Visiting teachers of Chinese enhance their skills through COE-sponsored StarTalk program
Thanks to a summer teacher development program sponsored jointly by the UF College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, more than 70 youngsters filled the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville recently for a fun-filled summer week of StarTalk, a federally funded teacher development program in which students learn conversational Chinese while studying Far East culture through hands-on activities. BELOW: WATCH THE VIDEO, READ THE STORY.
More than 70 youngsters filled the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville recently for a fun-filled summer week of learning to speak conversational Chinese while studying Far East culture through hands-on activities.
The UF College of Education and the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ department of Literacy, Language and Culture have co-sponsored StarTalk – a federally funded teacher development program — each of the past four years. StarTalk was established in 2006 to promote the nationwide teaching of “critical needs” languages such as Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
UF StarTalk program director Patricia Jacobs, who also serves as a writing coach at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, said the program’s objectives are simple.
“One-fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese, so it stands to reason that more of us should know how to speak it,” Jacobs said. “Skilled teachers are critical to this learning process, and they’re the focus of this program.”
The COE’s StarTalk program is exclusive to teachers of Chinese, nearly all of them China natives who teach at different schools throughout the U.S. Each year they attend afternoon training sessions at UF’s Norman Hall led by COE faculty members before applying what they learn during morning classes with kids ages 5-18 at the Boys and Girls Club.
Fifteen teachers from as far away as Texas and Massachusetts took part in this year’s program, according to Danling Fu, a UF literacy education professor who specializes in graduate and undergraduate level writing and language instruction.
“Classes are taught much differently in China, so what they gain here helps them become more effective when teaching American children,” said Fu, who serves as lead instructor. “They’re very enthusiastic and the children respond well to that. It’s fun to watch them interact.”
Students were introduced to common Chinese words and phrases while receiving lessons in Chinese culture, such as learning how to make sweet dumplings — called tang yu’an in Chinese – and creating colorful paper lanterns for the Lantern Festival, a celebration dating back to the Han dynasty of 206 BC to 25 AD.
UF student and Taiwan native Eric Fu, who is majoring in criminology with a minor in Chinese, said he attended the StarTalk sessions to broaden his horizons about cultural education.
“It was interesting to see how passionate the teachers were, and how enthusiastically the kids responded,” Fu said. “I’ve been learning a lot from the teachers, but probably just as much by watching the students. All that will be helpful to me in terms of interpersonal dynamics.”
StarTalk is a multi-agency initiative funded primarily by the Department of Defense’s National Security Agency. Cynthia Chennault, a COE associate professor of Chinese language and literature, serves as co-instructional leader.
Other StarTalk sponsors include the National Foreign Language Center in Riverdale Park, Md., and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
Source: Danling Fu, UF College of Education, email@example.com; phone 352-392-9191, ext. 20.
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