On October 19, as Chinese teacher Lin Wang watched the seniors enjoying their welcome-back celebration at 100 East End Avenue and in Carl Schurz Park, he had a great idea: Why not design a lesson for his Class 10 students inspired by this joyous morning?
“My students are more interested in using Chinese to learn about real-life events that make learning more meaningful,” explained Mr. Wang, noting that his Chinese III course centers around authentic learning experiences. The fact that this particular event was delightfully Chapin-focused further enhanced its impact.
An avid photographer, Mr. Wang took photos and videos of the celebration, which included the seniors decorating the front sidewalk with chalk (a beloved Class 12 tradition) and joining an exuberant drum-and-dance parade in the park.
The following day, he shared these images and recordings with his Class 10 students. For the first time this year, Mr. Wang and most of his small class met in a classroom, while another student and this writer attended via Zoom.
After the students viewed their teacher’s vibrant slideshow, they embarked on a lively discussion in Chinese. Guided by Mr. Wang, they practiced their speaking and listening skills, reviewed familiar vocabulary and acquired an inventory of new words and phrases.
Without a doubt, the mood in Chinese III was upbeat and positive as these scholars eagerly participated in the activity and relished the opportunity to be together once again. “My students are very happy to be back to school,” remarked Mr. Wang. “I also feel excited to share our experiences through the language we’re learning.”
For the next step, the students were tasked with crafting short essays about the first-day festivities. Written in Mandarin characters, with accompanying English translations, these reflections touched on what they observed in Mr. Wang’s slideshow and, in some cases, how they felt about being back at 100 East End Avenue.
In an excerpt to her piece*, one student proclaimed, “我们看了十二年级回学校第一天的录相。很有意思。昨天是二零二零年十月十九号。十二年级在街上游行。她们走得很快。汪老师激动因为他是老师。他给她们照相。她们在东河边庆祝她们回学校的第一天。她们在公园跳舞和打鼓。十二年级学生们在地上写名字。她们很高兴。这是Chapin 的传统。她们戴口罩因为有病毒。病毒危险。昨天是难忘的一天.”
*Translation: “We watched the video of the seniors returning to school. Very interesting! It was Oct. 19, 2020. The seniors paraded on the street. They walked very fast. Mr. Wang was very excited because he was their teacher. He took photos of them. They marched along the East River on their first day to school. They danced to drums in the park. They wrote their names on the ground. They were very happy. It is a Chapin tradition. They were wearing masks because of the dangerous virus. Yesterday was an unforgettable day.”
Another essay* stated, “我的回学校也很好。我看到我的朋友和老师。我去参观学习中心。我喜欢学习中心因为我们可以做很多事情，比如：做项目和做功课。我们第一个学期结束了，但是星期一我们又开始了第二个星期。第二学期我有四节课。我有英文课，中文课，化学课， 和选修课。我喜欢我的课。我很高兴因为我又回到学校了.”
*Translation: “My return to school was also very good. I saw my friends and teachers. I went to visit the Learning Center. I like it because we can do a lot of things there, such as doing projects and homework. Our first mini-mester was over and our second mini-mester got started. I have four classes: English, Chinese, chemistry and a FOCUS course. I like my classes. I’m very happy because I’m back to school.”
When their essays were complete, Mr. Wang asked his class to offer their impressions of this imaginative and challenging assignment. Here are a few of their thoughtful comments:
“I think that practicing grammar and writing sentences is very important and I am very happy I got to practice it. I also learned a lot of new words and phrases, for example, 难忘的一天. (an unforgettable day).”
“I thought this was a fun assignment! I liked watching the video and then writing about it. I also liked that we were able to compare the seniors’ first day to our first day. I thought we learned some very useful vocabulary.”
“From the first lesson I was able to learn about vocabulary pertaining to returning to school. I think the words we learned were helpful because we can now apply these words to our daily life. I also received feedback from the paragraphs we wrote, which will help me in the future with grammar and writing.”
At the end of class, the students posed for a photo with Mr. Wang. As they smiled behind their masks, it was clear that this timely lesson, like the senior celebration it inspired, was simply unforgettable.