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Another view on how to do Chinese immersion

October 15, 2013

Sharon Carstens’ daughter went through the Portland, Ore. Mandarin immersion program, so she’s seen up close and personal how these programs work and where they sometimes fall short. She also is a fluent Mandarin speaker herself.

So like the professor she is, she set out to think “how would we do immersion if we could do it in a way that best serves the goal of having students learn Chinese,” rather than “how can we deal with all the requirements of a public school program and fit in Mandarin?”

Some of her conclusions are surprising.

Carstens spent two years researching and writing about it and the book she and several other teachers have written on the subject was just published.

What she proposes would be difficult to implement in most public schools because there’s not a lot of wiggle room in terms of what  must be taught, and there are only so many hours in the school day.

Still, it’s an interesting thought experiment. She’ll be presenting at a poster session at the Chinese Language Education Forum near San Francisco next week, for those who might be attending.



Language through Culture, Culture through Language: A Framework for K-8 Mandarin Curriculum 教汉语教文化:贯连小学初中的汉语教学策略 (Bilingual: English and Chinese). Chief Editor: Sharon Carstens; Authors: Sharon Carstens, Tien Whyte, Li-Ling Cheng; Translators: Zhao Wenjuan, Wang Haiying, Sharon Carstens. Peking University Press (June 2013). Pp.434. ISBN978-7-301-22494-6/H.  Price: 58 Yuan

This book is a collaborative project with an American scholar and experienced Chinese language teachers that presents for the first time an integrated language and culture curricular framework for teaching Chinese to K-8 American students. Approaching this through 8 thematic cultural units (family; food & medicine; geography & travel; history, politics & religion etc.), it emphasizes designing specific topics, teaching contents and classroom activities to match the characteristic physical and cognitive levels of students of different ages. The book has seven chapters. The first chapter describes original research that investigated models for teaching Chinese language and culture in diverse programs; chapter two presents the theoretical design of the proposed curricular model and explains the general framework; the next four chapters detail specific curricular contents for students at four levels of physical and cognitive development with suggestions for course materials, teaching methods, classroom activities, and other teaching considerations while addressing the two key educational issues of what to teach and how to teach; chapter seven discusses issues of student assessment and teacher training.

This book can assist curricular development staff, administrators, and teachers in designing curriculum that fits the circumstances of their own school. At the same time, this book includes many examples of classroom activities that can serve as a reference for overseas Chinese language teachers and volunteer teachers, as well as teachers and researchers interested in researching Chinese teaching.



This book is available through by clicking the following link:  Price: $26.14

This book is also available through ChinaSprout and NanHai Books. Although the title is not yet listed on their websites, you can make a special request and they will arrange order and shipment from Peking University Press.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 15, 2013 7:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Utah Mandarin Immersion Parent Council and commented:
    A thought experiment: How do to immersion if the goal is to best serve students, rather than bending to public school requirements.

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