Yun Lillian Zhang

This is my second time participating in VA STARTALK. I have absorbed, processed and internalized the proved theories and the best practices I learned from the program. I can’t thank enough the people who worked so hard to make it possible.

Two years ago when I first attended VA STARTALK, I had only one year of full time Chinese teaching experience. I survived my first year of Chinese language teaching with my passion and hard work, but I did not have good training in teaching Chinese pedagogy. The VA STARTALK program provided me with the “Aha!” experience and mind-setting for me to establish a solid foundation for teaching Chinese via study theories, practicum, reflection, and feedback. I applied the best practices and proved theories that I internalized from the VA STARTALK program to my Chinese language teaching and it was effective and productive. Our Chinese program in the district not only survived the deep program cut this year, but sustained and expanded as well; we have three different levels of Chinese in both high school and middle school now. I should attribute my success to the effective training I received from the VA STARTALK program.

I attended VA Startalk a second time with clearly defined goals. One of my goals was to learn to teach Chinese language and culture by using the total immersion method. Dr. Tseng presented a wonderful model by using her local dialogue, which is unfamiliar to most of us. The mini lesson demonstrated the combination of all necessary skills and methods for the total immersion method. These included the use of TPR, authentic materials, elicitation method, and student-centered and teacher-fronted interchange for short durations. The immersion method was then further illustrated by the practicum facilitator, Ms. Daphne Lee, who modeled a full lesson before our practicum, and further enhanced via practicum and reflection. After the program ended, I was able to watch many excellent practicum videos and internalized the new information.

In addition to solid instructions and a hands-on practicum, using the latest technology in teaching Chinese was unique this year. The program provided a one-day workshop dedicated to teaching the use of online resources, Chinese software, Smartboards, palm computers, etc. During the practicum, teachers integrated palm computers into their lesson plans and homework assignment. Students were able to input Chinese into and do their homework with the palm phone. Many teachers were very interested in bringing this cutting-edge technology into their classrooms.

The program also provided a platform for teachers to share their best practices and activities. Most activities had been used and proved to be effective, interactive, and hands-on. Dr. Tseng made good use of the strengths of each teacher and created a very positive learning, sharing, and caring community.