The Chinese (Mandarin) students at Sandy Spring Friends School employ a combination of traditional and progressive methods to master the Chinese language. Teacher Kexin Zhang believes that there are powerful technological tools to be taken advantage of in the modern era, but there is no replacement for human-to-human interaction in learning a new language. In her curriculum, Mandarin students are paired with native-speaking Chinese students from the school’s international boarding program for periodic, face-to-face conversation/interviews. When students return to the classroom, they share what they have learned from their new friend.
As a teacher at a 1:1 School, Kexin is also able to supplement her curriculum with a variety of iPad apps such as a character writing app, a dictionary, and powerful tools such as “WeChat.” Under the Mandarin setting in the iPad talk-to-text feature, a student can practice diction. In the absence of face-to-face human dialog and feedback, these apps provide essential tools needed to develop a new language. Kexin has handled the integration of conventional and innovative teaching methods very gracefully in her classroom.