The Chinese Educator’s Guide to What’s Out There: 14 Spectacular Teaching Resources
Feeling lost in your search for quality Chinese teaching resources?
Join the club!
You and every other Chinese teacher out there are in the same boat, bailing out water to keep from sinking under time constraints and limited energy.
While you’re busy bailing, your students are, conversely, trying to keep all those Chinese words and skills from leaking out of their brains.
So what’s the solution?
Well, there’s no dearth of good Mandarin Chinese teachers, but what separates the “good” from the “sane and successful” is an ability to tap into the most effective resources.
The great news is, resources for teaching Chinese have flourished in the span of the past few years.
The problem faced by teachers has shifted from dealing with a lack of resources to keeping up with the flood of new ones and filtering out all but the most useful.
And that’s what I’m here to do.
Sit back and relax—your job is about to get a little simpler.
The Chinese Educator’s Guide to What’s Out There: 14 Spectacular Teaching Resources
Resources for Realia and Language Content to Use in the Classroom
Yesasia.com is the perfect place to pick up items that cater to students’ special topics of interest. Not only are Chinese movies of various genres available, such as favorites like anime, but you can also explore wider Asian trends. For example, you can explore the Chinese fascination with Korean dramas by finding Korean shows with Chinese dubbing and subtitles.
A wealth of reading material can also be found here. It’s a solid source of manga, which I find to be a primary motivator for a significant number of students to learn Chinese.
Chinese books on various topics students are familiar with in English can also be found, and Chinese language textbooks published in China—often superior to American ones, in my opinion, or covering more specialized topics—are available as well.
Classroom materials that stimulate engaged learning take time and care to prepare.
The best solution for the busy Chinese teacher? Outsource the task of creating and delivering these materials to people dedicated to focusing on just that.
Providing the highest quality and most convenient source of foreign language realia is the mission of FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
FluentU strives to offer a variety of cultural and linguistic materials to stoke your students’ love of learning the language.
Rather than trawling the depths of the Internet for authentic, level-appropriate and interesting materials to adapt as lessons for your students, let FluentU do it for you. Engaging, relevant and edifying materials have already been tracked down, outfitted with learning tools, explained and otherwise made readily digestible.
What’s even more exciting is that FluentU has designed educator accounts that make it easy to use these materials in class or deliver them as assignments, all while keeping track of and assessing student progress.
FluentU is always expanding its repertoire of Chinese videos, so you’ll have access to a steady stream of accessible, authentic content that never runs dry!
Chinese Teacher Resources on Pinterest
If you’re looking for fun and useful bite-sized graphics to use in the classroom, be sure to check out Chinese Teacher Resources on Pinterest. The images there are not only educational and entertaining (sometimes hilarious) in and of themselves, but they often point you back to sources that you might find suitable for your purposes in the future.
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Resources for the Chinese Teaching Community
Besides the development of materials to engage with, Chinese teachers can benefit from the guidance and support of the Chinese language education community.
The community for this growing, global language is well and thriving. Following are the main hubs for information that every Chinese language educator should know about.
Asia Society China Learning Initiatives
The Asia Society China Learning Initiatives homepage is clear about its mission: “China Learning Initiatives strategizes and executes a multitude of projects that aim at making Mandarin language learning mainstream, and generating engaging, relevant, and approachable content about China for the American public.”
The site is full of great reading and downloads on all sorts of topics relating to Chinese language instruction. Some of my favorite things found there:
- If you want to just read up on your field, the Asia Society has produced an abundance of publications, articles and insights into Chinese language education.
- The best way to dive into the Chinese language teaching community is to attend the National Chinese Language Conference organized annually by the Asia Society. There you’ll find the best and latest practices being demonstrated and explained. Some workshops may even offer chances for you to work on your curriculum then and there under the guidance of the greatest minds in the field. You’ll surely come away from the conference brimming with new ideas and with many new connections to other teachers, schools and organizations.
- If you’re looking to master the best practices in Chinese language instruction, why not watch some teachers in action? The TEQ Series of Instructional Videos for Chinese Language Teaching documents demonstrations of teachers putting their methods into practice.
- In conjunction with the conference, the Asia Society runs the Confucius Classrooms Network. This network of model Chinese instruction classrooms receives support from the Asia Society and pioneers development in the field. Be sure to arrange to visit a model classroom when you attend the annual conference!
- If you’re focusing on language immersion or early language acquisition, check out the Chinese Early Language and Immersion Network (CELIN), which provides ample Chinese teaching resources for your situation.
- One more way the Asia Society promotes connection to the larger teaching community is by guiding schools in building partnerships with schools in China. Take a look at their materials on the benefits and how-to of building such partnerships.
