Prekindergarten Students Focusing on Learning Mandarin Chinese
It’s late afternoon at Lanier Expressive Arts Vanguard and pre-K students in Elaine Lee’s class are full of wide-eyed curiosity and fully engaged as they repeat the phrases given to them by Lee and point to the identifying images.
To the students, it may seem like another fun day in pre-k, but to educators, it is a step toward biliteracy. Lee, one of Dallas ISD’s 200 world language instructors, is teaching these young students Mandarin Chinese.
«At this stage, it’s mostly enrichment. We are enriching the pre-K curriculum,» said Lee. However, as Lee guides her class further into the lesson, it is hard to believe that many of the kids, just weeks ago, knew very little, if anything, about Mandarin Chinese. But today, they are connecting pictures with Mandarin phrases, and they are becoming familiar with Chinese culture.
Dallas ISD has taught Mandarin Chinese to middle and high school students for the past few years, but this year marks the first time the program has been extended to district elementary students. Currently, more than 300 Dallas ISD pre-K students in five schools are learning the Chinese language and exploring the culture.
«You hear it all the time, we live in a global society, all of us instantly connected around the world with the click of a mouse or the touch of a button,» said Elda Rojas, Dallas ISD World Languages Director. «By the time these students graduate from high school, they will be better prepared to be successful in a multilingual, interconnected global society.”
Today, more than one billion people around the world speak Chinese, and China remains one of the largest trading partners for the United States.
«Our educational system must take the lead in ensuring graduates are 21st century, world-class citizens who are culturally fluent, multilingual as well as college and career ready,» emphasized Rojas. «The time to start students on a global path is during their early years.»
Learning languages develops critical thinking and problem solving skills–skills that will help these young students build a solid foundation that will benefit them throughout their education and beyond.
The district’s goal is to expand the program each year and «create a continuous pipeline through grade 12, so that by the year 2020, students entering the ninth grade will be fluent in three or more languages–English, Spanish and at least one other language,» said Rojas.
Joining Lanier students on this adventure through language and culture are students from four other elementary schools in the Imagine 2020 strategic feeder patterns—George Washington Carver, Paul L. Dunbar and J.J Rhoads learning centers and Stevens Park Elementary. Through the Imagine 2020 initiative, 21 schools in the Madison, Lincoln and Pinkston high schools feeder pattern will receive additional support under a strategic plan that includes additional instruction time as well as partnerships with the City of Dallas and other businesses.
Currently, Dallas ISD offers eight languages, English, Spanish, French, Latin, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language.