Mandarin Dual Language Immersion Teacher Meshes Tech, Music

EL MONTE – El Monte City School District’s Mandarin dual language immersion (DLI) teacher embraces a multimedia approach that mixes technology, student engagement and music.

Emily Lu was born in Taiwan and moved with her family to California when she was 10 years old. Growing up in Torrance, Lu learned English through immersion, encouragement and one-on-one instruction, learning strategies she will bring to her classroom.

She will lead the District’s new Mandarin program, which launches Aug. 20 at New Lexington School.

“I am so excited to help create and lead El Monte City School District’s dual language program,” Lu said. “It’s always been my dream to be a teacher and I can’t wait to get started. This is such a wonderful opportunity.”

After working in the corporate sector for several years, Lu received a chance to teach a DLI kindergarten class at South Pasadena Unified when she stepped in for a friend who had to take a leave of absence.

Lu enjoyed the experience so much she went back to school to earn a multiple subject credential and bilingual authorization. She has been a Mandarin substitute at South Pasadena for the last two years.

El Monte City’s DLI program will begin at the kindergarten level, using a 50/50 model and emphasizing traditional Chinese characters. Lu plans to divide classroom time between English and Mandarin to establish a foundation in both languages.

Lu loves to integrate music into her lessons and has already launched a YouTube channel where her students can learn to sing simple songs, such as the “Hello Song” in Mandarin. Lu begins her lessons by breaking down the lyrics phonetically in Chinese characters, then leads the students in a singalong.

“I love using music because there is a lot of movement associated with the words, which makes it easier for the students to memorize,” Lu said. “Learning the characters is important too. Knowing the stroke order and history of characters helps the students understand and retain their knowledge.”

 Lu has found success using collaborative teaching strategies like Quiz Quiz Trade and Think Pair Share, activities that promote critical thinking and strengthen students’ oral communication skills in the target language. Lu will use a variety of online resources to stress core concepts like vocabulary building.

Lu hopes that parents will play an essential role in the program and plans to contact them on a regular basis to inform them of weekly lesson plans and subject matter.

“The parent role will be especially vital since we will begin as a distance learning class,” Lu said. “The first year of immersion is crucial, so we want all parents to understand their role, which is to facilitate the learning process at home and above all encourage their children to participate and keep up with their studies.”

New Lexington is planning on an inaugural class of 24 students but will accommodate all students who wish to register. A virtual town hall will be held later in July to update the El Monte community and address any parent concerns.

“We are thrilled to bring Emily Lu to El Monte City to help launch our Mandarin program,” Superintendent Dr. Maribel Garcia said. “Ms. Lu greatly impressed us with her knowledge, enthusiasm and teaching style. We think she is a perfect fit for the El Monte community.”