Learning Chinese verb forms can be delicious

If you happen to be wandering the high school second floor corridor at a particular time of the year, you might well be stirred by the aroma of delicious Chinese cooking. The command form is one of the most difficult grammar forms to learn in Chinese. Over a number of years Joyce Huang, ASIJ’s high school Chinese teacher, has developed a language unit with the goal of immersing students in a context that the command form really shines in; a cooking demonstration! Joyce recognized the value of putting the learning of this particular structure into an authentic context. Using cooking as the context Joyce has noticed a marked improvement in the percentage of students who truly grasp the command form compared to other teaching approaches.

Along with the typical activities you would expect in a language unit (vocab lists, quizzes, speaking and listening practice), students were treated to an in school cooking demonstration during class time.

The culminating assessment is for students to work as part of a small group to select a Chinese recipe and create their own video cooking segment.

Grade 12 student Asher Roper explained, “Me and three other friends made dumplings. We met at a friends house one weekend to film the complete project. We had to be able to clearly explain how we were going to make dumplings using Chinese. It was hard because we are only in Chinese 2 so we’re not in the highest level…we are still learning the basic concepts. We learned vocabulary based on cooking methods but we don’t know too much about it. We would stumble upon things that we wouldn’t know how to say and we’d have to look it up for ourselves or figure out what to say to get it to make sense. It got us to take our Chinese outside of the classroom.

It took a lot of time to do this and to spend a lot of time talking to each other in Chinese was a really good thing. The process was really fun to do and then in the end we made pretty good dumplings.” (Glenda Baker, HS Instructional Technology Coach)