Classes, Games and Pledges—All in One Day

June 29, 2016

Day One: Complete.

A campus that was once quiet is now one that is buzzing with chatter and filled with a desire to learn. As the first day of the Chinese Academy and French Academy came and went, students were busy from sun-up to sun-down.

Students from the Chinese Academy hopped right into classes. After yesterday’s placement exams, the students were grouped into specific classes based on their current skills in the language.

In doing this, levels of classes can be established. Therefore, if a student in Level One progresses quickly, then he/she can advance to Level Two. Not only does it create an incentive to learn—but also, an atmosphere of like-minded students with skillsets similar to each other.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the things students learned in their respective classes today:

The verb “can/cannot” and how to express an ability to perform a certain task. Once learning this verb, students were asked to apply their newfound knowledge to conversation, and then had to find a way to incorporate their “ability” to do something into a complete sentence. By doing this, students are able to practice verb repetition, but in a fun way!

Self-introduction was also a popular lesson amongst most teachers. Teachers said that it was crucial they learn these phrases—or ways to introduce themselves—before they transition to speaking Chinese 24/7.

In addition to the self-introduction skills, many teachers also taught welcoming phrases to their new students, which was fitting, since it was the first day of classes. Students were directed to “listen and repeat,” so that way, the phrases resonate with them and aren’t forgotten.

Most classes, also, began with establishing Chinese names for those students who didn’t already have one. Once their Chinese names were created, teachers added them to the roster. This allowed for both teachers and students to become more familiar with each other.

In teacher Jingping He’s class, students diverged from what the rest were doing. Instead, she gave a lesson to her students on how to make friends in China, and then explained how it differs with making friends in America. In juxtaposing the two, the students were able to obtain a more in-depth understanding of how the social lives of teens function in that country.

Once this initial set of classes finished, students went off to lunch. However, the learning didn’t stop there—after lunch, students returned to the classroom. Although, this time, their classes focused more heavily on culture and conversational skills. These classes are called “cultural exploration courses.” In these courses, Chinese students experienced a more hands-on approach to learning about the culture surrounding the language.

For example, teacher Hua Zhang taught a class about authentic Chinese calligraphy, and then had the students create their own calligraphic image. Additionally, she spoke about the “Four Treasures,” which is an expression used when referring to the brush, ink, paper and ink stone used in Chinese calligraphic traditions.

Once the cultural exploration classes were over, the Residential Educators (REs) hit the scene, taking the students to the next part of their schedule: afternoon activities.

The purpose of these activities was to give the students’ minds a break from all the classwork—it was a time in which they could relax their brains and get their bodies moving. The activities ranged from tai chi all the way to a massive game of ultimate frisbee. After a very busy first day of classes, the students needed to unwind.

Once this set of activities concluded, the students moved on to dinner. This meal was monumental, for it was the last time the students were permitted to speak English together at meal time. When dinner was over, the highlight of the day came: The Language Pledge® Ceremony.

However, before the ceremony started, students had the chance to listen to guest speaker Craig Davis talk about diversity in China, and then how it relates to global culture. Craig Davis was the 2010 Vermont State Teacher of the Year. Additionally, he was a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa. While in South Africa, he worked with teachers on anti-apartheid movements. He was an advocate for justice. Now, he works as a middle school social studies teacher. (On a side note, he’s also a great friend with Tong Chen, the Chinese Language Academy Director).

Craig ended his presentation by having an open forum with the students. If they had a question, they were given the microphone and told to ask it in front of the audience. He then answered the questions, which ranged from cultural instability in China to its overall social atmosphere amongst teenagers in the country.

Mr. Davis received a tremendous round of applause at the end. Consequently, all of the students were impressed by what he had to say.

Afterwards, the moment finally came: students signed and recited the Language Pledge®. This is the backbone to the Summer Language Academy. In order to succeed and improve, students must abide by it.

The Language Pledge® is a binding contract to which all students must adhere while at the Academy. It restricts them to only being able to speak Chinese; from here on out, absolutely NO English is to be spoken by the students, except in the times they call home to their families.

All of the teachers and REs came up in front of the crowd of nervous students to congratulate them on what they’re doing, and then offer words of encouragement. Each teacher personally congratulated every student, shaking his/her hand and welcoming him/her to the journey on which the whole Academy is about to embark.

Now, the students are restricted to speaking only Chinese.

Once all was said and done, Tong Chen expressed her deep respect for all of her students who were about to start this monumental journey.

“Get ready,” she said.

The immersion has begun.

"Get ready," says the Director of the Chinese Language Academy