Heritage Language Learners
Mandarin Chinese Education
Reader's Response Theory
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractChinese has intimidated heritage language learners as it is believed to be notoriously difficult (Liu, 2008). Traditional Chinese education, which focuses on linguistic skills and is mainly acquired by recitation and memorization, tends to drive students from maintaining and regaining their inherited language and culture (Curdt-Christiansen, 2006). This study describes a children’s literature-based curriculum and reports Chinese heritage language students’ engagement and response to the curriculum. Specifically, this study presents the process of integrating children’s literature into a Chinese heritage language classroom, and investigates students’ engagement and exploration with this children’s literature-based curriculum. The research questions were: a) How do Chinese children engage in a Chinese heritage language curriculum based on children’s literature? b) How do Chinese children explore language and culture with a Chinese heritage language curriculum based on children’s literature? As an authentic document, children’s literature provides insight into beliefs and values of a target culture and offers language students excellent opportunities to learn about the values, beliefs, and customs of a foreign culture (Moffitt, 2003). Language learners can also experience the pleasure of immersing themselves in the intriguing verbal and visual narrative in children’s literature (Moeller, 1992). Sociocultural Theory (Lantolf, 2000) and Readers’ Response Theory (Rosenblatt, 1995 & 1978) provided the theoretical framework for this study. Participants in this qualitative case study was a group (n = 5) of young people (8-10 year olds) growing up in a family with a Chinese cultural background and with some, but limited, linguistic competence in Mandarin. Data collection included documents (reading journals and artifacts from the classroom), observations (video-recorded sessions) and interviews (three student interviews and a parent interview). Constant comparison method (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) was employed to analyze the qualitative data. The integration and implementation of this children’s-literature based curriculum was also described in detail. Paired-books strategy (Short, Burke & Harste, 1996) and three-phase reading instruction (Smallwood, 1992; Hadaway, Vardell, & Young, 2002) were used in this heritage language class. A series of culture-and-language linking activities and assignments were designed to develop students’ comprehension of the children’s literature and motivate their learning Mandarin. Findings included students’ engagement with this children’s literature-based curriculum and their exploration of Chinese language and culture in this heritage language classroom. Students’ enjoyment of this curriculum was demonstrated by their interest in the children’s books, enjoyment of classroom instruction, engagement with the language- and culture-related activities, and affection for their assignments. Students’ exploration of Chinese language and culture showed that their language learning and sociocultural experiences were embedded within each other. Children’s literature also encouraged students to share their discoveries, construct multiple interpretations and discuss their reflections, which inspired students’ critical inquiries. The implications of the study concerned the curricula of Chinese teaching as a heritage language, the role of family in maintaining heritage language learners’ Chinese literacy, and the impact of local sociocultural environment on heritage language education. Further research to explore how to use children’s literature to develop Chinese heritage language learners’ intercultural competence and bicultural identity was suggested.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading & Culture