Tuesday, October 11, 2011

After the first frost: A Chinese language lesson at Burlington High School

After the first frost of the year in Vermont, Visiting Scholar Shen Guohua took time away from C.P. Smith School to visit the Chinese Language Class at Burlington High School. Shen Guohua, who lives in Shanghai, found the day to be memorable because of crisp weather that is uncommon in her hometown, and for the excitement that the BHS expressed in asking questions about high schools in China.

Here is a sample from the letter Shen Guohua shared with ASOP about her experience at BHS.

    After an early lunch, Mr. Hao (the Chinese teacher in BHS) came to pick me up. Burlington High School is shaped like a big circle. It is easy for one to get lost in such a large two-storey building. After a short break in Mr. Hao's office, we left for the classroom. The Chinese 3 lesson runs from 11:45 to 1:23. There are 14 students in all, all of whom are new Chinese learners from different grades.
    After a brief greeting "Ni hao" and self-introduction in Chinese, students learnt a song "找朋友" (“Looking for Friends”). It's a kids' song with simple Chinese words so that these high school students could memorize the words very quickly. After a few minutes, they were singing the new song with hand gestures and body movements. Giggles could be heard from time to time when singing and dancing was going on in the classroom.
    Then came the time for writing Chinese words "朋友"(friend). We held a competition to see who could write nice Chinese words on the white board in a correct order. Among four students, the one who did the best job could get a paper flower as a prize. To my surprise, these students were so eager to get the prize that most of them raised their hands many times during the competition. A boy named "Ngoyen" even asked for another chance after his first failure. I can easily draw the conclusion that American kids do enjoy writing Chinese words, which is difficult to handle but interesting to try from their perspectives. Three guys were lucky enough to win the paper flowers. I can still recall their smiles right now when they received their prizes all because of their great efforts.
    The game "鼻子,鼻子" (nose, nose) provoked their interest. It's a test of one's response. After some practice of Chinese words (head, eye, nose, mouth and ear) a competition took place between two groups, Group A and Group B. According to the game, when I say "yan jing", the two players from either group should point with his or her finger to the eye. When I say "zui ba”, he or she needs to point to their mouth. The person who points at the wrong place is eliminated. Thus another player from the same group will take his place. To be frank, these high school students did a great job with quick response. Sometimes, I pronounced the words really quickly to confuse them, but they could still follow. Finally group A won the competition with 2 boys getting the prize. There is no doubt that everyone enjoyed this game.
Burlington high school students with paper flowers
    The last and most challenging thing they did was to make paper-cut. It's their first try, so all of them were quite excited. By following the steps on the paper which I prepared beforehand, most of them underwent the process of paper folding and paper cut successfully, with just a little help from me, which was totally different from what I did in the elementary school. We had a class picture with everyone holding his paper flower or paper cut. That's definitely the greatest moment during the whole Chinese lesson.
    The rest of the class time was spent in asking and answering questions. There are obviously a lot of differences between Chinese high schools and American high schools. Students in BHS are bold enough to raise questions concerning various aspects of high school education in China.
    It was a long Chinese lesson with a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to more chances to give Chinese lessons or watch English lessons in BHS.

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