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Developing approaches to learning in Mandarin classrooms

DingDing Song, Mandarin Teacher Chatsworth International School (East Campus), Singapore

DingDing Song, Mandarin teacher, Chatsworth International School (East Campus), Singapore

This article talks about the importance of transdisciplinary tasks. It shows some strategies for Mandarin PYP teachers and all specialized PYP teachers to facilitate transdisciplinary teaching and learning. 

The PYP is a holistic and transdisciplinary education framework. Subject discipline knowledge is important but at the same time, developing conceptual understandings and developing skills that transcend disciplines should also be a priority in the planning and delivery of a quality balanced curriculum.

When turning an idealized philosophy into a practical and deliverable curriculum, many teachers and schools recognize and battle with the tension between disciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches. Like all PYP teachers, additional language teachers need to also apply transdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning as well as try to develop specific disciplinary knowledge and skills. However, it is not unusual for Mandarin teachers from different PYP schools to share similar concerns, trying to balance the development of Mandarin language skills and content knowledge with transdisciplinary teaching and learning in their classrooms. Having spoken to and reflected with many Mandarin language PYP teachers, some clear misconceptions and frustrations emerge; “There is too much content to ‘cover’ and not enough time’’, “as a Mandarin teacher my job is only to build Mandarin skills” or “Isn’t it the classroom teacher’s job to develop students transdisciplinary skills?”

Mandarin teachers carry equal responsibility in building PYP approaches to learning (transdisciplinary skills). One simple but effective way to promote transdisciplinary teaching and learning in an additional language classroom is to commit to, and purposefully design, transdisciplinary tasks, either individual or group, that require the use of a wide range of skills. During the process of completing transdisciplinary tasks, there are plenty of opportunities for students to develop transdisciplinary skills and display the attributes of the PYP learner profile and the PYP attitudes. They also provide opportunities for assessment as learning where students self-reflect and peer assess their skills, knowledge and new understandings.

The magic of transdisciplinary tasks is to allow multiple transdisciplinary skills to develop while at the same time maintaining a clear focus on Mandarin language skills. Transdisciplinary tasks sound like something big and tedious. In reality, reframing simple class games and activities into transdisciplinary tasks is relatively straight forward with a bit of reflection and creativity.

Read here some strategies for Mandarin PYP teachers and all specialized PYP teachers to facilitate transdisciplinary teaching and learning.

For our students to survive in this highly competitive modern society they need to be equipped with a wide range of skills. It is up to us to prepare our students to succeed in their future studies, careers and personal life. As educators, we need to shift the paradigm, striving to provide learning opportunities that do not rely only on the acquisition of specific knowledge, but also strengthen their globally transferable skills. Educators, enjoy the journey of inquiring best practice. Choose, act and reflect.

DingDing Song is a PYP additional language teacher currently teaching Mandarin across Kindergarten to year 6 level at Chatsworth International School – East campus, Singapore. DingDing is a PYP workshop leader, school visiting team leader and school consultant in IB Asia Pacific region. She has also assisted IB Asia Pacific office in training workshop leaders and school visiting team members. DingDing enjoys organizing additional language teachers’ network within Singapore PYP schools. She has passion in helping PYP teachers gaining knowledge and understandings of PYP, as well as supporting candidate schools on their journey to becoming IB World Schools. 

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One Response to Developing approaches to learning in Mandarin classrooms

  1. Linda Camelo 29 June 2016 at 9:31 pm #

    I consider the success in the design and development of any transdisciplinary task relies on Partnership Teaching which fosters an effective collaboration between language and content-area teachers. After all, two heads are better than one, especially when working for the same purpose: Meaningful learning and life skills.

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