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The Mandarin program at Keys is designed to build the language skills and social knowledge required to communicate meaningfully and effectively, setting students on a path to strong language acquisition in high school and beyond.

In the Lower School, students are exposed to the language through role-plays, chants, songs, poems, games and dialogues. Students also experience the crafts, foods, greetings, etiquette and customs of the countries studied. At the end of the Lower School years they should have familiarity with basic vocabulary, the present tense, and rudimentary styles of conversation.

As Middle School students develop proficiency with the language, classes continue to be interactive and engaging, but the focus shifts to develop advanced grammar concepts. Discussions of literature challenge students to use increasingly advanced vocabulary, translation and speaking skills. Field trips to local communities provide authentic contexts in which to practice the language. Research projects and presentations immerse students in the arts history, and traditions of various countries and afford them a growing understanding of world cultures; discussions of geography and current events help them appreciate their role as citizens of a global society.

Highlights of the program include:


  • » Learn basic vocabulary related to daily life (greetings, calendar, self, school)
  • » Develop familiarity with the sounds of the language
  • » Practice word recognition, reading and listening skills
  • » Gain familiarity with basic Chinese characters
  • » Explore Chinese holidays, customs, stories, songs and nursery rhymes

First Grade

  • » Learn additional vocabulary related to daily life (family, friends, food, home)
  • » Begin to write simplified Chinese characters in correct stroke order
  • » Develop basic understanding of pinyin rules
  • » Practice correct pronunciation
  • » Use learned vocabulary to create simple phrases
  • » Engage in dialogues with peers and teacher
  • » Learn about Chinese foods

Second Grade

  • » Expand vocabulary related to daily life (friends, hobbies, animals, preferences)
  • » Write Chinese characters using correct stroke order
  • » Understand pinyin rules and apply to new vocabulary
  • » Practice and refine pronunciation
  • » Use simple sentences to dialogue with peers and teacher

Third Grade

  • » Describe pictures, objects, events in speaking and writing
  • » Apply learned vocabulary and phrases in conversations about daily life
  • » Use a Chinese dictionary to look up new vocabulary
  • » Learn Chinese calligraphy
  • » Use pinyin to type Chinese characters

Fourth Grade

  • » Use learned vocabulary and phrases to create a sequence of sentences
  • » Read and discuss simple story book
  • » Hold a dialogue with some improvisation
  • » Delve deeper into the geography and culture of China

Fifth Grade

  • » Begin to hear, identify and produce the different tones of the pinyin system
  • » Practice use of radicals
  • » Understand and apply simple sentence patterns
  • » Begin to explore adverbs (time)
  • » Practice language in an authentic context through field trip(s)

Sixth Grade

  • » Hear, identify and produce the different tones of the pinyin system
  • » Write phrases and sentences with simple pattern with help of pinyin system
  • » Engage in collaborative and independent research projects
  • » Use question words, adverbs and pronouns within simple dialogues
  • » Practice language in an authentic context through field trip(s)

Seventh Grade

  • » Write with the sentence with varied sentence pattern with help of pinyin system
  • » Understand and use radicals
  • » Use more specific, varied vocabulary to share personal ideas and opinions
  • » Understand and use combined sentence patterns
  • » Use adverbs, pronouns, auxiliary verbs, and measure words within simple dialogues
  • » Practice language in an authentic context through field trip(s)

Eighth Grade

  • » Write short essays and presentations using Chinese characters
  • » Read, discuss and create skits for Chinese folktales
  • » Engage in extended dialogue; use complements in conversation
  • » Complete more in-depth research study; present ideas effectively, orally and in writing

Keys School - Lower Campus · 2890 Middlefield Road · Palo Alto, CA · 94306
Keys School - Middle Campus · 3981 El Camino Real · Palo Alto, CA · 94306

Phone: 650-328-1711