Wei Guo uses immersive exercises and activities to engage students across all three sections of his Mandarin language courses. Mr. Guo concocts real-life scenarios in which students must be able to describe, explain, and converse entirely in Mandarin. Facing situations they have likely navigated in English, new Mandarin speakers have put on skits, led tours of favorite spots on campus, vlogged about their favorite way to spend a day, and participated in an all-Mandarin speed-dating exercise.
Mandarin I students learned about the six types of Chinese characters, embracing the challenge of learning a new written language alongside the spoken word. They presented their handwritten characters to the class alongside corresponding drawings. Intermediate students in the next class simulated meeting a new person at a party and conversed only in Mandarin. The interactions were timed so that students were able to speak with everyone at the ‘party,’ thereby exploring different topics of discussion and expanding vocabulary.
Students in Mandarin IV/V led classmates on tours of various campus locales including the Trevor Zoo, Mills Athletic Center, dining hall, and Schoolhouse. The tour guides were permitted to use notes but spoke extemporaneously as they pointed out highlights. With the pervasiveness of texting and email, students also learn to type Chinese characters. “We devote time to both typing and handwriting in our classes,” said Mr. Guo, “in addition to adopting a balanced approach of cultivating all the four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) necessary to learn any world language.”
Millbrook's Mandarin curriculum emphasizes conversational and functional usage of the language from the start and throughout all levels, equipping students to pursue fluency.