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Chinese English Dual Language Immersion
In the Chinese language classroom, we teach simplified Chinese, and the primary focus is to develop language proficiency. We follow proficiency guidelines set by the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The emphasis on language proficiency enables our students to engage in increasingly sophisticated content learning in Chinese.
Goals and Principles of Chinese Language Immersion Instruction at CAIS
Our Chinese language immersion goals for students are:
- Proficiency in spoken and written Chinese
- Achievement of core academic competencies
- Chinese cultural competence
In order to achieve these goals, the following fundamental principles of Chinese language immersion instruction guide our practice:
- Instruction in the Target Language—100% of instruction within the Chinese language classroom takes place in the target language.
- Primacy of Language Proficiency—Curriculum and instruction in Chinese place primary emphasis on developing Chinese language proficiency. Chinese language proficiency is measured against the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012.
- Academic Content—Academic content serves as the vehicle through which Chinese language proficiency is developed. Achievement of core academic competencies through Chinese language may also at times be an appropriate objective. The level of achievement will depend upon one or more of the following factors:
- Chinese language proficiency
- Complexity of the content
- Previous content knowledge acquired in English
- Instructional strategies aimed at creating comprehensible input (sometimes referred to as “sheltered instruction”)
- Culture—Students’ ability to function comfortably, competently and confidently in a Chinese cultural environment is developed through:
- Curriculum content
- Modeling of appropriate cultural practices by faculty and staff
- Deliberately created environment
- Special events
- International programs
- Cognitive Benefits—Students gain cognitive benefits associated with second language proficiency that monolingual students do not. The cognitive benefits of second language proficiency have been demonstrated by a large and growing body of research. CAIS students enjoy these benefits in addition to second language proficiency and academic achievement. Annual standardized assessments of core academic competencies (i.e., ERBs) have consistently demonstrated that CAIS students achieve at or above the level of peer groups at suburban and independent single language schools.
One of CAIS’s strategic priorities has been the continuous improvement of our Chinese English dual language immersion curriculum. Aided by scholars and consultants from across the country, we have developed an innovative dual language immersion curriculum model that has drawn attention from around the country and around the world. Our teachers and administrators are regularly invited to present at educational conferences, and we receive frequent visits from educators around the globe who are interested in learning about our curriculum model.
Assessing Our Progress
As a pioneer in Chinese English Dual Language Immersion, CAIS has carefully curated a suite of assessment tools that we use to gauge students’ Chinese proficiency.
CAIS administers the STAMP 4Se Chinese proficiency assessment each year for third through fifth grades. The Chinese language faculty use STAMP 4Se results to cross reference with CAIS’ various internal assessments for students’ Chinese language proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. STAMP is not designed for any specific type of curriculum, so students do not need to review or prepare for the contents. Also, as the assessment is neither content- nor curriculum-based, the results do not affect students’ grades.
CAIS uses the Modified ACTFL Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) to assess writing proficiency in terms of the ability to write effectively and appropriately for real-life writing purposes. Student’s writing proficiency is also rated against ACTFL proficiency guidelines by CAIS’s certified WPT raters.
The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is a standardized assessment for oral proficiency. It assesses oral language skills against clear and specific oral proficiency criteria. It is well-developed, systematic and well recognized in the field of foreign language education. The purposes of administering the OPI to all CAIS sixth and eighth graders include:
To determine students’ oral proficiency levels against the national proficiency guidelines as a way to validate the Chinese language proficiency articulation level we have developed and to assess and improve our program;
To provide information on individual student proficiency levels that will assist us in designing appropriate instruction;
To serve as a benchmark, as sixth grade students are assessed again in the spring of their eighth grade year.
In understanding the validity of the OPI, it is important to note that this assessment is designed for college level students. In order for test-takers to earn higher ACTFL proficiency ratings, they must demonstrate a level of developmental maturity in Chinese that few middle school students would possess. In other words, at the highest levels the OPI is assessing not only the interviewee’s language level but also her or his maturity and life experience level. It may be that young students would be unable, for instance, to achieve a rating of “superior” in their own native language. Notwithstanding, we have chosen the OPI for CAIS middle school students because it is the most widely used and well regarded assessment mechanism of its type. In addition, similar oral proficiency assessments for younger students are not well matched to our students’ relatively high proficiency levels.
As a frame of reference, ACTFL standards suggest that in order to serve as a teacher of Chinese in U.S. primary or secondary school, an interviewee must demonstrate a level of “Intermediate-High” on the OPI. Each year, a sizeable percentage of CAIS students place at or above that level of proficiency.