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Old 09-19-2019, 02:13 PM
Cheesesteak's Avatar
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Location: Lovely Montclair, NJ
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Foreign Language Instruction (6th grade)

I have a question about what is standard practice in teaching foreign languages these days.

The background, a 6th grade foreign language class is being offered at my son's school that includes both children who have had instruction in this language from K-5th grade and students who have had no instruction in the language whatsoever. It is the only 6th grade level class in this language.

We are being told that it's perfectly normal, and the teacher
differentiates the instruction to address the individual proficiency levels of their students.
The parents in my town, legendary for their ability to whine and complain, are beside themselves. I, however, recognize that I'm NOT a teacher, I don't know how language instruction is supposed to work, other than my own experience in high school Italian. So, I put it to the good people of the Dope to set me straight.

So, am I being sold a bill of goods? Is my child, who has spent 6 years learning Mandarin, being cheated because his teacher this year started the class with "Ni Hao!, that means hello in Mandarin, how many of you have never taken any classes in Mandarin?"
Old 09-19-2019, 03:04 PM
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Location: The Land of Cleves
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Differentiated instruction is a thing in every classroom, teaching every subject. It has to be, because even with the same background, students will be at different levels due to different amounts of absorption and retention of that background material.

That said, some teachers are better at differentiating instruction than others. How good is this Chinese teacher? Nobody here has any way of knowing.
Old 09-19-2019, 04:50 PM
harmonicamoon is offline
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Location: Yucatan, Mexico
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I think it is incredible that Mandarin is even being taught at the six grade level. Hats off to your school district.

I teach foreign languages. The most common approach is to teach conversation. And works best when students are paired up. The teacher can pair the students at their level. If one has an edge they can assist the other. Which is good for everyone.

I see no problem with this approach. The instructor should speak Mandarin 90% of the time. And encourage language development outside the classroom.
Old 09-20-2019, 10:00 AM
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Location: Lovely Montclair, NJ
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I think the Mandarin program is very cool, in one of the elementary schools, the one my son went to, they start in Kindergarten, and offer it straight through 5th grade, my son has taken it every semester, 6 years in total so far.

In past years, when entering 6th they segregated the students into two different levels of "novice" class, particularly because some of the 6th grade student body come from schools that don't have the K-5 Mandarin program at all. This structure changed this year and I, among other parents, were wondering how a language class is supposed to work when part of the class is learning how to count, and part of the class learned that 5 years ago.

It's not so much the fact of differentiated instruction, it's the breadth of differentiation that has me scratching my head.

I can believe that this approach is fine, but I'd prefer to be told that by someone who isn't the guy who implemented the plan in the first place.
Old 09-20-2019, 06:09 PM
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Location: Taiwan
Posts: 10,569
I teach English in a Taiwanese school and my fellow teachers and I would riot if this were implemented. It requires twice the preparation and would take teaching in parallel.

I can’t see how this could be done effectively. Sixth graders are not known for sitting still so what are they supposed to be doing while the other group is being taught?

I would demand to see how exactly this is going to be implemented.


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