Experience the Learner-centered Shanghai Chinese School

With the fast economic development in the 21st-century China, an increasing amount of people decided to visit the country for work, travel, and study. Some of them even settled down. Following this trend, Chinese language learning is gaining popularity. Shanghai, as the economic center of China, is favored by more and more people from around the world.
  Mandarin course in Shanghai
1. Chinese traditional teaching methods used in Mandarin courses in Shanghai
For a long period of time, most people would think of Chinese education to be like this -- a teacher standing on the podium, with a stick in hand and books and chalks on the podium. Student desks are neatly arranged in the room, and the students were sitting with serious looks on their faces. They look at the black board occasionally, then lower their heads and write something. Without permission, they will not answer questions or walk in the classrooms. Traditional Mandarin courses in Shanghai were teacher-centered. The lecture desk was like a sacred shrine –respected and inaccessible. Students shaped under this model of education found it very hard to adjust to different teaching styles. However, current students who attend Mandarin courses in Shanghai are with varied international backgrounds. Unlike Chinese students, international students are sometimes more active, expressive, and interactive. They consider the teacher-student relationship as more equal and the authoritativeness of the teacher as less important. The instructional material is another problem. Most mandarin courses in Shanghai were equipped with textbooks only. Instructional materials were scant in amount and variety. Students were lectured a lot but the chances to practice were insufficient. In some Mandarin courses in Shanghai, teacher will have students guess the usages and meanings without checking their comprehension. In other cases, teachers give lots of sentence examples and have students practice without proper situations. The former treatment may leave students confused, and the latter can make language use isolated from contexts and real-life situations. Either way if used improperly can lead to fossilization in language production.      
 
2. Experiential learning for Mandarin courses in Shanghai 
Students from western countries have experienced different teaching models from students in China. The teacher-centered instructional method is not feasible when teaching Chinese to foreign students. Talking with Chinese teachers from Mandarin training schools and Chinese colleagues who had 6-years of English-teaching experience, my friend from the U.S. said he could feel strongly the cultural clash between them. A lot of times when he expressed some opinions on teaching, these Chinese teachers would open their eyes wide and said “Well, that is very western style!” In fact, every teacher can make their teaching lively and fun through the use of instructional tools or body languages. In this way, students can absorb knowledge and learn in a relaxed atmosphere.

   Learning is a skill. The ancient Chinese has a saying “Rather teach people to fish than give fish to them. ” Teachers are guides in the learning process. The traditional Chinese believed that teachers know everything from classics to astronomy, from geography to history. They also believed that the main task of scholars is to do research. However, modern educational thoughts believe teachers should take the roles of trainers and craftsmen, who guide and aid students in their learning process. In a proper time, effective learning strategies should also be instructed.

   With international students as teaching subjects, teachers from Mandarin courses in Shanghai should avoid being the center of the classroom. Traditional lecturing as an instructional method could be used when teaching grammar or language points. However, for listening/speaking classes or character-recognition classes, it is more important that the students have some hands-on experience. They need more time to think, recall, express and perform. Activities such as group practice, role-play, game-competition, and short play can be helpful. By doing these, students not only get trained in their language skills, but also enhance their relationship and understanding with each other. They are recognized as individuals and they will cooperate better in their future learning.
Regarding hands-on experience, Mandarin courses in Shanghai can create a lot of opportunities for students to experience. This is especially true when oral Chinese classes are given. The places to have classes, the contents of the classes, as well as the lecturers can be varied. For example, classes can be given in places other than classrooms. School restaurants, banks, stores, coffee shops, gyms, playgrounds, parks, and museums can be good “classrooms”, to name a few. In the meantime, teachers should be aware that the contents must be relevant to the teaching objectives, class time should be well distributed, students should be evaluated in proper ways, and security issues should be considered. If all these mentioned could be guaranteed, students would be able to acquire authentic expressions in real-life situations. They would also feel motivated, enlivened and involved.
3. Classroom Management for teaching Mandarin courses in Shanghai 
   It should be mentioned here that teachers must hold a certain degree of authoritativeness to prevent the class from losing control, even when it is the “free-talk” time. International students in general are very willing to express themselves and showcase what they know, especially for those from western countries. Asian students may be more conservative though. In whichever case, teachers should manage classroom orders and have full control of the pacing. Students should be encouraged to talk and at the same time be kept under control. Just imagine students to be kites in your hands. You keep the length of the thread and decide the distance they will fly. They are encouraged to travel on the wind and explore the wonder of the world. Meanwhile, you should observe to see if they fly too high and too far away. In either case they may crash on some buildings and drop. As a teacher, you can pull the thread and get it back to the safety zone. When you decide it’s time for the travel to be over, just pull the kites back to you. Of course, this does not mean that students are lifeless puppets. As a smart teacher, you should know to use the least of you control to have students meet the most challenges in the Mandarin courses in Shanghai.