WINSTON-SALEM – Students across the Triad are back at school. Both Guilford and Forsyth county, the largest districts, have thousands of students back in their classrooms. For some that means a new school but for others that means a new magnet program.
It's the first day of kindergarten for some Winston-Salem students but this class is much different than even the class next door. Eighty percent of what they hear will be in Mandarin Chinese.
“I have to speak Chinese all the time, including, the vocabulary, the instructions and everything. And I think the kids, they can learn it like the Chinese kids and learn it naturally,” said kindergarten teacher Ying Yin.
She says it can be a little confusing for the kids at first.
“It means I have to move a lot,” Yin said, “I have to show them pictures, I have to show them gestures and use puppets and use the visuals.”
But the benefits are proven. Teachers say in the long run, the kids can comprehend more and do better on standardized testing. And that has parents excited.
“You know down the road, she could be bilingual by fifth grade, which can open up opportunities, internships even when she's an adult and maybe even going to China for business opportunities. I know that's far in the future but it opens up a new world for her,” said parent Ladorian Richmond.
There are 19 kindergartners enrolled in the Chinese immersion class. This program is one of four in the state.
“The hope is that our students will become bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate, so they can read also in the target language of Mandarin Chinese,” said Konnoak Elementary Principal Sheila Burnette.
And for parents and teachers searching for a new way to engage students and improve their achievement, officials say this new program could be the answer.
Right now, the Mandarin Chinese immersion classes are only being offered to one kindergarten class. The hope is to expand the program each year adding a new group of kindergartners each year.