“Paper Cutting and Teaching Chinese”

Lv Yingjie, a volunteer teacher at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, U.S.: “Now, I give my paper cuttings not only to my students, but also as a token of friendship to their parents and the American friends who helped me. As a traditional folk art, paper cutting is helping me reap more and more joy and happiness”.

Displaying paper-cutting work.
Displaying paper-cutting work.

Currently there are over 4,000 Chinese language teachers and volunteers teaching Chinese in Confucius Institutes, primary and secondary schools and universities throughout the world. While spreading Chinese language and culture, these cultural envoys personally experienced exchanges and interactions with different teaching practices and other cultures. The column of Teachers’ Voices is a channel where Chinese language teachers and volunteers can share their teaching experience with each other. There will also be a collection of stories on their unique experiences in foreign lands these cultural envoys can share with our readers.

Lv Yingjie, a volunteer teacher at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, U.S.

When I first arrived at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School in New York State, the students were having summer vacation. As I had nothing to do at that time, I picked up my former hobby — paper cutting. Unexpectedly, I could hardly stop once I started, and I have become a fairly well known paper cutting “artist” in the school, which ingeniously promoted my teaching of Chinese language and culture.

At first, I just cut the Chinese characters “I like learning Chinese” in artistic calligraphy and put them on the wall of the Chinese classroom for decoration. After seeing them, the teachers who taught the senior students liked them so much that they asked me to cut the same set for them to put up in senior students’ Chinese classroom. The headmaster, Dr. Ulm, saw this and I was given the mission to decorate the bulletin board of welcome center in front of the Main Office of the school with paper cutting. After working day and night, I finished my first US paper cutting masterpiece. The high praise of teachers, students and their parents greatly inspired my creative enthusiasm. More and more paper cutting with higher and higher quality were created, and I gradually applied them to my Chinese teaching.

Displaying paper-cutting work.
Displaying paper-cutting work.

Now, every day when I teach, I will present a paper cutting related to the theme of the class. For example, when I gave a lesson on the Beijing Olympic Games, I showed the students paper cuttings of Fuwa (the mascots of Beijing Olympics); when it was on Peking Opera, I showed them cuttings of opera masks; and when Obama was elected president, I found the portrait cutting of the president elect from some paper cutting website. My students were greatly surprised every time. I took the opportunity during “the exotic costumes week” to show the students paper cuttings of head decorations of Chinese women in the Qing Dynasty on “crazy hat day”. At the same time, I explained to the students the TV soap opera “Princess Huanzhu”, the Empress Dowager Cixi and Concubine Zhenfei, reminding them that they must go to the Forbidden City if they traveled in China. In order to give this lesson successfully, I spent the whole weekend preparing paper cuttings, Chinese knots and silk scarves to produce a crazy hat that resembled the head decorations of Qing Dynasty women. All those who saw my hat voted it as the craziest hat.

After working day and night, I finished my first US paper cutting masterpiece. The high praise of teachers, students and their parents greatly inspired my creative enthusiasm. More and more paper cutting with higher and higher quality were created, and I gradually applied them to my Chinese teaching.

As the course progressed, I started to teach students paper cutting skills to help them learn more about Chinese language and culture. For example, when I taught them to cut butterflies, I would play the well-known violin music “the Romance of the Butterflies (the Story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai)” to greet the students as they entered their classroom. While they were having lunch, I would show the cartoon of “the Romance” and told them the love story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. While the students were doing the cuttings, I would teach them the two characters for butterfly (hudie). As Thanksgiving Day approached, I designed the cuttings of turkey for the students, and asked them to write Chinese characters on the cuttings to make them into special thanksgiving cards to give to their parents. When Christmas came, I cut snowflakes with the children and put them on the windows, creating a beautiful scenery in the classroom.

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To rouse the students’ learning interest, I made medals by printing Fuwa on color papers and encouraged them to have “an Olympic game in learning Chinese”. Whenever they do well in their Chinese, I would give them a Fuwa medal and promise that if they won the highest prize, I would give them a mysterious gift, which was of course my paper cutting. Now, I give my paper cuttings not only to my students, but also as a token of friendship to their parents and the American friends who helped me. As a traditional folk art, paper cutting is helping reap more joy and happiness.

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pdfPublished in Confucius Institute Magazine
Number 03.Volume III. July 2009.
View/Download the print issue in PDF

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