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Updated: Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 2:33 PM CST
Published : Friday, 21 Dec 2012, 4:40 PM CST
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Connie Soong is a teacher at Doss Elementary School in Central Austin. She does not have her own classroom, because she is always on the move.
All of the tools Soong needs are loaded up on a mobile cart she pushes around campus. Students get to see her friendly face twice a week for their Chinese language lesson.
On a morning in early December, she rolled into Ms. Hodges kindergarten class and never uttered a word of English. During the half-hour lesson, the students were following right along. Soong has only been working with the kids for four months.
"At the very beginning I started off with a mix of English and Chinese not to scare off the kids," said Soong. "Starting in November, I was like, 'hey, let's give them a challenge.'"
Soong spent the last three years in Taiwan teaching English to Mandarin speakers.
"It's interesting because I'm using very similar practices to get them engaged -- a lot of repetition and a lot of encouragement because that's really what it is. Everyone learns better from positive reinforcement."
For some non-English speaking students, Chinese will be their third language to learn. Soong says those students are picking up Mandarin faster because the brain is already re-wired to think in another language.
Doss Elementary is the first Austin elementary school to offer Chinese, but this is only the beginning. There are much bigger plans in the works to launch a more intense program in kindergarten, first and second grade next year.
"Students will have language arts and social studies from their English speaking teacher and math and science from their Chinese speaking teacher," said Doss Elementary Principal Janna Griffin.
Teaching content in a second language is called Chinese Immersion. Griffin and other Austin school administrators have visited other schools across the U.S., including one in Houston, to see the program in action.
Local parents are lining up to get their children on the list because space is limited. Doss Elementary is only taking a total of 60 kids next year for kindergarten through second grade, 20 students per grade. Griffin says the school will likely have to hold a lottery.
"Chinese is one of the most popular languages in the whole world and it's really becoming very dominant," said Griffin. "And so to prepare our children to speak Chinese - it's making them world citizens."
The new program will be no easy task, but teachers are confident these kids will rise to the challenge..
"I think because of the enthusiasm of the children and the community," Soong said, "it's going to be really successful."
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