The Chairman’s Bao saves lesson planning time when teaching Chinese!
Peng-Hsu is Mandarin Dual Language & World Language Curriculum Developer in Bellevue School District. He has been using The Chairman’s Bao for Chinese classes to increase students’ literacy for 3 years now. We asked Peng-Hsu to tell about his experience with the platform and share his opinion on how schools and universities can benefit from using The Chairman’s Bao.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role?
I am originally from Taiwan and have lived in the United States for 19 years. Initially, I was working as an instructional Designer for University of Hawaii, then in 2015 I became an elementary school teacher and now I’m in middle school. I’m only teaching 0.4 FTE as a classroom teacher, I teach American History and Chinese Language Arts at 8th grade. My 0.6 FTE is Mandarin Dual Language and Chinese World Language Curriculum Developer for Bellevue School District.
Have long have you been using The Chaiman’s Bao and how did you learn about it?
This will be my third year using The Chairman’s Bao. We learnt about The Chairman’s Bao (TCB) from our school parents. We’ve been using the other platform for several years. Existing resources were mostly fiction and for secondary school we were looking for non-fiction, informational reading, because we were shifting our focus. So, I was looking for nonfictional material, and it was not a lot out there, and then a parent told me: “Hey, there’s The Chairman’s Bao, but they’re using different standard HSK.”
Since we happen to use ACTFL for many years, the transition from ACTFL to HSK was a little bit concerning to me, because we don’t know how the two would cross reference each other. But when I looked into it and reached out to the TCB team, I decided to give it a try. And then after some working back and forth, I found out this is a very practical material for students.
Could you please tell us about the challenges Chinese language instructors face these days that The Chairman’s Bao helps to solve?
Since we’re talking about TCB, I want to focus more on reading. I think the biggest challenge teachers are dealing with is motivation: to motivate students to read more. That often depends on the topic of the material and the difficulty of the material. A lot of times when we assign lower reading grade level material, the content becomes too boring, and with TCB it comes with different perks. Even though we assign students HSK 3 or HSK 2 articles, the content is still at the level of their maturity, it’s just language being modified to make shorter texts more manageable. To me it is a big perk about TCB reading.
Are there any specific challenges of teaching Chinese in comparison to other languages?
We live in the United States and finding authentic material has always been the biggest challenge. Another challenge is the price. The same book sold in China will be sold at least five to six times more expensive in the United States. Not surprisingly the availability and the choice of selection is also very limited in the United States. So that’s always the biggest challenge as a teacher and as a curriculum developer. So, The Chairman’s Bao is kind of a centralized place that teachers can go to and find all kinds of material.
Have you tried other language learning tools in your work? Is there any advantage that TCB has that you would like to mention?
I have used several other tools before, and I think they all have pros and cons. There is really no platform that is perfect and one-size-fits-all, so I want to focus on what TCB can do:
A teacher can see where the student’s strength is and where to improve after they do the assessment. When a teacher looks at the assessment, they can identify where students need to get more help or the teacher can modify the instructions. When each student is doing those assessments, they can be more successful.
The other advantage of The Chairman’s Bao is that it is very up- to-date. The topic is a real-world experience. When students read those materials, they can reflect or make connection with what’s going on outside the world. I think that’s one of the biggest advantages. And the teachers as well, we can assign an assignment, we can have a very lively or engaging discussion in the classroom, talking about contemporary issues, social movement, that kind of stuff.
Are there any specific challenges in finding materials for beginner or advanced learners?
Beginner material is actually not that difficult to find nowadays, because there are so many platforms available, but I think finding advanced materials is always the most difficult. That’s one big advantage The Chairman’s Bao has. The platform has very advanced reading material, which I can always assign to heritage speaker or a new student from China or any Chinese speaking area. That part has always been my biggest appreciation because finding those advanced materials is extremely difficult.
Finding teaching materials has always been a time-consuming process, how does TCB help you solve this challenge?
Yes, I really have to give The Chairman’s Bao credit for that. In the first couple of years, when I taught Mandarin Dual Language Program, I spent almost a third of my time looking for material. And that’s a waste of time, because once I find material, I have to do the planning, then it just doesn’t leave me much time for other tasks. But now I have TCB and it just took away that pressure, I can focus on my planning, my instruction in the classroom, so that’s a huge time relief from my part.
Please share some best practices on how you integrate TCB in your daily work in the classroom
I use TCB as home reading, for me it is the way to expose students to more Chinese reading. I don’t usually spend a lot of time discussing the article, unless it’s something I am personally very interested in or it is related to what we are talking about in our main curriculum. Otherwise, I really do use it as a supplemental material for students to increase their reading fluency.
What TCB features do you find especially useful / are your favorite?
My favorite feature, I guess, is how easy it is to assign students and the tracking, whether they’re reading or not, and then looking where their strengths are in each domain. It helps me find something I need to change in my instruction to help to increase student strength in that category or domain. I think that’s the biggest feature I like. I also like the search function.
The other feature I like is that students can have pinyin or turn off pinyin. And in the past, when they were doing assessments, they couldn’t open up a page as a text reference, but now that became available. I really see students become more motivated to finish the assignment, because they feel like they can get some kind of help to complete it.
In other platforms, when you assign homework and it passes due date, the homework disappears. But on TCB, it’s still there, it just stays overdue, which means students can still go back to finish the overdue assignment. I think this always helps students to see how far they are behind and manage their own progress a little bit easier. When the assignment disappears, it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind, so they will never be able to go back to finish overdue homework. But this way it’s actually a lot better.
I know this for sure, because in my master program, one of my classmates did research about having two different deadlines. And the deadline student completion rates actually increased. If you have the deadline and it’s gone, it’s just gone. Students tend not to go back to finish. I think TCB’s approach kind of reflects on that research, finding that when the students can see the missed deadline assignment, they will go back to finish it.
How TCB improved the efficiency of the language teaching process in the classroom?
To me, after I have used TCB for the past two years, I do see that students are able to complete the work assigned to them, their reading has subtly improved over time and they can actually read more and the reading speed also grow gradually. They are not so resistant to reading and I see that the reading deficit gap is closing, because once they have less resistance to reading, that’s where they start making progress.
In your opinion, what would be the top benefits of using The Chairman’s Bao in schools and universities?
I think first, it’s very easy on your budget, because the price is very reasonable for the amount of material available. Second, I think it’s a very real-world kind of material, so I would say it’s a very contemporary thinking product. A lot of reading platforms I’ve seen have a very Asian mindset design in that aspect. But if we teach this language in a foreign country, I think we need to design a product that is more geared towards Western thinking style and your product does have that feature in mind. It makes it easier for me to implement it in my classroom because, yes, we’re teaching Asian language, we should have Asian culture, but we also have to consider students, their background, as a foreigner, how to make the product more Western culture friendly so they can easily be adopted. And I think that would be something universities and other schools should consider, not just the language itself.