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!


News for Startalk at TNCS!


TNCS’s wonderful Chinese staff work hard to make learning Mandarin Chinese fun!

Last month, The New Century School hosted its closing event for the Summer 2014 Startalk Program. That program, “Let the World Be Filled with Love,” ran for 3 weeks in the summer, but to keep participants engaged throughout the year, receptions were held at regular intervals, and a periodic newsletter kept them abreast of Startalk happenings.

The final reception was extremely celebratory in mood, for several very good reasons. First, Startalkers enjoy getting together and chatting in Chinese! Second, the Chinese New Year was fast approaching, and that’s always exciting. Third, this reception took the form of a potluck, and the beautiful variety of dishes was delicious. Fourth, the entire group was eagerly anticipating the results of TNCS’s 2015 grant submission, which they were days away from learning. But we’ll spare you the suspense—will TNCS be hosting Startalk this summer?


The final Startalk reception was held in TNCS’s multipurpose room, and everyone contributed a lovely dish!

Yes! It is true! Shì zhēn de (是真的)! TNCS was once again awarded funding for a Startalk Summer Program! This year’s 3-week session will run from July 6–24, 2015.

But back to the reception, it started off with a Chinese Immersion refresher class that focused on celebrating and welcoming the Year of the Sheep. (or Goat. Or Ram. You decide.) As students watched in complete absorption, the Chinese teachers gave a mini-lesson to get them back in the swing. Parents lining the side wall got to see first-hand how Startalk works and even picked up some Mandarin Chinese themselves! Startalk operates on the principle of doing, that is, active participation—in this case, doing is talking. Start talking.


Startalk 2014 participants avidly follow Xie Laoshi and Lu Laoshi as they deliver a mini-lesson on the Chinese New Year fast approaching.

Watching a lesson unfold makes it easy to see why the program is so effective. Teachers pronounce a word or phrase while demonstrating what it represents, repeat their verbalizations continuously, gesture, point, and keep talking the while. Understanding dawns quickly, and the students are expected to put it to immediate use.



Another Startalk tenet is that content should be meaningful to the students. Why make them learn something they aren’t interested in applying or are unlikely to have a context in which to apply it? Thus, the day’s lesson would involve something that people everywhere would be discussing: Chinese New Year, a celebration full of color, music, firework displays, and plain fun for kids.

The Chinese dragon even made an appearance, a very good omen for TNCS’s 2015 Startalk Program, “China in Baltimore”!

Very special thank-yous go to Startalk Director and Head of Mandarin Chinese Language at TNCS Xie Laoshi, her devoted assistant Lu Laoshi, and to the other caring and committed Startalk staff members. They worked tirelessly to make Startalk 2014 a monumental success and to land the 2015 grant ensuring that TNCS remains at the forefront of Mandarin Chinese instruction in Baltimore. We look forward to an amazing Startalk 2015!

Would you like to learn more about Startalk at TNCS? Here is a link to download the most recent continuing education newsletter in pdf format: Start Talking v1n3. It provides recommendations for practice apps and websites to supplement the Chinese stories and idioms that are also included.
Earlier newsletters can be downloaded below:

TNCS Performs at Confucius Institute Day!


The Confucius Institute at Maryland celebrates 10 years!

This has been a week of anniversaries for The New Century School! With the publication of this very post, Immersed turns 2. The Confucius Institute at Maryland (CIM), however, who supports TNCS’s Mandarin Chinese program in multiple ways, hit double digits!

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the University of Maryland hosted Confucius Institute Day at the College Park campus, and TNCS kindergarten and elementary students took a field trip to participate in the revelry. It was a gorgeous fall day with warm temperatures and a blue sky, just perfect for a field trip and an outdoor event.

Established with support from the Office of Chinese Language Council International (also known as Hanban), CIM “promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics, and philosophy.” CIM also provides many of TNCS’s Chinese interns and teachers and is a sister school with Xiamen University in China.

The festival opened with the Lion Dance—something the lucky TNCS students in attendance will not soon forget! This dance that mimics a lion’s movements by dancers sharing an elaborate lion costume is performed during Chinese traditional, cultural, and religious festivals; special celebrations and ceremonies; or to honor special guests.


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To show their appreciation for CIM’s invaluable support, TNCS students and language staff put on a show. Each division—K/1st, 1st/2nd, and 3rd/4th—did a musical performance for the crowd of hundreds. The audience was charmed. In fact, K/1st teacher Teresa Jacoby overheard some high school students expressing their amazement that such young kids were so clearly proficient with the Mandarin Chinese language. They certainly work hard!

TNCS students got their share of Chinese culture at this event. Dances, acrobatics, opera, and music kept them awestruck all day. The first field trip of the year was a huge success, thanks to TNCS Chinese staff! Xièxiè xiè lǎoshī! 谢谢谢老师!

