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Rutherford College

Rutherford Case Study (PDF, 296 KB)

Having taught Chinese for over ten years, Rutherford College has one of the country’s longest running school-based Chinese language programmes.

It has Chinese language classes for students from Years 9 to 13, with classes ranging from 3 periods a week for Year 9 students, to 5 periods a week at Years 12 and 13. Rutherford has a Chinese corner in the school library, containing a range of Chinese language resources donated by Hanban, open for use by local schools.

Rutherford’s Chinese language programme is overseen by Adeline Hsiao. A particular focus for Adeline is to encourage more students to learn Chinese and more junior students to continue their studies to senior levels through effective student engagement.

Encouraging interest in Chinese language
Adeline undertakes a number of initiatives to encourage more students to learn Chinese at Rutherford.

“Every year we undertake a range of activities to coincide with International Languages Week. We organize a week of activities and events, such as selling food or holding cultural activities. Through this week, we aim to get the whole school involved with international languages and raise the profile of Chinese in the school.”

“We also visit our local intermediate school where we expose students to cultural activities and experiences. Last year students rotated around stalls where they engage with a particular aspect of Chinese culture, like making a Chinese lantern. This exercise has been really useful in opening the eyes of our incoming students to the value of learning a language like Chinese.”

As a result of initiatives like these, and helped by an expectation that Year 9 students at Rutherford learn at least one international language, enrolment in Chinese classes at junior levels is strong.

Encouraging student progression
But Adeline also recognizes the importance of encouraging students to progress in their language studies through to more senior levels.

Rutherford has large numbers of students learning Chinese, though smaller numbers of students taking Chinese at senior levels means that Year 12 and 13 classes have been combined. “So I’m hoping to increase the number of students at junior levels who progress their learning through to senior levels,” Adeline says.

We are growing the number of students studying Chinese at senior levels by encouraging students in the junior classes to carry on. To do that, I’m focused on effective lesson planning to ensure the lessons are interesting and engaging, and have real-life context for students.

One approach Adeline has adopted to help students engage with the language is by developing web-based resources for them to test their language skills, and ensuring that these are aligned to learning objectives derived from the Curriculum achievement outcomes. “I found a website that allows you to develop games and I’ve used this to develop activities for the students where they can use their language skills. I can tailor the games to reinforce the learning the students do in class; they’ve really appreciated the opportunity to practice their language skills.”

Experiencing China first-hand
One way in which Adeline provides real-life context for her students is by organising a travel tour to China.

“About every three years we organise a trip to China for our senior students. This allows students to gain an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in Chinese culture and language. It opens their eyes and provides them with experiences that are not available in the classroom.”

In 2008 Adeline led a group of 12 senior students to China for two weeks, after fundraising during the school year. The group visited Beijing and Shanghai, taking the opportunity to visit Rutherford’s sister school in Shanghai. The group’s activities included calligraphy, language and dance lessons at their sister school as well as sightseeing in Shanghai and Beijing.

The students love it. Over the course of only two weeks, they grow and develop so much. They become more confident in speaking the language and find that it is really not as hard as they expected. They have so many opportunities to use Chinese in everyday situations, whether they’re ordering at restaurants or bargaining at markets.

The importance of learning Chinese
The importance of learning Chinese is not lost on Adeline, and it’s a point that she continues to make to students and parents in her local community. For Adeline the challenge is in getting more New Zealanders to understand the importance of learning Chinese and the role that China will increasingly play in global affairs in the coming years.

“China is, and will continue to be, a very important partner for New Zealand. The future is looking bright for the teaching and learning of Chinese. We just need more schools and principals to come on board to make that future a reality.”

Tips:

  • Focus on student engagement. Interesting and engaging lessons help keep students interested and challenged. There are many resources already available for use and you can create your own tailored resources on the web.
  • Real-life context is important, whether through travel direct to China or experiences in the local community. These experiences directly show students the value of learning Chinese and give them an opportunity to speak in real-life situations.
  • Work with local contributing schools to help develop language pathways. Working with our contributing school has meant greater student interest in Chinese when the students arrive at our school.

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