Teacher Profile (Carol Kao)

This year we are presenting a series of posts profiling PKS teachers. The fourth installment features Chinese literacy specialist Carol Kao. Read the first (Q+A with preschool teacher Shihpei Chen), second (Q+A with Paloma Cordova) and third (Xi Song) installments.


As a new member of the PKS community, how are you settling in so far?

I fell in love with PKS the first time I visited the school. I saw smiles on students' faces and the dedicated working spirit of teachers. I knew this was the right place for me. I enjoyed a very warm welcome from the PKS community. I am amazed by the teamwork, values, and school culture. I am very excited to be part of the PKS family.

What are the benefits of learning Mandarin within a progressive educational framework?

Traditionally, students learn language through  drilling, practicing, and memorizing a list of ideas in a pre-set learning environment. Students are the audiences and teachers play the role of instilling knowledge. In a progressive educational framework, students learn language and develop literacy skills through project-based learning and research. They solve problems by working through them in Mandarin. In the long term, through project-based learning, students will have more time speaking and writing, and they show an increase in comprehension skills. Students are able to apply what they learned in real life.

Learning to read and write Chinese characters is often the toughest challenge for Mandarin learners. How do you help ease the process?

Chinese characters are orthographic; they are composed of radicals, strokes, and complex structures. On the contrary, English letters are alphabetical and systematic. That’s the main reason that people think learning Chinese characters is a challenge. Well, it’s true at least if you've never learned about Chinese characters or have no links to explore characters. If students know Chinese characters are formed from pictograms, simple indicatives, compound indicatives, phono-semantic compound indicatives, borrowed characters, and derived characters, it will be much easier for them to learn and remember characters.

In addition, I would encourage students to (1) Draw pictures beside characters and make a connection between pictures and characters; (2) Study characters’ stroke order to help them understand what characters look like; ( 3) Play fun character activities; and (4) Read words in context, sentences, and paragraphs instead of separately.

Many parents worry about their children learning Mandarin if they cannot support it in the home with a fluent speaker. How do you support children in this situation?

Children learn Mandarin productively and efficiently in an authentic environment. First and foremost, encourage your child to have a positive attitude toward learning Mandarin.

Parents can nurture the learning at home by encouraging children to listen to the Chinese songs and read Chinese books. Give them a lot of positive feedback! Select age-appropriate books-- they can be both physical books and audio books. Build good reading habits and read books every day. Parents can also host a Chinese book club and help children learn from one another. Parents can use digital resources as tools to learn. There are many interesting and useful digital resources that support reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  Keep good communication with your child’s teachers so you know what your child is learning in school and how you can support your child at home.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

My biggest reward as a reading specialist comes when I work with students. I see them walk into my classroom happily, and they can’t wait to share their life with their peers and me. Also, I am inspired when I see their potential to learn and to reach their goals. I enjoy my work and appreciate the rewards I receive through working with every child.

Follow us on Facebook!