Poetry the perfect muse for language learners
Posted 04/11/2018 10:29AM

Chinese poetry has been an essential part of local culture for thousands of years, and it has a big part to play in whole-child education at the International School of Beijing (ISB) thanks to a new recital and performance program.

On March 30, a group including 65 High School Neo-Native II students and more than 30 Middle School Neo-Native III students took to the stage in front of parents and community members in the ISB Theater to perform dozens of classic and contemporary poems accompanied by music, movement and visual arts. Also involved were six performers on their way to participate in the Sixth Asia-Pacific Chinese-English Bilingual Festival in Hong Kong this week.

The event just before the Spring Break was designed to create personalized learning experiences for students learning Chinese as their mother tongue, to celebrate their achievements and give them an opportunity to engage with local culture. Chinese language and cultural learning is an important part of the learning philosophy at ISB, with students taken beyond the classroom to develop a deeper understanding of what they are studying.

“Our Chinese learning is not just about the students achieving good grades, but about them making a contribution to society, as the school makes clear in its mission statement,” said High School Chinese teacher Delinda Wu, who organized the poetry show. “This event fed young people’s curiosity about Chinese poems, encouraged them to play around with language and performance, enabled them to explore their own voice and feelings, and helped them discover connections with their cultural identity.”

She explained that the students studied a number of poems and chose those they were most enthusiastic about for the performance. “We practiced how to use their voices to express their feelings.”

A former broadcaster for CCTV was invited in to the class to give feedback on their oration and vocal style.

The hard work paid off as audience members were impressed. “My whole family were so touched by the excellent performance of every performer. Their commitment and appreciation of the poems were far beyond our expectations. I believe the students appreciated the teachers’ efforts as much as we parents did,” said ISB parent Alice Li.

With the Chinese department planning to run more poetry performances, this will be far from the last stanza in ISB students getting to appreciate the beauty of an ancient Chinese art form.

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