Mandarin Class Gives the Gift of Language to Preschoolers
Students in Shu-Chen Lin’s Level 3 Chinese class spent two weeks writing a story book about downtown San Anselmo and creating games which they shared with children at the JCC Preschool in San Rafael on November 13, 2019. Students share their reflections on the project below:
Our mandarin class spent about two weeks writing a storybook in Mandarin about downtown San Anselmo and making fun sensory play games to play with preschoolers at the JCC in San Rafael about the places we wrote and learned about. I wrote about a pet store, and all of the things that people can see, hear, touch, and smell when they walk into the store, and I drew some pictures on the book page, and added some texture to the drawing of a dog by gluing soft yarn onto the page so that the kids could be more engaged and feel that the dog is soft.
After we presented our storybook in Mandarin and English, we split up into groups and played the games that we made with a few kids. I buried a few stuffed animals and other items typically found in a pet store (such as dog toys and leashes) in cotton balls and pom poms, and when the kids found the objects, I would teach them how to say it in Mandarin.
This was a very rewarding experience, and a lot of the kids had fun learning how to say different phrases in Mandarin. Also, this experience showed the students how important language is when it comes to connecting people, and it introduced them to a new culture.
For this project, the class created a story book introducing different areas of San Anselmo which we then read to preschoolers at the JCC in San Rafael. We worked on the story book for a total of two weeks. Each student created a page describing one location assigned to them. We researched the place and wrote a page in Mandarin and added drawings and illustrations. We tried to make the story book engaging by adding texture to certain drawings. We also created a sensory play box where we hid items related to our location. I was personally in charge of introducing M and H bakery so I used items related to coffee shops.
Going to the JCC and spending time with the children was a really fun experience. We first read our story book to the whole class in Mandarin and then split up into smaller groups for the sensory play activity. It was great that the children were engaged during the reading and they were not distracted. When working in smaller groups, I learned to be patient with the children and understand what they wanted to do. I worked with three different groups and all of them wanted to learn different words.
Language is extremely important for me and has always been a big part of my life. I think learning new languages is one of the most valuable things one can do if given the opportunity. Being able to teach preschoolers the basics of Mandarin was a truly unique experience which I would love to do again in the future.
When we were at JCC, I had to remember to read slowly and deliberately, so that the kids would be able to have a small understanding of my story. Even though they don't speak Mandarin, it's really important to start teaching them language at a young age. Many kids do not have the opportunity to learn another language, so my class got the opportunity to try to teach them the basics of a pretty difficult language.
I'm also Chinese, so this language is very important to me. I want to teach these kids about a very significant part of my life, and being able to talk with them made me feel very happy and involved in my community. I wished I had started learning another language as a kid, so teaching the JCC kids is also my way of being able to help them do what I did not as a kid. I had a real purpose in helping these kids learn a little bit of Mandarin and I hope that I will have the opportunity to do so again.
I felt really happy to share our work with the kids. I think they really enjoyed the book we made and the activities we planned for them. Some of the kids also learned some Mandarin, which was our intended goal. There was a lot of laughing and smiling, and as it went on, we became more comfortable with each other. I think our class made a positive impact on the kids.
I think it is important to teach foreign languages to kids because the world is becoming an increasingly more interconnected global community, and language barriers are one of the main things holding our world back from truly being able to relate to one another. Our task addressed this need by encouraging this younger generation to learn new languages; we did this by making learning a new language fun with our activities we planned for them.
My identity has been shaped by this need because when I lived in Switzerland the language barrier issue became much more prominent to my personal life than when I was in the United States, so now I am very aware of the need to teach foreign languages in schools.