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A parent report from the National Chinese Language Conference in L.A.

May 16, 2014

Natasha Heller, a parent at Broadway Elementary in Venice, Calif., attended the National Chinese Language Conference in Los Angeles May 9 – 10, 2014, and sends these notes. Kudos for making this available to parents nationally.

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Plenary Sessions

The morning at NCLC began with a discussion of California’s special role in Sino-American relations. David Pierson of the Los Angeles Times moderated. K. Y. Cheng of East West Bank talked about California’s long “very pivotal role” in relations between the two countries; Qingyun Ma, Dean of the School of Architecture at USC described California as a “double frontier” poised between America and the Pacific Rim.

Del Christensen (Bay Area Council) pointed to business and education as important ways of building bridges.

Peter Shiao (Orb Media Group) discussed Hollywood’s role in cross-cultural communication, and the importance of positive images for Chinese-Americans. He also noted that in part because of global media, the average Chinese kid was likely learning English in school and at home, but American kids rarely study other languages.

Overall, the take-away was that Mandarin Immersion was especially important (and exciting) for us in California.

Friday lunch featured a terrific performance by students from Barnard Asian Pacific Language Academy ( in San Diego, and a discussion of literature and the art of translation with Jonathan Stalling, Howard Goldblatt, and Sylvia Li-chun Lin. Mo Yan offered remarks by video.

 Program Development:

As parents, it is always helpful to hear about the challenges and triumphs of other programs so we can better advocate for our own schools.

At one panel, Kevin Chang of the Chinese American International School in San Francisco ( talked about the importance of teacher support, and how the school worked to increase teachers’ professional value in the areas of curriculum, assessment, instruction, and social-emotional learning. These elements reinforce each other: for example, different kinds of assessments let teachers know exactly where students are in their learning, and helps them to develop curriculum.

Luyi Lien of Yinghua Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, talked about the ideal immersion teacher as someone who, in addition to the usual qualifications, also has knowledge of immersion and secondary language acquisition, can integrate language and content, and is able to bridge the differences between educational systems. Lien talked about peer observation, along with informal observation through five-minute videos that could be used to discuss teaching, and she recommended bite-size feedback. Yinghua uses a system where everyone uploads lesson plans to a shared folder so teachers can see what vocabulary has been used, and so forth.

In another panel presentation, Po Tang of Beacon Hill International Elementary in Seattle and Edward Park of Barnard Asian Pacific Language Academy talked about the positive impact of dual immersion on academic achievement, the need to educate parents about Chinese language and culture, and the benefits of sister schools and student exchange programs (start saving in kindergarten for trips!).


Maggie Chen and Brandon Zaslow ( gave a great presentation on Common Core and Chinese language learning, with many examples of authentic materials and performance-based tasks. They talked about the importance of recognizing the gap between what students could read and what they can write (true even in English), and having students read to understand main ideas even if they don’t recognize every character.

Yuqing Hong of New York’s P.S. 310, The School for Future Leaders, and Heidi Steele of Gig Harbor High School in Washington spoke about music and song in language learning. Hong demonstrated how she uses songs in teaching, and audience members shared some of their ideas with brief performances. Coming after the student performances at lunch, this panel demonstrated how music and song are key components of language study.

Teachers from Yu Ying Public Charter School ( in D.C. and Minnetonka schools ( talked about how to encourage higher level reading skills. Reciprocal reading in small groups, often used in English-language literacy development, can be adapted for reading in Chinese by translating role cards (summarizer, questioner, clarifier, predictor). Teachers have also used Running Records to benchmark reading levels in Chinese. Other ways of supporting student reading include vocabulary sheets with portions to fill in before reading, reading journals to keep track of character names and other details, and Integrated Performance Tasks after reading.

Teachers at the Chinese International School Hong Kong have worked hard to increase the volume and quality of writing in both Chinese and English. They have adapted materials and strategies from Columbia’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project for use with Chinese. Of particular interest was their discussion of how approximation—students using pinyin or English within Chinese writing exercises—in Chinese can help teachers identify what students needed to learn next.

Community Engagement:

Wei Hong, Sharon Gou, and Jonathan Stalling presented about different ways to connect universities with K-12 schools and the broader community. Wei Hong spoke about Purdue University’s service learning program, which has students serve as campus translators and brings them to local schools for afterschool programs. The college students report that these experiences were very positive, and it also provides younger students with role models. Sharon Gou talked about various ways University of Oklahoma does outreach to the community, and Jonathan Stalling explained how he used a technique of writing English poetry in the form of classical Chinese poetry in an effort to bring Chinese literature to a wider audience.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 1, 2014 9:19 am

    Reblogged this on Utah Mandarin Immersion Parent Council and commented:
    Some great content from the dedicated immersion group in San Francisco.

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