Pre-kindergarten classes of yesteryear consisted mostly of finger painting, letter learning and naps. But Dallas ISD is upping the early education ante with lessons in Mandarin Chinese.
For the first time, more than 300 DISD pre-kindergartners on five campuses are studying Chinese. Elaine Lee teaches Mandarin lessons at Lanier Expressive Arts Vanguard and uses pictures and games to introduce Mandarin phrases.
"DISD wants to ensure that graduates are world-class citizens who are culturally fluent, multilingual, and college- and career-ready," says world languages director Elda Rojas.
The ancient language has been taught at the middle and high school level since 2011. Dallas ISD world languages director Elda Rojas decided to bring Mandarin to pre-K after meeting with an advisory group of teachers, staff and parents in 2012. The group chose to expand to Mandarin due to its increased use around the globe. More than a billion people already speak the language, and China is one of America's top trading partners.
Rojas believes in starting students on a global path from an early age. The pre-kindergartners who are exposed to Mandarin are also learning Spanish as part of DISD's dual language program.
"We know that Spanish will continue to be the most important second language for Texans, but the need for Mandarin is growing," Rojas says. "DISD wants to ensure that graduates are world-class citizens who are culturally fluent, multilingual, and college- and career-ready."
The pre-kindergarten classes that were chosen for Mandarin language program are feeders to Madison, Lincoln and Pinkston high schools. Rojas says she hopes to be able to expand the program to more schools every year, but it's difficult to find qualified Mandarin teachers in Dallas. DISD is reaching out to colleges and universities to recruit more language teachers.
DISD offers courses in eight languages, including French, Latin, German, Japanese and American Sign Language.