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English Learning Goes Fast ForWord

September, 2007
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IMG_0434Eric Zhang, a Grade 4 student at Beijing BISS International School has found a way to improve his English by playing games on computer.

  Everyday after school, he will spend 50 minutes before the computer, playing the English language games in a newly launched school program called Fast ForWord. Now he is at Reading 3 level.

  “It is a good program, and it is fun,” said the boy. “It is not just learning; it is playing games too. My English improved a lot. That is why my mom let me in here.”

  On January 15, 2007, BISS became the first school in China to introduce the Fast ForWord Program. The first FFW program came out in 1996. Right now there are more than 9 million students in 38 different countries using it.

  This individually tailored program is based on 30 years of research in neuroscience and involves highly motivational computer activities that focus on developing essential cognitive skills, preparing the brain in terms of memory, attention and comprehension.

  Primarily, the program focuses on English words and sounds. It is designed not only for elementary students but also for secondary students,  including a language series and reading series.

  The program gets students to play computer games daily for about 50 minutes for at least 8 weeks (the length of the program is dependent upon individual progress.) The speech technology slows down words and draws out syllables so that a child can distinguish the sounds. It then gradually speeds them up again. Through repetition, the program “re-wires” the brain so that students become less confused about hearing similar sounds or reading similar words.

  In the computer games, for example, students listen to sounds such as “t” and must hit the button when they hear “d”.

  “Many students don’t hear the ‘t’ sound change to ‘d’ for a long time. But after lots of repetition they do,” said Colin Brown, BISS OLC Elementary Coordinator, and a certified instructor for the program.

  “What’s more, it is very cool graphics for the children. Even if the child doesn’t know the word he could guess it from the screen images. Thus, he is building his vocabulary during the process.”

  Students are required to complete the 8 to 12 week-long program all by themselves. If they are progressing well, the computer will automatically make it more difficult for them. If the student is having some difficulties, the computer will readjust the program to meet the students’ needs.

 IMG_0412 Brown monitors the program everyday, so he can see where the students are doing well and the errors they are making. Then he can offer the kids some help in that area accordingly. Parents get weekly updates with a statistic report so that they can know their child’s progress in English.

  Compared with regular language lessons in school, Brown believes that students can get exclusive one-on-one focus during the FFW session. So, “it teaches kids how to concentrate and to learn.”

  Right now, BISS is the only school in China offering this program, and this program is offered to students from anywhere in Beijing.

  The current 8-12 week program began in mid-September, with sessions (50 minutes per session) offered from 3 to 5pm every school day. There is also an optional 30-minute session in the morning before school begins. This is to facilitate non-BISS students who may like to come in the morning for classes before going to school.

  As each student will be using a licensed online product that is consistently monitored and provides up-to-the-minute statistical data from the Scientific Learning Company, a user fee is involved. If you are interested, please contact Colin Brown, the OLC Elementary Coordinator, regarding the fees and any other information about this program.

Tel: (8610) 6443-3151



By Xing Yangjian

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