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Research has shown there are many cognitive benefits of learning a second language. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills.


The Mandarin Immersion Program combines academic rigor, a variety of enrichment learning experiences, and supportive community of families. The program is an intentional environment in which speaking Mandarin is encouraged and viewed positively. While students might be fluent in Mandarin when they are young, without the environmental support, they often times lose their Mandarin or will not attain high levels of fluency that the program can provide them over the course of their academic career. 


The program sets high expectations for students. By the time graduates exit the 5th grade, they are expected to show high levels of proficiency in both Mandarin and English. Mandarin Immersion continues in grades 6-8 at Kennedy Middle School and grades 9-12 at Woodside High School.

To learn more about the program, you can view the presentation below. 



Why Mandarin Immersion?

Language Immersion and Mandarin Immersion programs have been shown to deliver unique cognitive benefits. Studies have shown that Mandarin is one of the best languages for early math learning and immersion students are better at nonverbal problem solving. Students display better executive control to focus on relevant information, and better listening skills.

What if we don't speak Mandarin at home?

There are many ways for parents that do not speak Mandarin to support their child at school. Similar to having your child learn to play a musical instrument, you can support them at learning without having the ability to play the instrument yourself. When it comes to lesson content, by staying in touch with your child's teacher and knowing what topics they are currently working on, you can always offer guidance about the content in your own native language. For the Mandarin language itself, here are a few ways to help: 

  • Help your child make time to practice.

  • Have your student teach you to say something in the language every day.

  • Ask the teacher for resources your child can use at home.

  • Provide videos, books and music in the language.

  • Find cultural events connected to the language and culture being studied.

From Learning a Second Language: How Parents Can Help

If my child doesn't yet speak Mandarin, will they be able to keep up?

Similar to English-only classes, students enter Kindergarten with a wide range of backgrounds, experience, and abilities. All students in the MI program, non-native and native speakers included, will receive what all other students in California are expected to receive - content knowledge in the common core standards. The only difference will be they are learning the content in both Mandarin and English. Additionally, admitting non-native speakers (that have no Mandarin background) only at the kindergarten and first grade levels and starting with 80% content taught in Mandarin, the program is set up to harness a young student's natural ability to learn language through immersion. Chinese and English homework support is also offered through the MI Advisory Council and PlayThrive after school program.

If my child is already fluent in Mandarin, will they be held back by non-native speakers?

The purpose of the Mandarin Immersion Program is not only to teach Mandarin, but also to provide students with a rich educational learning experience as they learn content -- the content of Science, Social Science, Math, Technology, etc. Students in this program receive what all other students in California are expected to receive - content knowledge in the common core standards. 


Just as native English speaking families need not fear attending an English speaking school because their children already know English, native Mandarin speaking families need not worry that their children would be “held back” because they already know Mandarin. Because a child knows Mandarin at a 4 year old level, does not imply he/she knows the language fully. Language becomes increasingly more sophisticated as the content becomes more rigorous. Students gain fluency in academic language, not merely in social language. The same happens in an English-only setting with students who speak English as their native language.


The MI program is not about providing fun Mandarin opportunities or exposure to Mandarin through rote instruction, but a sound education that is taught in both Mandarin and English, resulting in bilingual students. The program is most suitable for families who truly value language learning and view it as an essential part of their child’s educational experience.

Will Traditional or Simplified characters be taught?

Simplified. While both types of characters are taught at immersion programs throughout the bay area, nearly all new schools are choosing to teach Simplified characters. There are even some schools that were teaching Traditional and have decided to switch to Simplified, due to parental demand and general increased use and availability of Simplified in the Chinese world. 

What will be taught in Mandarin? What will be in English?

The percentage of Mandarin - English instruction (i.e., the amount of time subjects are taught in Mandarin or English) in each grade is the following:

  • K-1st grade: 80% Mandarin, 20% English

  • 2nd grade: 70% Mandarin, 30% English

  • 3rd grade: 60% Mandarin, 40% English

  • 4-5th grade: 50% Mandarin, 50% English

  • 6-8th grade: 20% Mandarin, 80% English


The subjects taught in Mandarin and English:

  • Kindergarten-2nd Grade

    • Mandarin: Mandarin, Math, Social Science/ Science

    • English: English Language Arts, PE, Music, Art

  • Grades 3rd-5th Grade

    • Mandarin: Mandarin, Social Science/Science

    • English: English Language Arts, Math, Art, PE

  • Grades 6th-8th Grade (At Kennedy Middle School)

    • Mandarin: Mandarin, Science or Social Science

    • English: English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science or Social Science, Electives



Kindergarten & 1st Grade

The instructional focus is on listening. The teacher conducts all instruction and conversational dialogue in Mandarin. The special tones and enunciation of Mandarin is emphasized in these early years of language learning.

Reading and writing of Chinese characters are taught in a developmentally appropriate limited time frame. We teach the simplified characters and begin with a focus on the radicals and understanding the origin of the character’s pictorial form. Students enjoy the drawing and artistic nature of writing. Stroke order and stroke names are taught to instill correct formation and importance of the stroke order.

Students gain experience learning the target language in a natural way while they are in the early years of critical language development for hearing the sounds, tones, and particular enunciation specifics of the language. The immersion program gives children the invaluable experience of learning about the culture of the language in a natural setting with native speakers.

2nd & 3rd Grades

The instruction on Mandarin language production increases with an emphasis and developing more complex vocabulary with fluent and correct pronunciation. Students read and write paragraphs and shorts essays in both languages. By grade 3, students learn eight new characters a week that are used in speaking, listening, reading and writing. In grade 3, Pinyin is introduced.

4th & 5th Grades

By fourth and fifth grades, students will refine their oral language fluency by participating in classroom plays, reciting poetry and school wide performances. Students craft both narrative and informational pieces of writing in Chinese and English with descriptive language that is rich in culture and content. Students continue to develop rich, high level content language in the areas of science and social studies.

Cross-Campus Enrichment Classes

In addition to academic coursework, students across campus in both programs receive enrichment classes in physical education, art, music, gardening, and library, which are all sponsored by the Starship PTO.

6th, 7th & 8th Grades

Students in middle school continue to learn language and literacy in a Mandarin Immersion environment where social study and culture are being taught as the subject contents. They also learn how to take more responsibilities, explore their aspirations, understand cross-culture aspects, develop independence and develop a sense of risk-taking. 

By the end of middle school, students will become more literacy independent and be able to communicate more naturally and culturally appropriate in real-world situations. These language skills include interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes of communication. In the class, students participate in whole group instructions to practice their literacy skills and strategies, and they learn reading and writing in small groups, where they can improve their skills based on their personal needs. Through the units of study, fun and authentic learning activities and projects are designed to accommodate students' learning styles or preferences, inspiring critical thinking, providing opportunities for students to research and solving problems.

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