and so off to D.C. they went! They first toured the Freer|Sackler Gallery of Asian art and then strolled through Chinatown and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Li Laoshi’s twofold objectives of culture and communication were thus perpetually being met.
And with very good reason. If the point of teaching Mandarin Chinese to non-native students is for them to learn and use the language, those are two big factors in achieving proficiency. According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), The five goal areas of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages establish an inextricable link between communication and culture, which is applied in making connections and comparisons and in using this competence to be part of local and global communities.” The five goal areas are also known as the “5 Cs“; download them here.)
ACTFL characterizes communication as, “. . . at the heart of second language study, whether the communication takes place face-to-face, in writing, or across centuries through the reading of literature.” At TNCS, Li Laoshi has always made sure that communication occurs in “real-life” situations to emphasize what students can do with language rather than what they know about a language, such as how many vocabulary words.
As for culture, ACTFL says, “Through the study of other languages, students gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language and, in fact, cannot truly master the language until they have also mastered the cultural contexts in which the language occurs.” It’s knowledge. It’s not just a cultural event—it’s a connection between the language and another subject. TNCS students regularly engage in everything from Chinese cooking (dumplings, noodles, pancakes) to learning how to use an abacus, to practicing calligraphy. The field trip for middle schoolers brought a lot of these experiences home.
As the national museums of Asian art at the Smithsonian Institute, “the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery preserve, exhibit, and interpret Asian art in ways that deepen our understanding of Asia, America, and the world.” TNCS students were treated to a private tour of the exhibit Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644–1912, which “provides an insightful look into the public and private lives of imperial women during the Qing dynasty. This first-ever, in-depth exhibition focuses on five empresses to reveal their long-overlooked influence on the arts, religion, politics, and diplomacy of China.”
The tour was extremely well constructed for students. The guides provided supplemental objects that students could actually touch. The girls in the group got a big kick out of being able to try on the long, gold, talon-like fingernail guards that the empresses used to wear—telling the world that they were far too imperial to work. Boys and girls alike were astonished by the slight size of a pair of silk shoes worn by wealthy Chinese woman who practiced foot-binding, and were equally relieved to learn that the Manchu women of the Qing dynasty did not partake in that cruel custom.
Guides also provided interactive activities at regular intervals. For example, after viewing the empresses’ splendid and very elaborate wedding gowns, students were asked to design their own, incorporating some of the important symbols and colors that they had just learned about: Dragons represent imperial authority, fish represent fertility, and the lotus flower represents purity, to name a few. The phoenix was the most recurring symbol, as it represents empress, or queen. Likewise, the color yellow is the imperial color. Symbols like those shown above were also carved into frames and objets d’art.
There were even clever riddles to solve!
1. What has the claws of a hawk
the horns of a deer
the eyes of a rabbit
the teeth of a tiger
the neck of a snake
the belly of a frog
the head of a camel
the scales of a fish?
Hint: The answer is also the symbol of imperial authority.
“The exhibition was awesome. The tour was very educational, and the tour guide was very knowledgeable,” said Li Laoshi.
2. What has the head of a golden pheasant
the body of a mandarin duck
the tail of a peacock
the legs of a crane
the mouth of a parrot
the wings of a swallow?
Hint: The answer is also the symbol for empress.
After a wonderful time at the museum, TNCS students got to walk around Chinatown a bit in the warm, pre-summer afternoon. So warm, in fact, that the Chinese Rita’s was all anyone could talk about!
While in Chinatown, the group stopped at Full Kee Restaurant for lunch. This was their chance to speak Mandarin in a real-life situation, and the middle schoolers were instructed that they had to at least order in Chinese as well as try to use as much additional conversational Chinese as they could. They did great, and even tried some new dishes. “I was very proud and touched when I watch my students use Chinesefor ordering food in the Chinese restaurant,” said Li Laoshi. She had one other request—that her students attempt to eat with chopsticks. Here is her tutorial in Mandarin:
Warning: Do not watch the slideshow below on an empty stomach! Delicious food photos ahead!
Everyone had a wonderful experience, and it was a lovely way to close out the 2018–2019 school year and bid farewell to the graduating 8th-graders (sniff). To them, we say:
Wait—what? You still don’t know the answers to the riddles??? Okay, okay—here you go: 1. Lóng (龙) 2. Fènghuáng (凤凰). Happy now?
The Chinese Lunar New Year is a favorite annual celebration at The New Century School. In 2019, Chinese New Year officially began on February 5th, 2019, and ends on February 19th. The occasion is subdivided into phases, however, with the so-called “Little Year” having started on January 28th and lasting until February 4th (New Year’s Eve). The “Spring Festival” ran from February 5th through February 15th, and the “Lantern Festival” phase begins February 16th and ends February 19th.
