Montgomery Township has an increasing Chinese population, so the founders of Sunflower Learning shared the vision to pass on the language and culture as a "gift" to the next generation of Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans. We believe students who learn and understand Chinese culture and language today not only bridge the gap with their Chinese relatives, but may also discover new and exciting ways to succeed tomorrow. Beyond the value of learning, a vital and relevant language in today's global economy will be useful to take advantage of tremendous opportunities in world travel, and a chance for young students to broaden their horizons.
Our school understands the challenge that our American born Chinese children find learning Chinese, seeing it as difficult and boring. We adopt 6 strategies to counter the challenge:
1. Our Chinese teachers use visuals, gestures, body language, expressions, modeling, and movement to complement verbal cues. For students to learn a new language in meaningful contexts, teachers use every instructional strategy available to them, including the use of every day objects, pictures, videos, and gestures to express meaning. This will allow students to develop comprehension without direct explanation.
2. Our Chinese teachers encourage students to stay in the target language. Students who are still new to Chinese are encouraged to respond to teacher prompts and questions in English if they are not yet able to express themselves in Chinese. At higher a grade, from 4th to 7th however, students are increasingly encouraged to use Chinese exclusively in all of the classes conducted in Chinese.
3. All Chinese classes are conducted under a relaxed, social setting. Our teachers strategically use various types of student interaction to promote a dynamic learning environment. We mix the following types: teacher-students, student-student, whole group, and small groups.
4. Our teachers regularly assess the students comprehension and skills development, they monitor the students understanding through questioning techniques and formative assessments. As students continue to develop their skills, teachers are consistently encouraging students to use new words and expressions, more complex language structures, and more culturally appropriate language in their interactions and responses.
5. Our teachers incorporate social language into their classes, not just content language, exposing students to as many varieties of language as possible to create a target-language rich environment. For example, when teachers ask open-ended questions, the teachers challenge the students thinking while giving ample time to articulate each response. Teachers encourage students to give longer and more varied replies to expand upon or support their answers with examples or evidence. Following up this way it helps students practice a wide range of expressions and to keep incorporating fresh words and patterns into their productive repertoire.
6. In addition to teaching children to learn the Chinese language, at Sunflower, we also focus on helping students learn and experience the Chinese culture and traditions, bringing fun into learning. Every Friday at the Chinese culture classes, students can find out some interesting facts about China, its people, its history and its culture. Teachers may tell the stories of the ancient Chinese myths and fables or talk about famous historical figures, or teach classic Chinese folk songs. Students can solve fun puzzles and riddles, play some traditional Chinese games, or enjoy the Chinese craft ideas from making a paper lantern to colorful paper-cut in celebrations of Chinese New Year.
Achievements: Our students numerous articles and poems have been published by Chinese newspapers in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT).
In 2014, our 9 year old student Catherine Zhuang won the 2nd place in the Chinese Essay Competition hosted by a major Chinese newspaper "China Press" in the metropolitan area.
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