A Team to Unite Cultures

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This week we talk to Amy Zhang 张琛. Ms Zhang has been at Yew Chung International School of Beijing for almost two years, where she has been working as a Chinese integrator and language teacher in Year 6-8 Learning Community. From the beginning of the new school year, Ms Zhang will be focusing her attention on Year 6, where we are introducing a new Chinese team teaching model.

Please explain your role in the Chinese team teaching that is being introduced for Year 6

From the start of the new school year, I will be working closely with the Year 6 teachers to implement a new model of team teaching. From ECE to Year 5, our students benefit from a fully bilingual co-teaching model that not only integrates Chinese and Western culture but provides a balance of English and Chinese language instruction. As our students move into senior school, we phase out co-teaching in order to advance our students’ English language skill (in preparation for English language exams) and place emphasis on subject learning.

In Year 6, however, we have formulated a new transitionary phase that lies between the co-teaching of Primary school and the team teaching of Secondary. From the beginning of next year, it will be my role to implement this new style of team teaching. Firstly, I will provide language support to students who have previously been reliant on the Chinese language teaching. Secondly, it will be my role to communicate with Chinese background families, supporting their understanding in the transition to Y6-8 Learning Community. Finally, I will work with teachers to integrate Chinese culture and references into the curriculum - bringing added relevance and a more global perspective to an otherwise English curriculum.


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Do the Year 6s still have language lessons?

Yes, Chinese as an Additional Language (CAL) lessons are still included in the curriculum. For students whose first language is Chinese, we also continue with Chinese Language and Literature lessons (CLL). Both these classes happen every day.

As with our other subjects, CAL and CLL are taught according to our concepts. This means that new vocabulary learned in language lessons can readily be applied to what is being learned in class.

What are the benefits of this type of team teaching?


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Aside from language support, continuing with a curriculum that integrates Western and Chinese history and culture is an important part of our global education model. At YCIS Beijing, we aim to prepare students for linguistic and cultural proficiency in both English and Chinese – and increasing exposure to Chinese culture, history and ideas is an important part of this.

In addition, students take more readily to subjects when they include points of reference that they know and understand. In incorporating Chinese concepts into the curriculum, we hope to increase the relevance of our subjects for our Year 6s who know China well and come from Asian families.

What makes our curriculum at YCIS Beijing unique?

The most unique aspect of our curriculum here is the concept-based approach. We teach all of our subjects according to the same concepts throughout the year. These concepts include Identity and Perspectives, Power and Conflict, Tradition and Culture, Sustainability and the Environment, and Change and the Future. It’s a really interesting way to approach teaching, because it provides our students with a very full and in-depth understanding of these culturally and globally significant topics.


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In Science, for example, students study the implications of topics through a scientific lens, and in Humanities there is an emphasis on history and literature. As a team teacher, I will ensure that China is represented throughout each of these concepts.

Examining concepts through these different lenses and across different cultures, allows our students to understand the multi-faceted nature of these ideas in our globalised world.

What do you most enjoy about teaching here?

Our students here are very keen to learn. In particular, they all share a real interest in Chinese language and culture because we are based in Beijing. It makes teaching particularly enjoyable when you have an enthusiastic and ambitious class.

I also find the teaching staff here very supportive. Partly thanks to the open plan Collaboration Room that our teachers all use, there’s a great amount of discussion, team work and support.

Ms Zhang started her teaching career at a local school in Hong Kong and, before that, studied an MA in Chinese as an International Language, and a BA in English Language Education. We are looking forward to welcoming her as the Year 6 team teacher from August!

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