You are on page 1of 3

LAN CHENG

May 14, 2015


Dear Lan,
It was a pleasure visiting a couple of your classes back in Term 2. I had heard a number of positive comments
about your teaching, so I was looking forward to seeing you in action with your students. Since I dont know
the language, I cant comment on the effectiveness of various pedagogical techniques for teaching particular
elements of Mandarin, but you impress me as a confident, knowledgeable, organized, enthusiastic and engaging
teacher who has a great rapport with her students.
On January 7, I visited your 11:45 arrangement 2 Chinese 1 class of thirteen students (one student was absent).
When I came in a minute late, students were already hard at work on an exercise you handed out. I didnt see a
plan for the day on the board, so perhaps you previewed the lesson before I arrived, but the class was well
structured into several distinct parts: opening exercise on characters; quick review of days of the week; review
of homework on expressions of time (e.g., often, everyday, ); introduction of and practice with new
expressions (e.g., every day, every month,); and, introduction of an interview project.
The opening exercise got students right to work, though some of them seemed nervous that it was a quiz. You
clarified and assured them it was a formative exercise, and there was lightened but still productive energy in the
room as you moved about, joking and allowing students to help one another out. The task was to answer
questions corresponding to a table of characters with a particular radical (Find a character whose radical is on
the right, a character whose structure is top-bottom, whose pronunciation might be xia, etc.). When they
were finished, you brought a student to the front of the room, to indicate the correct responses on the table
projected on the ActivBoard as you prompted him. You kept him up there while you engaged others around the
room and used the laser pointer to indicate the responses. There were supplemental questions and answers as
well, as you delved deeper to check their grasp, and the student up front engaged several more times. You then
checked with them about the characters that were most difficult to find and reviewed meaning and
pronunciation. By 10:58, eight different students had spoken.
You then scrolled down on the ActivBoard to a calendar with days of the week and some times on it, and you
asked questions to get them to respond with expressions such as, often, not often, sometimes, everyday,
etc. You then asked them questions about their own habits, to utilize these expressions in full sentences, along
the lines of Every day at 3:30, I play sports. Everyone in the class had spoken at this point. You then
introduced or reinforced through some drilling the vocabulary of every week, every month, and every
year.
Next, there were full questions (such as, What time do you go to sleep?) on the screen, and you had the
students pairing and sharing based on these prompts. Some students had notes (or was it homework?) in front
Associate Head of School PMB 4680 1690 Newtown Langhorne Rd Newtown, PA 18940-2414 sspence@georgeschool.org 215-579-6526

of them, though some did not. You did a nice job moving about, correcting pronunciation. Your demeanor was
lively, smiley, patient, supportive and positive.
You then had individual students respond to the class and just when I thought some students energy was
flagging, you all laughed simultaneously and quite heartily over a students response. So they were following!
Then they laughed at your follow up joke!
At 12:20, you introduced your interview project, giving each student a button/pin with a character on it,
explaining how they would be expected to find a native speaker to interview about daily routines utilizing
expressions from this unit. This really engaged them, if mostly out of fear of having to talk with a native
speaker! You had them practice on each other to break the ice and the room was abuzz with Chinese
conversation. You provided some nice support and advice for transitions, and you even wrote on the board the
pronunciation and characters for and you? As class wrapped up, they asked, When is it due? What if they
reject us?
I thought this was a strong class, Lan. You shifted gears well, several times, providing a number of activities
that progressed well from one to the next, offering opportunity for practice and reinforcement and a nice variety
for interest and engagement. Your presence is positive, supportive and energetic. As I advised afterwards, you
had one student up out of his seat, and its good to provide more of those opportunities. But as I wrote above,
when some students seemed to be tiring, the laughter proved they were still quite engaged!
The next day, I visited your 1:30 arrangement 3 Chinese 4 class of seven students. Your previous class was
leaving late and without a break you just flowed from that class into this one quite smoothly and in good cheer.
You were holding some large cards with writing explaining directions for a cue and clue guessing game. You
spoke entirely in Chinese, quite smoothly and swiftly, and they followed you well. You had them close their
eyes while you distributed the cards, then went around the room as each student provided clues while the others
guessed what was on their card. It was a synonym game of sorts, I suppose. The students loved the suspense
and really found the freshman heritage speaker quite funny and adorable as they failed to guess his word. You
helped him provide more clues. Abby seemed really strong and even physically acted out the terms. And so
on. They had a lot of fun with it.
At 1:46, you distributed a handout prompting students to engage in dialogues related to the story they were
reading. Abby and Sarah quickly volunteered and took center stage without any materials and started chatting
away. Students followed well, and you wrote some clarifications on the board. You then went through the
handout a bit, and there was lots of laughing. You then asked some other questions about the story, and
students quickly accessed their books or other handouts to find the answer and engaged in some discussion.
You then had another pair get up to dialogue, and several students chimed in with corrections. To one student,
they advised, But you dont know her yet! There was more laughter; he took it well, adjusted, and it seemed
to go well. You prompted them further, and there was quite a bit more dialogue and even applause! There was
then great banter setting up the next dialogue, a phone conversation. Students prompted the two a bit when they
faltered, and they got going well, getting the whole class to laugh. There was clearly reenactment of the story,
but lots of improvisation and character analysis. Then another pair went, then another, really getting into it,
acting out the heartbreak and the tears, of a breakup or rejection, I suppose. The heritage speaker was chiming
in a ton, so much so that he was asked to come up, but he resisted. Then a last pairing went and really

elaborated after you prompted. You then played an audio (of the story, I assume) with questions and answers in
between segments.
This is a great class, Lan. I didnt know what the dialogues were about, but boy, were they into them. And boy,
did they generate lots of interaction, conversation (in full, rich sentences) and engagement. Except for one
student, they were eager to get up and act. They seemed well prepared and fully supportive of and responsive to
your goals and methods. You clearly put a lot of time and thought and energy into your teaching, and seem to
be meeting with great success.
Thank you for your strong work this year, Lan. You seem to have adjusted well and have made a nice transition
to the school. You and James are a great team, a real asset to the community. We appreciate your work, not
only in the classroom, but your extensive support of the Chinese community within George School. Thanks
also for your Confucian Classroom management and willingness to take on the Chinese service trip next year,
with its envisioned exchange component. I hope you are feeling as rewarded by your work as we are.
Respectfully,

Scott Spence
Associate Head of School
Cc: Ileabeth Ayala, Cheri Mellor, Nancy Starmer