This is The Year of the Pig (猪—zhū)—a most auspicious animal representative, as pigs with their chubby faces and big ears are symbols of wealth in Chinese culture, despite their reputation for bringing up the rear.
The Pig is the twelfth of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. Pig was late because he overslept. Another story says that a wolf destroyed his house. He had to rebuild his home before he could set off. When he arrived, he was the last one and could only take twelfth place.
Pigs might not stand out in a crowd. But they are very realistic. Others may be all talk and no action. Pigs are the opposite. Though not wasteful spenders, they will let themselves enjoy life. They love entertainment and will occasionally treat themselves. They are a bit materialistic, but this is motivation for them to work hard. Being able to hold solid objects in their hands gives them security.
They are energetic and are always enthusiastic, even for boring jobs. If given the chance, they will take positions of power and status. They believe that only those people have the right to speak, and that’s what they want.
Celebrations at TNCS
Although every Chinese New Year is special, this year stands out thanks to some very special guests from China. Tiger, Lucy, Tiffany, and Meg and their parents joined the TNCS community for 2 wonderful weeks of fun and cultural exchange (see more about their visit here).
Although Chinese New Year represents “out with the old, in with the new,” so wearing new clothes, often in red, is common practice, February 5th just happened to coincide with Pajama Day as part of TNCS’s Spirit Week.
TNCS students did observe other Chinese New Year traditions including the always-popular “Red Pockets”! These delightful red envelopes known as hóng bāo (红包) contain “lucky money,” which is to help get the recipient off on the right foot in the new year. At TNCS, Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”) has her older students pass out hóng bāo to the preprimary and primary students (who don’t mind a bit that the yuan inside are counterfeit).
If there’s one thing TNCS students absolutely love to do, it’s make—and eat—jiǎozi ( 餃子), dumplings! On the first day of Chinese New Year, they were led by their Chinese friends’ parents, which was an added treat.
On the first day of Chinese New Year, TNCS students and their Chinese guests collaborated on a very special performance of singing, dancing, and playing instruments.
These videos are presented to you in the order of the show. Prepare to be seriously wowed.
It was such a wonderful way to start off 2019 . . . or, rather, the year 4716. No matter how you count your years, this Chinese New Year at TNCS will be remembered for a long time to come!
Just because it’s summer, The New Century School does not stop bringing the language-learning! This week, Immersed is so happy to present this blog by Guest Blogger and TNCS Chinese Lead Teacher, Wei Li (a.k.a., “Li Laoshi”)!
The theme of 2017–2018 Chinese summer camp is “Life cycle.” The duration of this summer camp is 1 week, and the range of students’ age is from K through 8th grade. Joining me in the classroom was our brand-new intern, “Xu Laoshi” (a.k.a. “Nina”).
The main idea of the camp is combining the Chinese language and the subject of science together, with lots of fun, meaningful, hands-on activities and projects, which means our students are learning by doing. We started each day with a little movement to warm up our bodies and minds, in fact.
An important component of our camp was to encourage peer teaching. For example, we had a student who is currently in 8th grade. This student was assigned in the position of director when we were practicing our role play. She felt very proud of this and showed a lot of leadership. Other peer learning happens when students work in small-group activities since our students are both in different ages and levels.
In the camp, our students have learned three life circles: tomato, butterfly, and frog. Our students planted some tomato’ seeds on the first day for observing how they sprout and grow up. They took turns to water the seeds daily.
We next made a poster about the life cycles of tomatoes and butterflies and did a very nice presentation.
In the middle of the week, we learned a story and made a book about “Tadpoles Look for Their Mommy” and shared it in the front of whole class.
On Thursday, we went to Patterson Park for a field trip. Our students picked some leaves and made beautiful art work about the things that we have learned in the camp.
On Friday, we we had a fun cooking activity, making (and eating!) Chinese pancakes.
We also did Chinese painting about the story of “Tadpoles Look for Their Mommy” for reinforcement of the bookmaking we did earlier in the week.
In addition, we put on a play, that was the culmination of all our lessons for the week. For those of you who don’t speak Mandarin Chinese, here is the script of “Tadpoles Look for Their Mommy”:
Narrator: Spring is coming. The eggs have changed to tadpoles. Tadpoles swim around and see a duck mommy. Tadpoles: Duck mommy, duck mommy, where is our mommy？ Duck mommy: Your mommy has two big eyes and a big mouth. Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a goldfish. Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy! Goldfish: I am not your mommy. Your mommy has four legs. Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a turtle.
Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy! Turtle: I am not your mommy. Your mommy has a white belly. Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a goose. Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy! Goose: I am not your mommy. Your mommy wears green clothes. Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a frog. Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy! Frog: Dear Babies, I am your mommy!
What a great week had by all. Thank you for hosting such a wonderful camp and for contributing this fantastic blog about it, Li Laoshi! 谢谢! Xièxiè!