NEWBERRY — While walking through the hallways on Mondays and Tuesdays this spring at Newberry Elementary School, one might have heard Chinese being spoken.
Why? This year NES has held a Chinese Academy for first grade students. The academy is a partnership with Presbyterian College and its Confucius Institute. First grade classes receive 30 minutes of instruction per week. Students learn basic Chinese, including days of the week, greetings, counting to 20, months of the year, and more.
Instructor Xiaorui Du with Presbyterian College and Confucius Institute uses song, call and response methods, and artwork to help students learn Chinese vocabulary, diction, phrasing, and intonation. For one class, he used songs and nursery rhymes to help students learn animal names and animal sounds as they are pronounced in Mandarin Chinese.
“Our students are learning more what it is like to live in another culture beyond English, and perhaps Spanish. They don’t see (Chinese) in their daily lives,” said Pamela Graham, a first-grade teacher at Newberry Elementary. “They are learning we have a lot in common with people even if we speak a different language.”
That sentiment fits within the goals of the South Carolina Network of Chinese Language Programs, whose objective is to strengthen and promote Chinese language and culture in South Carolina. The academy expands students’ worldviews and is a part of multicultural education at NES. As lessons are taught and children engage, they apply their 21st Century Learning Skills for Global Citizens as well.
“They have to use their reflective listening to learn and keep up with the learning,” Mrs. Graham said. “The lessons build up each day from the day before, so they need to keep up. It is a lot of repetition-based learning. “
NES is the only elementary school in Newberry County with a Chinese Academy. Du also does this program with Thornwell School in Clinton.