This year I have been learning Chinese as part of my Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL) learning. TPDL is an in-service year-long professional development programme for teachers at all New Zealand schools.
I chose to take on the challenge of learning Mandarin as part of being the ALLiS teacher for Newmarket School. I also took on the challenge as I wanted to foster closer relationships with the children that I work with at Newmarket School. Nearly one third of our school is made up of children who speak Chinese. I have visited China twice already but with limited vocabulary and my second visit happened during their Chinese New Year.
Chang e -drawn by Seroung
Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節
Soon in China it is the Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節, also known as the Moon Festival. One key idea I have learnt is the importance of festivals and celebrations to bring families back together. My first visit to Chine was just before the time of the Mid Autumn festival. During this visit I was introduced to moon cakes. Again I had very little knowledge of the importance of sharing moon cakes.
The Mid Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar year. Myself I naively thought this meant the 15th of August. However had omitted the phrase Chinese lunar year in my first round of information. I know now that Mid Autumn Festival takes place in September because Chinese New Year happens in February when we compare the dates to the Gregorian calendar or the calendar which the western countries use. This year the date for celebration is the 15th of September.
The Mid-Autumn Festival has its own special food. People eat moon cakes for celebration. The moon cake is a kind of pastry with various fillings and the surface is printed with different artistic patterns. Mid-Autumn Festival is also a time for family reunions. As the moon cake is round in shape, it symbolises the reunion of a family.
So for this Mid-Autumn Festival our children at Newmarket School will enjoy a delicious moon cake at school and at home they will probably also enjoy a Moon Cake shared with family.
New Zealand Chinese Language and Culture Week
Last year New Zealand celebrated Chinese Language week around this period. The first I heard about it was after the event. I have been watching for this years dates and checking the internet for the confirmed week. This year there is now a site for this event.
This year I was determined that at Newmarket School we would celebrate this new national event. So at Newmarket School I am working with a group of senior students to coordinate a week long list of activities. I have just finished a paper on Intercultural Language Teaching which clarified the need to communicate in the first place and seek to teach culture in a way which develops intercultural communicative skills at the same time as developing language skills. Intwined with cultural activities is the opportunity to develop language. As a Mandarin teacher I have been focussed predominantly on language. Partly because of my own focus of learning Mandarin.
NZCLW at Newmarket School
With my senior students we have developed a list of activities that they have chosen to lead over this week. The activities planned include:
- Long skipping rope activities
- Pong pong
- Chopsticks activities
- Diabolo spinning
- Jianzi- hacky sack- Shuttle Cock kicking
One key activity is a language activity as I really want our children who learn Mandarin to have the opportunity to celebrate their learning. I will also give the children the chance to practice a formulaic speech and for this activity I will use our fluent speakers as judges to help me judge this. The second part is to identify our fluent speakers because next year I will prepare them for the oral Mandarin speeches.
In addition I am keen to develop literacy skills for our Mandarin speaking children. So I have set the challenge of writing a book in English to retell the story of Chang-e. The lady in the moon. Our children who are literate in Mandarin will help me with translating. Also we have our parent community who will help me with the final draft. I have a group of artists who have chosen to develop the images that will be used.
In class activities that teachers and classes can choose to include in their programme are:
- Dumpling making
- Painting cherry blossoms
- Painting Panda
- Decorate a tea tin
- Make and fly fish shaped kites
- Mask painting
- Paper cutting
- Making lanterns from recycled materials
Health and Well Being
One of our school wide goals for 2016 is ‘Heath and Well Being’. So by incorporating mindfulness into the weeks programme through exercise, physical activities and meditation I am proactive in developing a positive health awareness culture in our workplace. I am conscious too that by sharing moon cakes during this week I must take into account the children in our school who have allergies to egg and nuts. Again it is about being prepared and identifying those children for their safety and well being. My next step is to work with my student organising committee and identify any hazards in their physical activities so that injuries for participating children will be minimised. I also need to reconnect with our National Chinese advisor as I wish to strengthen our working relationship. I also still need to reestablish connections with a past pupil of our school by inviting her to our events.During my research for the types of activities to run I have made connections with Confucius, Asia New Zealand, our local secondary school, several parents in our school community, our after school Chinese teachers and of course our children who are running several morning tea activities.
Those of you who work with Chinese children and are not yet aware of Wechat, then use your phone and locate the app. Wechat is an amazing social media tool to use to create connections with our Asian neighbours. I use Wechat for communication in the Connect with China Flat Connections initiative. I use Wechat to build communications with some of our parents. I use Wechat to maintain connections with our previous Mandarin Language Assistants and to communicate with New Zealand teachers who have shifted to China. I use Wechat to develop closer relationships with our sister school in Ningbo. I have used Wechat to make connections with a kindergarten who will communicate with our junior school during the upcoming week of celebration.
The week long celebration is now just two weeks away. I have let our parent community know that it is happening via our newsletter. I have alerted teachers to the dates and to be aware of their contribution in class. I have met with the student leadership team to design the activities that will be run. So now it is down to the finer details.
Those of you who are in an ALLiS cluster, what kinds of events have you hosted to raise awareness and to celebrate our children?