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South Valley Journal

Chinese immersion students get Olympic-sized lessons

Feb 23, 2022 06:04PM ● By Jet Burnham

Fifth-graders impress parents and peers with a Chinese fan dance. (Darrell Robinson/Jordan District)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

To meet the first grade science standard to learn about the needs of living things, first-graders at Foothills Elementary learned about the panda, the mascot of this year’s Olympic Winter Games held in Beijing. Students also analyzed and memorized a poem about a panda, in English and in Chinese, which met one of their reading standards.

Because the Games took place in China this year, there was a natural tie-in to lessons in students’ Chinese dual language immersion classes. Teachers used the Olympics to teach Chinese culture and language as well as satisfy academic requirements.

Drama specialist Jodi Howell coordinated Olympics-inspired lessons at each grade level to create an Olympics kick-off celebration, performed for parents and peers in early February, to share what they had learned and demonstrate their Chinese speaking skills.

Sixth grade students, acting as newscasters, introduced various aspects of the Winter Games in English and Chinese.

Fourth-graders introduced the Olympic events in Chinese and with silhouette scenes. As part of studying Utah history, they had learned about the development of recreation, sports and tourism in Utah and the 2002 Winter Games held in Salt Lake City.

Second-graders participated in a torch relay, satisfying a standard of learning to work effectively independently and cooperatively. Third-graders learned about the symbolism of the Olympic rings as they learned about the world’s continents in social studies.

The Olympics was used as a social studies topic for fifth-graders as they met the standard to “identify a current issue facing the world and propose a role the United States could play in being part of a solution.”

“We discussed the importance of the Olympics, and how it has historically been a way for countries to put aside their political differences and compete in a peaceful spirit of sportsmanship,” Howell said.

Danny Jones said this lesson had an effect on his fifth grade son.

“It has really helped him understand how the countries unify in the Olympics and, yes, they're competing, but they're also supporting each other,” Jones said.

Sixth-graders also discussed the Olympics as a unifying world event. One of their social studies standards challenged them to “Identify individuals and groups making positive changes in the world today and support these choices with evidence.”

“We discussed athletes representing their countries through sport, and the example they set for people in their own country and around the world,” Howell said.

Sixth-graders also created the flags, traditional costumes and learned the greetings of various countries they’d studied to create a Parade of Nations for the program.

Jones said the program was impressive and got him excited to watch the Olympics. He said for the first time his kids were looking forward to it, too. His wife, Audrey Jones, said after seeing the DLI students perform in Chinese New Year programs for the past five years, it was nice to see something different this year.

“Incorporating the Olympics made it refreshing and new for us as parents,” she said.

Some teachers continued to use the Olympic theme to keep lessons fresh and fun as the Games continued through the month of February. Fourth grade teacher Amy Peterson used data from the daily medal count to create math word problems. For an opinion writing assignment, her students wrote about why they want to be an Olympic athlete and which Olympic sport they think is the most fun.