By Nick Yates, ISB Communications
The International School of Beijing (ISB) runs one of the region's leading Chinese programs in an international school, and on Friday and Saturday it helped support the wider learning community by hosting the 18th Chinese Articulation Workshop and Conference.
The event was attended by educators from around the Asia-Pacific, all hungry to discuss approaches to teaching and to observe ISB's Chinese classes in action.
ISB inaugurated the Chinese Articulation Workshop in 2001, aiming to promote Chinese language instruction and culture education in international schools, and to encourage effective articulation among Chinese language teachers from kindergarten to grade 12. The workshop has traveled to different schools in the past 17 years and has attracted thousands of participants cumulatively in the Asia-Pacific region.
ISB is committed to teaching Chinese in terms of both language and culture, and recently established its Chinese Language and Culture Center to coordinate this work. The Articulation Workshop had a big focus on deepening language learning through culture. Guest and resident experts led talks and breakout sessions aimed at sharing experiences, best practice and resources to improve how Chinese is taught here and in other schools.
Students shared their experience of learning Chinese at ISB
"I learned a lot of strategies and activities I can do with my students – teaching from a picture book, for example," said Xiao Xiao Cheng, of Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University, Thailand. "There were some very good ideas we picked up during workshops on critical thinking in reading and writing and on personalized learning. The challenge now is how to apply those philosophies in my school."
A delegate from another international school in Beijing said the conference was an unmissable chance to meet teachers with different experiences. "My school's education is more classical; it was nice to see a more innovative curriculum."
Nancy Zhao from Singapore American School (SAS) ran a session on oral proficiency, and she enjoyed observing ISB teaching and comparing it to the teaching in her own school. "Chinese classes here [at ISB] are not only language classes, but it's an international school with a very big portion of Chinese literacy," she said. "I was impressed by how students are so immersed in Chinese literacy and culture. I've seen students sharing their heritage and their writing at quite a high level."
Ms. Zhao explained that it was important to have a strong connection between speaking and listening and literacy so student can discuss ideas in Chinese. She said, "It has a lot to with cognition and brain development. We need to use more Chinese in high-level thinking. International school students are already doing that in English, but that's something that's missing from a lot of Chinese classes.
"SAS has for the past five to seven years focused largely on speaking and listening; we're now thinking about a better way to combine that with reading. My focus has been to see how other schools are closing the gap between speaking and listening and literacy. I noticed at ISB how teachers are engaging students in reading and enjoying the language, rather than learning language just as a tool."