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Startalk Is a Huge Success at TNCS!

On Day 4 of Startalk camp, campers wore their "Let the World Be Filled with Love" tee-shirts in honor of the site evaluation by Startalk administrators!

On Day 4 of Startalk camp, campers wore their “Let the World Be Filled with Love” tee-shirts in honor of the site evaluation by Startalk administrators!

Being awarded a Startalk grant was just The New Century School‘s first step in quite an arduous process to come in order to “Let the World Be Filled with Love” (TNCS’s very own Startalk camp theme). Months of planning came next, followed by the proof in the pudding—implementation. Well, by only Day 5 of Startalk summer camp at TNCS, it’s exceeding all expectations, and all of the hard work is paying off! On the heels of Day 4’s hugely successful on-site evaluation by Startalk administrators, TNCS got the green light to keep up the great work (“We passed with flying colors!” said Director of Admissions Robin Munro happily). All week, our three groups (Novice Low, grades 1–2; Novice High/Intermediate Low, grades 2–3; and Novice Low, grades 3–4) have been busy, busy, busy—listening and learning, cooking and eating, singing and drumming, and engaging in Chinese cultural activities like calligraphy and learning the abacus (see slideshow below). Their progress in those 5 short days is nothing short of astounding; the Startalk methods really work!

Startalk’s mission is to teach Americans modern world languages and currently offers programs in 10 of them, including Mandarin Chinese (yay!), Arabic, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. After years of research into how people most effectively achieve fluency in another language, Startalk developed six evidence-based best practices that can be replicated in participating programs, with a dual focus on both the learner and the instructor. They include:

  • Implementing a Standards-Based and Thematically Organized Curriculum
  • Facilitating a Learner-Centered Classroom
  • Using the Target Language and Providing Comprehensible Input for Instruction
  • Integrating Culture, Content, and Language in a World Language Classroom
  • Adapting and Using Age-Appropriate Authentic Materials
  • Conducting Performance-Based Assessment

Students are truly immersed in the language, but the point is that, through the proven six-pronged approach, they develop the confidence to communicate—to start talking.

Startalk also employs the 5 Cs of language acquisition developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) that TNCS has been using all along in its multilingual language program curriculum. Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities inform every language-learning activity the day holds. The most effective language program designs activities in which these five concepts intersect, which is exactly what “Let the World Be Filled with Love” achieves, as these photos eloquently demonstrate.

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By Day 5, campers were well acquainted with their daily routines and expectations. They are growing more comfortable communicating in Mandarin by the minute. Novice-level campers went out on their first field trip to visit a Chinese immigrant family in their home. They will lunch together, do a craft, and talk.

Being able to converse about fruit is one of the end-goals of camp.

Being able to converse about fruit is one of the end-goals of camp.

Intermediate-level campers enjoyed a more typical Startalk camp day, with group activity followed by a language/writing lesson, cultural enrichment, and finally language review. The video below shows them during their morning group activity. The 3-week program will culminate with a performance, which will take the form of a Farmer’s Market, in which Startalkers will adopt roles as buyers and sellers and enact transactions, from identifying fruit to describing it to bargaining for it. Today’s morning group activity was practice for the Farmer’s Market, and, as you’ll see, the kids are well on their way. Note how Liang Laoshi speaks very clearly, repeats her phrases several times, and accompanies her instructions with explanatory gestures but never utters a syllable in English!

1. I can recognize different fruit words. 2. I can ask and answer about favorite foods. 3. I can understand the story Kong Rang Li.

1. I can recognize different fruit words. 2. I can ask and answer about favorite foods. 3. I can understand the story Kong Rang Li.

Part of why this method works so well is that it hinges on so-called “can-do statements.” Students know right from the start what they are expected to learn and then set up for success to get there. For the end-of-program performance, for example, Intermediate learners will say, “I can recognize different fruit words.”

Another ultimate goal, expressed as a can-do statement, is “I can understand the story of ‘Kong Rang Li’.” This traditional Chinese fable is about a little boy with five older brothers and one younger brother. When their father offers them pears, Kong Rang opts for the smallest one. When questioned by his father about his generosity, the boy replies that his older brothers are bigger and should therefore have the bigger pears, whereas he is older than his younger brother and should let him also have a bigger pear. The story demonstrates the core Chinese value of selflessness and also shows how to spread some love. It’s the linchpin of TNCS’s Startalk camp, bringing everything together—the ability to discuss fruit, the love theme, and interacting with the story via several different media including reading, writing, and pantomiming.

With only one week of Startalk under their belts so far, campers are already wonderfully enriched and enjoying every minute of their immersion in Chinese culture and language. By the end of Week 3, expect to witness some pretty incredible transformation!

TNCS Elementary Sing in Mandarin in Command Performance!

