Castaic Elementary begins weekly Chinese language classes

Chinese language teacher Tiara Li leads Claudia DiMonte’s fifth grade class in learning basic words in the Chinese language at Castaic Elementary School on Monday, September 25, 2017. Christina Cox/The Signal
Students at Castaic Elementary School may soon greet each other with “Ni Hao” instead of “Hello,” thanks to new Chinese language classes at the elementary school. “It is our goal is to expose students to a second language as well as to collect data that will show the benefits of providing second language instruction at an early age,” Castaic Elementary School Principal Stephanie Beach said. The Chinese language classes followed the elementary school’s success in forming a sister school in China last year through the Los Angeles Language Academy. “I worked with Fen Ruan through the Los Angeles Language Academy to create sister school relationships with several schools in China, which eventually led to us having exchange students visit from China for a winter camp program during the months of January and February 2017,” Beach said. After a successful partnership, the Los Angeles Language Academy invited Castaic Elementary to pilot a Chinese language class program with California State University Long Beach. “We have agreed to try the program this year in five of our elementary classrooms,” Beach said.  “Kristen McGaffee is serving as the lead teacher of the program for our school.  She will be attending additional training through CSULB to support our pilot program.”
Chinese language teacher Tiara Li leads Claudia DiMonte’s fifth grade class in learning basic words in the Chinese language at Castaic Elementary School on Monday, September 25, 2017. Christina Cox/The Signal
The program officially kicked off Monday afternoon when Chinese language instructor Tiara Li visited Claudia DiMonte’s fifth grade class for about 30 minutes of instruction. Li taught the students four basic Chinese words, including hello, teacher, good morning and good evening, as well as the Chinese words for the numbers zero to 10. “Like in English you have the alphabet, in Chinese we have this,” Li said of Pinyin, or the official system to transcribe Mandarin Chinese sounds to the Roman alphabet.  “If you don’t know the Chinese characters you can read by this.” Li also used hand motions with each character and sound to help students understand and remember each word’s pronunciation. Throughout the school year, Li will be on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from noon to 12:30 p.m. to visit five classrooms, in kindergarten to fifth grade, for nearly 30 minutes of integrated classroom instruction. “During this Chinese language time, the students will be participating in age appropriate fun activities that teach the basics of Chinese language and also reinforce the California State Standards.  Early second language acquisition has been proven to help children’s’ brains develop and increase critical thinking skills.”
Chinese language teacher Tiara Li leads Claudia DiMonte’s fifth grade class in learning basic words in the Chinese language at Castaic Elementary School on Monday, September 25, 2017. Christina Cox/The Signal
Students at the elementary school also have a chance to participate in after-school enrichment Chinese language classes through the Los Angeles International Academy on Tuesdays, according to Beach. Next month, Beach will travel to China with Castaic Middle School Principal Bob Brauneisen to create and solidify additional sister school agreements in Shenyang, Jinzhou and Shanghai. Through these agreements, both Castaic Elementary School and Castaic Middle School will receive exchange students for a winter camp program during late-January and early-February. “We can’t wait for our exchange students to visit this year, as we feel our students will know so much more about their language and culture,” Beach said. [email protected] 661-287-5575 On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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About the author

Christina Cox

Christina Cox

Christina Cox is a multimedia journalist covering education, community and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in August 2016.