Your Way, My Way, Creative Ways of Teaching Chinese


Dongdong Chen, Seton Hall University
Lei Liang, Bishop George Ahr High School

Fangzhou Zhang, Seton Hall University

Yanfei Li, Seton Hall University/Saint Dominic Academy




Is there a right way to teach Chinese as a foreign language? If so, what is that? Can that be readily applied to different students? What is the best approach or method to teach Chinese characters? How can we teach Chinese culture so that learners can understand the Chinese cultural practices, products as well as perspectives, etc? Chinese teachers have constantly asked these questions, and tried tirelessly to seek satisfactory answers (e.g., Bai, 1996; Loke, 2002; Chen, 2009). This panel, which consists of 3 panelists and one discussant, will attempt to examine and explore these questions from a K-12 point of view. Lei Liang will discuss how he engaged learners to develop a mnemonic way to learn Chinese characters. By playing with the character components and telling stories about the relationship among them, he helps learners to memorize characters in a fun and easier way. Both Fangzhou Zhang and Yanfei Li will focus on the teaching of culture. Zhang will talk about how she designed meaningful curricula, thematic units, and lessons to immerse young beginners, while Li will talk about how she integrated hands-on activities and projects in a two-week intensive culture program. Dongdong Chen will comment on pros and cons of each of these teaching approaches, methods, and discuss the implications for the teaching and learning of Chinese. Through presentation and discussion, we hope to help the audience to develop an effective way to teach their students.



Deconstruction and Storytelling:
Teaching American High School Students Chinese Characters


Lei Liang
Bishop George Ahr High School



Due to the differences between Chinese characters and English words, it is sometimes very difficult for American students to memorize Chinese characters, especially at the beginning of the learning process. This paper introduces a method that aims to help American high school students to memorize Chinese characters efficiently. The basic mechanism is that a class as whole will first deconstruct the characters into simple and easy-to-remember parts. And a story will be designed (either by students or teacher) to link these parts together. The unique feature about this method is that most of the stories are based on elements associated with American culture, instead of reflecting the true historical facts behind the characters. The reason is that only a few Chinese characters have retained their original meanings and shapes after three thousand years of revolution (e.g. , 穿, ). Explaining the revolution would only cause more confusion, and turn the class into a highly teacher-centered lecture (e.g. vs. , vs. ). A number of characters and their stories will be used to demonstrate this method. The strengths and weaknesses will then be discussed, followed by a possible solution to the weaknesses.




Experiencing Culture in the Theme-based Chinese Language Teaching


Fangzhou Zhang

Seton Hall University


Culture is the most important context for language learning. However, many teachers found it difficult to develop activities for teaching culture related context in the early stages of second-language acquisition. According to Curtain and Dahlberg (2010), the cultural goals can best be met by giving learners experiences with the culture rather than by talking about cultural facts and artifacts. (p.278) This standard orientation calls for integrated thematic planning which tend to create classroom experiences to help students build cultural understanding during language learning. This paper will focus on immersion Chinese language teaching in the beginning-level classes in grades K-8. I will first talk about how to design effective and meaningful curricula, units and lessons in order to carry out the culture context in language teaching process for young beginners. I will then analyze the real teaching experience with the theme-based approach. I will finally share the experience of how I created the thematic unit topic to help the kids understand Chinese culture in the summer camp, and how the kids reacted to the class.



Teach Chinese Culture through Chinese Culture Week


Yanfei Li

Seton Hall University/Saint Dominic Academy


Teaching Chinese culture is an important part of the Chinese language teaching process. Given the limited time available in a high school classroom it is worth considering what to teach and how to teach it.  China has a long, rich, complex and colorful history and so it can be hard to contain instruction on cultural topics within the allowed 40 minutes of class time for beginner of Chinese. Holding a Chinese culture theme week is an excellent way to complement classroom instruction. In this way, Chinese culture can be introduced in a holistic fashion and students can experience the culture hands-on by doing various projects and participating in various events.   In this paper, I will present how I taught Chinese culture by holding a successful Chinese cultural themed event, which lasted for two weeks. The topics included paper cutting, Chinese knots, Chinese songs, making dumplings, and calligraphy. I will present the kind of the activities and projects I designed for students as well as the ideas behind those activities and projects. Finally I will note the results of the event and reflect on some of the personal insights I gained from the experience.



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Curtain, Helena and Dahlberg, Carol Ann. (2010), Languages and Children--Making the Match: New

Languages for Young Learners, Grades K-8 (4th Edition), Allyn & Bacon.

Chen, Dongdong. (2009). 美国学生中文教学法问卷调查报告,International Chinese Language Education,
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