When sitting in Grace Pei’s Mandarin 5, you better be ready for all-Mandarin, all-the-time. Near the end of my observation of her class, students worked collaboratively on a script (in the target language of course), and I just had to ask to be invited to the big performance of a well-known Chinese Valentine’s Day story. After seeing a very animated and Mandarin-filled enactment, I had some questions for Grace.
So I just left the big performance, and I can’t believe how fluent your students were in Chinese! Did they write the play themselves and, if so, how?
Yes , students write the play themselves. The steps are: Mandarin 5 students learn a Chinese Valentine’s day story called “Niulang he Zhinu 牛郎和织女” in targeted language, then they write the play with guidance from Ms. Pei.
Why did you choose to have the students memorize their lines?
This is a high level Mandarin class; students have had four years solid language skills. Even though the play was long, I gave them time to learn the story, to learn the culture that is behind the story, to write their own story, and to practice in order to make the performance perfect.
What was the most challenging part of the entire project?
To help students to understand my expectations of them in this particular project.
What was the most rewarding part of the play project?
When my goal was reached, which was students could perform this play in their level.
What advice do you have for teachers interested in similar kinds of performance based assessments?
Set up expectations first, then guide students step by step to reach the goal!
Want to learn more about how Grace scaffolds language instruction? For more ideas and modeling, check out this video and article featuring Ms. Pei, published by the Center for Global Education last September.