Zhongshan restaurant, located at 323 Park Ave., once the center of  Baltimore's historic Chinatown

Zhongshan restaurant, located at 323 Park Ave., once the center of Baltimore’s historic Chinatown

On Sunday, June 1, 2014, The New Century School elementary students were invited to perform three songs in Mandarin Chinese for the 6th Annual Calvin Chin Memorial Dim Sum Brunch at ZhongShan restaurant in downtown Baltimore. Five children had the honor to sing for an audience consisting mostly of members of the Baltimore–Xiamen Sister City Committee (BXSCC), who hosted the brunch. BXSCC Chair, Fontaine Bell, contacted TNCS to extend the invitation. Mr. Bell and colleagues have regularly asked for TNCS performers over the past couple of years at various functions such as Chinese New Year at Port Discovery, and TNCS is always thrilled to accept. On this particular occasion, performers were treated to a delicious dim sum brunch by BXSCC, and their chaperones were treated by TNCS. “This is a great opportunity of networking and culture enrichment,” said Xie Laoshi.

Who is BXSCC?

Map showing Baltimore's Sister Cities, including Xiamen, China

Map showing Baltimore’s Sister Cities, including Xiamen, China

The BXSCC is an organization dedicated to strengthening and enhancing the relationship between citizens of Baltimore, MD and those of Xiamen, China as well as to embrace Chinese culture here in Baltimore. Their mission is “To promote business, cultural, educational, health/environmental and other cooperation and exchanges between the cities of Baltimore, Maryland, USA and Xiamen, Fujian, People’s Republic of China, and to support Baltimore City’s other activities and programs related to China and the local Chinese community.” This mission aligns very well with TNCS’s own goals, and a fruitful partnership is emerging.

About the Brunch

"Businessman, civil servant, community leader, World War II veteran, advocate, man of the arts, husband, and father . . . Calvin Chin."

“Businessman, civil servant, community leader, World War II veteran, advocate, man of the arts, husband, and father . . . Calvin Chin.”

The annual brunch was established in 2010 to honor founding BXSCC member, Calvin Chin, who is credited with rebuilding Baltimore’s historic Chinatown in the second half of the 20th century. Although he was born in Baltimore, his Chinese roots were always paramount, and he devoted his life to promoting local Chinese business and cultural enterprises. This year’s brunch—the final—also honored, Rudolph S. Chow, Director of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, and Katherine M. Chin, Calvin’s wife and another original BXSCC member. “Mr. Chow spoke about his department’s important role and vision for maintaining and improving Baltimore’s physical infrastructure. Mrs. Chin was honored with Certificates of Appreciation from our Governor, Mayor, City Council President, and the Xiamen Mayor’s Office for her 30 years of service to BXSCC and her even longer advocacy for Baltimore’s Chinese-American community,” according to the BXSCC’s write-up of the event.

Chinese goods collected by the BXSSC during many years' travel between Baltimore and Xiamen were placed up for bid.

Chinese goods collected by the BXSSC during many years’ travel between Baltimore and Xiamen were placed up for bid.

In addition to TNCS’s stellar choral performance, the event also featured an amazing kung fu demonstration by the Jing Ying Institute of Kung Fu & Tai Chi, as well as a silent auction of Asian arts and crafts and a raffle.

Appetizers: Stuffed bean curd skin, steamed shrimp dumpling, steamed pork sao mai, and fried sesame balls. Main Course: Crispy pork, spicy basil tofu with 3-cup sauce, bok choy with Chinese mushrooms, and steamed fish filet with tofu. YUM!!!!!

Appetizers: Stuffed bean curd skin, steamed shrimp dumpling, steamed pork sao mai, and fried sesame balls. Main Course: Crispy pork, spicy basil tofu with 3-cup sauce, bok choy with Chinese mushrooms, and steamed fish filet with tofu. YUM!!!!!

But before anyone performed, the food took center stage! TNCS students were game for trying anything. it was really gratifying to see such adventurous young palates!

TNCS’s Performance

Wen Laoshi and her group of singers (minus one, who had to dash).

Wen Laoshi and her group of singers (minus one, who had to dash).

Arranged by Xie Laoshi and directed and led by Wen Laoshi, TNCS’s choral performance wowed the audience of about 100. With their mastery of Mandarin Chinese and their singing, not to mention their wonderful self-possession and exemplary conduct, TNCS students represented their school beautifully.

First song: 说唱脸谱, “Talking and Singing Types of Facial Makeup in Peking Operas”
Second song: 虫儿飞, “Bugs Flying”
Third song: 蜗牛与黄鹂鸟, “Snail and Yellow Birds”

Wen Laoshi said, “The performance was wonderful! All the children did such a good job, and I’m very happy to see them involved in this.” You can see them perform two of the three songs below!