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How we embodying the Huili Identities in our Chinese curriculum

29 May 2018

In an increasing globalised world, how can we help our children living in a diverse cultural environment to build a clear sense of being Chinese and to develop pride in the long history and culture of China? At Huili School Shanghai, we achieve this by attaching great importance to the curriculum of Chinese (Yu Wen), as it is the fundamental vehicle for cultural transmission and an essential communication tool. Within the framework of the textbooks developed by the Chinese Ministry of Education, we will focus on developing the five identities of being inspired, intellectual, independent, individual and inclusive through all aspects of the Chinese curriculum. We strive to encourage a strong recognition of our own culture, a high level of cultural attainment and a capability to make cultural choices that are required to adapt to the modern world.


Creating a learning context that promotes multiple intelligences

Benjamin Bloom said one is most motivated in learning what one is interested in.

The development of language intelligence is manifested in the acquisition of first language, the journey of which can never be isolated or disconnected with other areas of learning. How can we stimulate children’s linguistic potential from different dimensions and allow them to find intrinsic motivation? At Huili, we combine the learning of Chinese language and literature into the development of multiple intelligences in various contexts, inspiring pupils to become active and independent learners. Our Chinese teachers will cooperate with colleagues from other disciplines to create learning contexts that stimulate the children’s interest and allow them to fully engage in Chinese learning activities. For example, when teaching pupils about the concept of shadows using an article entitled "Shadow" from our grade 1 textbook, our teachers will begin with a video clip of the traditional art of shadow play to boost children’s curiosity and desire to explore. Following an explanation of the language points in this article, they can use items as simple as a piece of thin paper and a lamp to build a mini shadow play stage. Children can then use their creativity and imagination to invent fun stories with self-made puppets. Learning about shadow doesn’t end there. In art class, children will draw their favourite puppets; in maths class, they will measure their friends’ shadows; in science class, they will explore how shadows change when the light changes. Through well-designed multidisciplinary cooperation in rich contexts, our children will be inspired to get a comprehensive Chinese knowledge overview, while becoming multi-intelligent and holistic.


Adopting a pupil-centred teaching model

The Doctrine of the Mean says that being intellectual requires the extensive study of what is good: accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the clear discrimination of it, and the earnest practice of it. Fundamental learning comes from developing critical and deep thinking about life; in other words, being intellectual. Our teaching model puts pupils at its centre to foster intellectual learners. Pupils’ needs determine what we teach in our Chinese curriculum, how we design exercises and how we plan each lesson. Instead of simply imparting knowledge, we aim at encouraging deep thinking and autonomous investigating by pupils as owners of learning. Pupils can discuss materials in their textbooks with teachers and classmates, and through thinking and working collaboratively they will explore the answers. They are the ones that dominate the focus of each lesson, while all teachers facilitate and support the whole process. In the grade 2’s Chinese textbook there is an article entitled: The Absurd Stone in the Yellow Mountain, which introduces several spectacular stones of various shapes in the mountain. While teaching this article, our teachers will help children build a general comprehension of the article before dividing them into groups to complete a challenging project: to introduce the scenery of the Yellow Mountain, make an itinerary and design a travel brochure. During these activities, our children are not only practising the application of information in real circumstances, but are also learning to efficiently exchange ideas and share the workload by deciding who will assemble, organise and present information. When cooperating with each other, pupils are also observing, thinking and seeking out solutions, while using their Chinese skills and getting inspired by peers. They will learn from both teachers and classmates the skills of transferring knowledge, searching for useful information and expressing ideas. Their interests and confidence in learning are increased as well.


Developing a curriculum that respects individual differences

According to Howard Gardner, each child has the potential to be smart, but each in different ways.

An education system is not a production line designed to deliver the same end-products. In fact, no two children are the same in terms of characteristics, abilities, behaviour patterns and emotions. That explains why effective teaching and learning can only be achieved by respecting and celebrating individual differences. If we compare children to flowers, the value of education lies in fertilising and watering them in the most tailored manner so that each of them can bloom to the fullest. Building on a sufficient understanding of each child’s current level, learning skills and habits, our Chinese curriculum will be delivered in a differentiated way. Teachers will assist slow learners to comprehend key information and to deal with difficult learning points so that they can build a solid foundation. With regard to fast learners, the focus will shift towards developing their self-study skills and creative tasks. Taking the teaching of classical poems for example, we will set a differentiated level of goals based on pupils’ cognitive skills. The goal for beginners is to develop fluency in reading the poem, to be able to recite the popular lines and to get a general idea of its theme; for pupils with a better foundation, it is to recite the poem and to learn the background of it with support; and for outstanding pupils, it is to link the poem to real circumstances and discuss their understanding of the themes expressed in the poem. Differentiation is emphasised in every lesson, homework and assessment, so that our teachers keep a track of children’s skills, learning outcomes and passions. The result is that every child can build on their foundation and develop further while experiencing the success and fun of learning. Respecting individual differences is evident in understanding and accepting the emotions and opinions of each pupil. For instance, elder pupils often show different perspectives and depths in interpreting an article. So, throughout their teaching, we will encourage pupils to think critically, listen to different opinions, and provide opportunities for them to present their ideas and to debate in small groups. During this process, they will develop self-awareness and the ability to listen, question and think critically.


Cultivating the ability of continuous learning

A renowned Chinese educator Tao Xingzhi said that a teacher’s role lies in ensuring that students have learned what is taught and how to learn, but the latter is more important. His words are especially true in terms of learning the Chinese curriculum: the most important curriculum that is taught in our first language. The learning of Chinese is a lifelong journey and the basis of progression in other academic areas. How can we support our children to learn Chinese continuously, extending it to after class hours? The key is to develop independent learners with a high level of Chinese attainment. By creating a diverse learning environment and adopting a pupil-centred teaching model, we strive to provide rich opportunities for pupils to accomplish their learning goals through analysing, exploring, questioning and completing things creatively. They will improve in many ways, gaining the skills and abilities to collect and deal with information, to acquire new knowledge, to analyse and solve problems, to listen and communicate, to find better methods of learning, to appreciate what’s beautiful and to think critically. We will support pupils to self-manage their learning by encouraging them to set short term targets and to assess their progress against these targets regularly, thereby taking ownership of their education.


Fostering an open and broad cultural perspective

Being inclusive, one of our five identities, requires us to have a global outlook to embrace both the Eastern and Western world. Its prerequisite is to accept oneself and understand one’s own culture. Therefore, Chinese culture and history is integrated into our curriculum to help Huili pupils know more about our cultural heritage and improve their appreciation skills. For example, in order to allow pupils to take pride in the rich and profound culture of our nation, we have taken Chinese classics as a supplement to the existing textbooks and encourage children to recite some of them. We will use The Analects of Confucius as an extending reading material after grade 6 pupils have learned The Eight Quotes from The Analects of Confucius. Apart from reading classic texts, we will also plan opportunities for pupils to look at traditions and history from modern perspective, to compare and embrace both traditional and modern cultures, and both Chinese and Western cultures. By doing so, we hope that they will develop a broad global vision. We hope that we have helped to explain how the goals and features of our curriculum are set around the Huili Identities. With our carefully designed curriculum and the joint efforts of all teachers and pupils, we are confident that we can promote the Chinese language and culture. Our constant aim is to support all pupils under our care in developing their Chinese knowledge and skills, while gaining a high level of cultural attainment and a global mindset, so that they will thrive in the diverse world.