“Connecting Classroom Learning to Real-life issues: Using UNESCO Sustainable Goals” Conference Workshop: Q&A with Yi Zhang

Yi Zhang, Teacher of Mandarin at Willink School, will be running a workshop at our Annual Chinese Teaching Conference on Saturday 1st October. The topic is on “Connecting Classroom Learning to Real-life issues: Using UNESCO Sustainable Goals”. This is expanding on the excellent work Yi Zhang did on creating MEP Student Projects for KS4 on this topic, which are available to download for free here, for any student and teacher to use.

Ahead of the conference, we asked Yi Zhang some questions about her workshop, here’s what she had to say.

Could you share a bit about your workshop?

With engaging students with real-life scenarios in mind, my workshop endeavours to bring together GCSE schemes of work and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Disability, and to explore a variety of projects and activities that could be utilized to authentically connect classroom learning to the wider world.

What do you hope the participants will learn from your workshop?

Hopefully, participants will find out that there are resources that are not only rich in culture but also relevant to citizen education (such as the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals), which are also good for exam preparation or extension work. They will know where to find the resources, and take away a few ideas on how to use these creatively.

What interested you in being involved in creating the MEP student projects focused on this area? 

The breath and width of the topics. The combination of UN goals and the KS4 topics made a perfect match -it’s nothing too new for a KS4 learner, but definitely beyond textbooks. The MEP student projects have interesting topics that are related to real life and make you feel that you are learning a language, not just for the exam, but also to be able to talk about real life issues and for the rich culture at the back.

I really enjoyed doing a wide range of reading and research at the preparation stage, which was truly interesting, from sustainable housing systems of ethnic groups to different Chinese speaking communities around the world and their stories; from different education systems around the world to university applications. It’s like discovering a new, yet familiar world, that I have more or less knowledge of, but never really investigated in depth.

Another thing I was really interested was to make these real life issues integrated into the curriculum, at a level which is accessible to KS4, or even KS5.

Which part of the project do you think is most useful in learning Mandarin?

At the very beginning of the draft stage of the MEP student projects, together with the IOE CI team, we as teacher consultants – me, Rebecca Lin and Alexander Ferraby – decided to create the projects in a way that is scaffolded, with lots of supportive information such as key vocabulary, key structures and grammar points with explanation and samples given in each section, so that students can work on their own. The projects also list out corresponding GCSE topics of each section, so teachers can check them easily.  Given that the language part is closely matched with GCSE (AQA and Edexcel) and HSK 3 syllabuses, these projects should be able to provide a good range of activities for students of different abilities.

However, the rich range of cultural content is probably what will interest and enthuse students at the first place, and hopefully seamlessly bring them into purposeful learning which is interest driven.

What advice would you give to teachers wanting to use these materials, or tackle these topics? 

Please don’t just skip them because they are called MEP student projects. They are not just for MEP schools or students, they are for everyone. Any teacher could give them to students of appropriate level.

The best way to use them, I personally think, is to tailor them to your students’ needs and abilities – you can take bits out and use them or give it as a whole at the end of a certain topic. If you would like to have more ideas on how to use them, you are welcome to come to the workshop to find out more.

Which area of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Disability did you find challenging to get students involved in?  

To be honest, I think the majority of the 17 goals are quite relevant to students’ daily life. We hear a lot about them on news, or discuss them in classrooms. For example, health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, sustainable communities and cities. It really depends on how creative we are in making the material accessible to students, so they have the relevant language to talk about them.

Thank you so much Yi Zhang, we look forward to your workshop on Saturday 1st October!

To come and participate in Yi Zhang’s workshop, and experience many other wonderful workshops and speakers, book your conference ticket here.

We look forward to seeing you!