Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Seeing Mandarin taught AIM-style for the first time

Every now and then as you journey through life, you come across an event which can only be described as "momentous". The first time this happened to me professionally was visiting Wendy Maxwell's Core French classes in 2000 while she was teaching at Bishop Strachan School in Toronto. I sat in awe observing her young students converse fluently in French. If they got stuck for words, she would help them with hand gestures. Little did I know that I was watching the genesis of her AIM program.

Over the years as the program developed I fully adopted AIM myself and found my once stagnant teaching career take off. My French students who, pre-AIM, couldn't do much more than conjugate verbs and recite theme-based nouns, became fluently bilingual themselves. I couldn't be prouder as a teacher.

Last week I had another momentous event, again related to AIM. This time, it was sitting in on a session given by Mandarin teachers and program developers Jenny McKinney and Margaret Fuary at the AIM Language Learning Summer Institute West. They were launching the AIM Mandarin program which had been several years in the works in Australia. They showed us stunning videos of very young Australian students speaking Mandarin: a language that is considered one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. We saw 5 year olds with less than 4 hours of instruction speaking Mandarin in full sentences. I was astounded and knew immediately that this was something I had to explore.


video



 Margaret Fuary and Jenn McKinney, developers of the AIM Mandarin kit at the AIM Summer Institute West at beautiful Brentwood College School on Vancouver Island.

After buying the kit, I proposed a grade 4/5/6 Mandarin Club to my administration and they agreed to it with enthusiasm. Thankfully, I will have the help of two wonderful teachers, Frances Wen, who teaches Mandarin in our high school, and Jacky Tse. As luck has it, Jacky has been in my classroom for the past few months volunteering and learning the AIM program (en français) and she also speaks Mandarin! Jacky and Frances share my excitement for this project and they realize that they are on the cusp of something very special since we will be amongst the first teachers in North America to be using it. Today we spent the whole day together learning, practicing and refining the gestures and getting ready for our first classes in Mandarin. We are psyched and anxious to get started!


Frances Wen and Jacky Tse, AIM Mandarin pilot teachers at my school

I started this blog to track our progress as we work our way through the program. I will also post videos of my efforts to speak Mandarin which should be interesting since I don't speak one word of it now. Stay tuned and don't forget to leave your email address below so that you can receive regular updates!

Xià cì jiàn / À bientôt!

Sylvia
sduckworth@crescentschool.org


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