On February 16th 2018, Chinese New Year, two schools from within TWIN-CS community resumed their pen-pal video conferencing!
Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Academy, located in New York, teaches both English and Mandarin, while Saint Leo the Great Catholic School, located in Texas, teaches both English and Spanish.
In celebration of Chinese New Year, kindergartners and 3rd graders from New York sang songs in Mandarin to their friends in Texas, with some students even breaching their bilingual barrier and wishing their friends Happy New Year in Spanish. Meanwhile, students from Texas taught their friends colors, days of the week, and fun facts about themselves all in Spanish (even a lesson on the different types of dinosaurs). Each group of children recited what their friends were teaching them, actively learning the vocabulary being shared from across the country.
Qianqian Zhang-Wu, a doctoral candidate at Boston College Lynch School of Education and fellow graduate researcher at the Roche Center, organizes these national pen-pal sessions with our Assistant Director for TWIN-CS, Mary Bridget Burns.
According to Qianqian, these sessions are “highly student-centered cultural and language [exchanges]. During this pen pal exchange, students were taking the lead to utilize languages in authentic, meaningful and engaging ways. They were able to hone their language skills in a much more powerful way than in traditional language classes.” She also notes that students were exposed to multi-age interactions, surmising that “[interaction] with children across age groups help push students to think beyond the box and is beneficial for their cognitive and emotional development in the long run.”
Above all, Qianqian observes that, “Although not intentionally prompted, cross-linguistically associations and transfers can be observed during the pen pal exchange. This is particularly interesting for kids from Most Holy Redeemer in NY, as they are becoming emergent trilinguals in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and English.”
TWIN-CS’s mission is to provide a substantial linguistic education while promoting cross-cultural tolerance and enlightenment; these pen-pal sessions not only give prominence to our progress in this domain, but manifest the very nature of multicultural education!
Follow the blog to hear more about these sessions and to hopefully see their expansion into other schools!
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Research Assistant