- Lastly, textbooks are of primary concern to teachers. The place to start when searching for the best textbooks out there is the Asia Society’s page linking to the best and most current textbook series and publishers.
NYU Steinhardt Department of Teaching and Learning: Developing Chinese Language Teachers
For another great general resource for Chinese teachers, be sure to check out the NYU Steinhardt Department of Teaching and Learning page on Developing Chinese Language Teachers.
There, you will find a plethora of links to Chinese teaching resources, including curricula blueprints and guides, games, songs, teacher and classroom websites, learning and teaching tools, professional organizations and other useful links.
Dive into the two above sites to find a wealth of information and connections!
Chinese Teaching References
In the course of creating lessons, it can be good to have some go-to references to fall back on when you have a question or your memory or imagination fails you. Here are some of my favorite books that I keep on hand.
DK “Mandarin Chinese English Bilingual Visual Dictionary”
A great general vocabulary resource is the DK “Mandarin Chinese English Bilingual Visual Dictionary.” This book is full of Chinese vocabulary, organized by subject and accompanied by beautiful illustrations.
As a teacher, it’s incredibly useful for quickly generating lists of primary or supplementary vocabulary to go with your lessons, especially if you’re working with a topic not generally covered in textbooks.
For students, it can be a fun resource for researching vocabulary for topics they’re passionate or curious about. The pictures make the task more interesting and help the vocab stick.
“Schaum’s Outline of Chinese Vocabulary”
Another solid, general vocabulary reference is “Schaum’s Outline of Chinese Vocabulary.” This book can be used as a menu to sprinkle in useful words and phrases that your textbook series misses, or as a review for advanced students.
“Berlitz Mandarin Chinese Phrasebook & CD”
A good phrasebook can be your best friend when you’re traveling in China, but it can also help you out immensely in the classroom. My favorite is the “Berlitz Mandarin Chinese Phrase Book & CD,” which is great not only for looking up useful vocabulary, but also phrases that vocabulary is used in. It includes an audio CD to help with pronunciation. Extremely practical phrases and terms that aren’t in the scope of most textbooks can be drawn from it for targeted lessons.
“Cracking the Chinese Puzzles”
T.K. Ann’s “Cracking the Chinese Puzzles” is the most thorough resource for Chinese characters, although I would go for the abridged version, rather than the multi-volume unabridged version. The book starts by breaking characters down into their smallest meaningful components (morphemes) and builds up from there to give a comprehensive understanding of characters individually and as groups.
Memorizing characters is one of the most daunting aspects of learning Chinese. The approach of attaching stories to the characters and understanding their morphemes and etymology doesn’t cut it for everyone.
A more direct approach, and more effective for visually-oriented students, can be found in the book “Chineasy.” The vivid pictures associated with each character will emblazon the characters into students’ memories.
“Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar”
“Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar” is an exceptionally thorough book on the subject of Chinese grammar. If you need a clear description of how grammar works in Chinese, you’ll find all the information you need here, laid out in a way that can be easily adapted for explaining the subject to your students.
“Schaum’s Outline of Chinese Grammar”
If you’re looking for good ways to review grammar with your classes, I recommend “Schaum’s Outline of Chinese Grammar,” which provides brief explanations and exercises to help students quickly brush up on what they’ve learned.
Pop Culture Vocabulary and Slang References
Chinese teaching resources emphasizing language actually spoken by youths tend to be much overlooked in the implementation of Chinese language curricula.
There’s no better way to connect with young learners than by having them learn the Chinese equivalents for the slang they already use in English, and the appeal of bizarre Chinese slang and pop terminology is sure to lure students into exploring the cultural sources of those terms.
“Pop Chinese: A Cheng & Tsui Bilingual Handbook of Contemporary Colloquial Expressions”
The most thorough reference to use for this purpose is “Pop Chinese: A Cheng & Tsui Bilingual Handbook of Contemporary Colloquial Expressions.” The book not only defines terms, but gives ample explanation, example usage and cultural background.
Similarly fun and more concise books on the subject abound, but my favorite is “Niubi!” due to its insightful and lighthearted explanations of slang terms, which give you the ability to add a bit of edge to your lessons. A very useful chapter is the one on Internet slang, which offers students a window into Chinese culture through their online activities.
That concludes my list of essential Chinese teaching resources. These will help you stay afloat and on top of things when the seas get rough, and your students will appreciate that!
Lucas Ledbetter is a Chinese teacher, writer, translator, and lover of martial arts and Chinese tea who is constantly on the move. Follow his whereabouts at www.lucasledbetterwriter.com.