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SCIS Mandarin courses prove winners all round

THE Mandarin Department at the Shanghai Community International School has had several notable achievements during the current school year, from preschool through grade 12.

In the lower school, the students receive a full period of Mandarin every day. The classes are ability-level based from kindergarten through to grade 5, with separate classes for student abilities ranging from beginners to native speakers. This grouping allows teachers to keep students challenged, engaged, and progressing in line with their skills and abilities.

The students focus on listening, speaking, reading and writing according to their existing level of proficiency, while learning about Chinese culture at the same time. The holistic style of the Mandarin teaching approach accelerates the students' progress and the ability to effectively communicate in Mandarin.

In the upper school, SCIS offers the study of Mandarin language and Chinese culture to all students. The program's goal is to expose students to the language, and assist them in learning enough spoken language to achieve a rudimentary conversational level over a period of two years. The cultural aspect of the program is designed to promote insight and understanding of our students' adopted home, China.

SCIS Upper School is in the vanguard of the International Baccalaureate program's new Mandarin offering at the IB diploma level. The school offers a Mandarin "ab initio" course, Mandarin B (standard level and higher level), and, for native level speakers, Mandarin A1, and Mandarin A2.

The focus of the "ab initio" course is on the acquisition of language required for purposes and situations used in everyday social interaction. In the Mandarin B class, students add more expressive and intellectual domains, and in Mandarin A1, they strengthen their literature appreciation and critique, deal with the comparison of prose pieces with similar themes, and focus on literary techniques.

Mandarin A2, the highest level IB course offered, allows students to evaluate Chinese contemporary prose by classic authors like Xi Murong, Zhu Ziqing, and Lin Yutang, among others.

Incorporating SCIS's ESLR (Expected School-wide Learning Results), the students will learn "effective communication" in class discussions and debate, and in expressive oral presentation skills; they will learn "high level thinking" by comparing texts identifying and assessing important techniques and visions within the prose; and they will gain a "solid foundation of knowledge" by familiarizing themselves with the text, understanding cultural context and relevant literary terms. The program will also teach several IB values such as effective social skills, study skills and time management, and "positive learning attitudes and behavior." Finally, the IB program's "Global and Community Appreciation" will be achieved through the focus on social skills in group discussion and projects, and in the appreciation of prose.

Another feature of the upper school Mandarin curriculum is the delivery of a technology-enhanced curriculum which calls on the students to use their school-provided Macbook laptops within their lessons.

All of this Mandarin innovation is showing impressive results. SCIS recently achieved top scores at the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools' Chinese Character Spelling Competition. The competition involved 400 students from 12 leading international schools throughout China. When the results of this intense competition were announced, SCIS boasted seven prizewinners, including two gold medal winners, Backmin Oh and Betty Zhou; two silver medal winners, Michael NG and Vicky Chen; and three bronze medal winners, Tomomi Hiramine, Christina Tan and Billy Xu.

Behind this success is a team of fully qualified, dedicated and experienced teachers and curriculum developers. They have built well-structured, skill-orientated and culture-rich language programs which will be even further enhanced in the 2009-2010 school year. There is one more important ingredient to his team's success - they love teaching Mandarin to SCIS students.


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