Chinese learners at the novice level often feel that they are only allowed to work on the very basic tasks of memorizing vocabulary or applying the conjugations. We know they can do much more than that, however, and we need to offer more relevant and meaningful activities in which they can explore their potential with intermediate-level tasks.
One thematic unit that we all teach at the beginning level of Chinese class is “school life.” A normal teaching approach starts with introducing school subjects, extracurricular activities, and is usually followed with a daily schedule project that puts the pieces together. We would like to transform this thematic unit to a global level by incorporating some real-world scenarios (e.g., international student visits and student-led campus tours) into a series of Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs). Students will come to understand different school schedules and activities in China, and practice how to describe their own schedule to international students from China. Each IPA contains interpretive reading, interpretive listening, interpersonal speaking, and presentational writing/speaking tasks to help students improve their proficiency. Not only are students expected to build their Chinese communicative skills, they will also relate cultural practices to perspectives, make cultural comparisons, and use the language beyond the classroom to interact with the globalized world.
We built these activities through a backward design model, and believe that they can help scaffold from teacher-guided comprehensible input in the classroom to learner-centered communicative tasks in real-world contexts. We hope that you can take these ideas to your classroom to create more authentic and meaningful tasks in your curriculum.
By: Bonnie Wang and Na Li
Also read: What languages are spoken in China?