WCLS has chosen Ma LiPing's teaching philosophy as our method of choice for Chinese teaching classes (non-CSL). We have attached several files below to help parents learn about this methodology and decide whether it is right for your family.
Introduction of “Direct Recognition Method” of Dr. Liping Ma Chinese Language Curriculum
By Diana Wobus, Ph.D. from University of Maryland College of Education
Director & teacher of Ma Liping (MLP) Chinese Program American Chinese School, Rockville, MD
Many parents have heard about Liping Ma’s Chinese curriculum and wish to know more about it. From my personal experience in teaching this curriculum and in helping my child learning this curriculum, I would like to mention a few major characteristics of the curriculum.
i. The curriculum was specially designed for children who already understand the spoken Chinese and wish to learn it as a heritage language. Those children with little comprehension in Chinese will have difficulty in using this curriculum. The curriculum requires parents to speak Chinese as much as possible at home for students to succeed in learning.
ii. It is not until the third grade that curriculum introduces pinyin to learners, so that children learn the basics of the Chinese language without the help of pinyin, a phonetic system used in marking the sound of each Chinese character. Dr. Ma believes that for children who already speak the language, the purpose of learning pinyin is not for studying characters or learning to speak but for using Chinese dictionary or Chinese word processor as well as for continuing with Chinese language study at a higher level and independently. This philosophy is not new and has already been implemented in schools in many major cities in China.
iii. All of the content in a lesson focuses on one theme. All seven lessons in Unit One, for example, include a text which is also a children rhyme or a riddle, easy to read. Children know them by heart after just a few times of listening and repeating. Those texts are particularly attractive to children, who often find it fun to “recite out loud” or to “act it out” at home. For higher grades, the texts are carefully selected by Dr. Ma from those traditional Chinese stories or essays that are age appropriate.
iv. All of the reading exercises in the lessons focus on the new characters but also repeat the characters in previous lessons. Characters are creatively put together to form new, interesting phrases or sentences, yet maintaining meaningfulness and providing maximum exposure to the learned characters. I have not seen any Chinese language textbooks with such an effort of scientifically creating these exercises. What surprises me is that children can truly read every character without any help of pinyin.
v. The curriculum includes a complete set of homework in each lesson. The formats of these exercises are consistent and the content changes with the lesson. This multi-media format of homework is strengthened by Dr. Ma’s personally writing and recording the content. The content of the computerized homework completely focuses on the skills required, with a fun game of text ‘spelling’, and is loved by all children. Children finish their homework in a fun and relaxed environment. The homework is created in such a way that it’s easy to follow and that it forces children to finish all pieces in the right order on their own. Getting a child to do Chinese homework can be stressful for both the child and the parents. With this curriculum, many parents do not feel helpless any more as the children are motivated to do their homework by themselves.
vi. This curriculum takes a great deal of burden off the teacher’s shoulders. The amount of content in each lesson is especially designed to fit into a two-hour class in weekend schools. Some of the lesson work is for classroom and some for home. The large character cards prepared reduces the time teachers used to write characters on the board and are particularly useful for training short-time memory or making up new phrases. The curriculum provides useful teaching strategies and arranges the content efficiently. Teachers can follow the curriculum step by step and it’s not difficult to finish the teaching plan for each lesson.
vii. The curriculum focuses on listening, speaking, and reading, with writing as a secondary priority. I am in full agreement with this philosophy. For most of our children living outside a Chinese-speaking environment, it’s almost impossible to be good at all four aspects of the language. Writing in Chinese takes much more effort, which is a number one killer of interest and enjoyment in children for learning Chinese. Children learn to read much more characters than to write them in the same period of time. Rather than spending effort and agony for children to write every character, time is much more effectively and efficiently spent in learning to read first. With the growth of maturity in children, they will be able to learn to write as long as they keep their interest and enthusiasm high in learning Chinese.
viii. This curriculum is potentially fit for large size classes, without teachers feeling over burdened. The reason is that the design of the content allows for children to have maximum opportunity to participate and to have enough work to do in class. Teachers have fewer class discipline problems to handle because it’s easy to keep all children busy and paying attention. The curriculum also allows teachers freedom to be creative and imaginative in teaching the required content.
ix. What makes this curriculum so effective? Dr. Ma was educated in China and an accomplished educator and researcher with a Ph.D. degree from the U.S. She spent over ten years writing and experimenting this curriculum. She made decisions on the use of every character in each lesson, with several revisions and rounds of experimentation by her students for years. This process itself makes this curriculum trustworthy. Parents and teachers should visit Dr. Ma’s website (www.mychineseschool.com) to get a better understanding of Dr. Ma’s teaching philosophy.
x. Dr. Ma pioneered this set of curriculum with teaching her own daughter. Her daughter came to the U.S. at the age of six and was taught Chinese at home by Dr. Ma. When she was in the fourth grade, Dr. Ma returned to China for her doctoral thesis and took her daughter with her. The daughter entered the fourth grade in a good school in Shanghai, with little problem. Urged by her colleagues, Dr. Ma started writing her own textbooks, combing her personal experience, her mastery of the Chinese culture and language, and her learning and research in teaching.
This curriculum may not be suitable for each and every child. The outcome also may vary from child to child. Parents are advised to have a full understanding of the curriculum, the child’s learning style and interest, and to have a personal evaluation of different textbooks out there before sending your child to a MLP Chinese class.
Some relevant links: