Sample STARTALK Unit

The 2010 and 2011 West Virginia Language Leaper STARTALK programs provided elementary students an opportunity to participate in a two-week space-themed/fantasy summer camp that allowed the travelers to learn Chinese language and culture with the help of their space captains (instructors) and an alien puppet named Nomi. In the process of traveling with Nomi and completing specific space missions, the students gained an opportunity to discover themselves and how they connect to our world.

Students started each day at the launching pad (gym) and prepared for their rigorous day by performing Chinese radio exercises. The students then followed their captains to their individual spaceships (classrooms) and blasted off into space through a fantasy experience while learning through content-related instruction in Chinese.

Each day, the participants experienced three media-based space adventures conducted at varies times throughout the day. Periodically, the students returned to earth (China) for refueling breaks, intensive integrated and connected Chinese culture activities, Chinese-themed lunches, and children’s recess games. Students reflected daily on what they learned using their mission journals (adapted LinguaFolio Jr. self-assessment tool).

The Curriculum Template and LinguaFolio Working Together

The introductory unit for the West Virginia Language Leaper STARTALK program was titled “All About Me and My Friends in Our World.” This initial unit provided the entry point for students to engage in the program.

After developing the theme for the initial unit, the program director and instructor identified the learning objections. The selected appropriate NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements (2015 NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, 2017 NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for Interpretive Communication, 2017 NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for Interpersonal Communication, 2017 NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for Presentational Communication) that fit the unit goals. In thinking about the introductory nature of the unit theme, Can-Do Statements emerged as logical learning targets:

  • Students can greet people in a polite way.
  • Students can talk about things they like and dislike

The Can-Do Statements identified for the introductory unit also addressed the three modes of communication (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational).

Once the broader learning objectives were determined, the program director and instructor developed customized Can-Do Statements to further contextualize the learning for the program’s young learners. As a result, specific clarifying content was identified for the broader statements. While these clarifying components were not listed with the objective on the curriculum template, they were reflected in the Language Leaper Traveler Mission Journal.

To accompany the fantasy theme of the West Virginia STARTALK program, a Mission Journal (Biography), Passport, and Language Capsule (Dossier) were created for students to reflect upon their learning and engage in autonomous self-assessment. The three documents served as thematic and adapted versions of the NCSSFL LinguaFolio Jr. model.

Embedded within the Mission Journal is an enhancement that provides students an opportunity to self-assess their abilities daily during the program. The “Look What I Can Do Today!” pages contained a visual representation that incorporated the Language Leaper character of Nomi. Specifically, students color in the number of heads that corresponds with their current self-assessment of their abilities. See sample page from the Mission Journal.