What is Mandarin Immersion?
Language immersion is a method of instruction where the learner's target language is the language used in classroom instruction. It is one of the most effective and natural ways to learn a second language. Over one billion people in the world speak Chinese, and Mandarin is the predominant dialect. In a Mandarin Chinese immersion classroom, the teacher instructs all content in Mandarin and students are encouraged to speak with each other in Mandarin. See videos about a Mandarin immersion program and classroom.

Is this a charter school?
No. The Mandarin Immersion Program is a strand within the public school system. Grades K-5 will be at John Gill Elementary School and 6-8 will be at John F. Kennedy Middle School. Similar to the Spanish immersion program, Adelante, or Orion Alternative School, this program is one of Redwood City School District's Schools of Choice. 

Why should I enroll my child in a dual language immersion program? And why Mandarin?
Language Immersion and Mandarin Immersion programs have been shown to deliver unique cognitive benefits. Studies have shown that Mandarin is one of the best languages for early math learning and immersion students are better at nonverbal problem solving. Students display better executive control to focus on relevant information, and better listening skills.


How do I register for the Mandarin Immersion Program at John Gill Elementary School?
Detailed step-by-step instructions for both in and out-of-district residents are provided in the MI Registration Guide.

I do not live in the Redwood City School District. May I still apply?
Yes. Fill out an application form: School of Choice form for K-2. You will still need to register at your home district and then fill out an Interdistrict Transfer Form at your home district. For step-by-step instructions, please check out the MI Registration Guide.

I live in the Redwood City School District, but not in Redwood City. May I still apply?
Yes. Fill out an application form: School of Choice form for K-2. You will still need to register at your neighborhood school. For step-by-step instructions, please check out the MI Registration Guide.

I live in the Redwood City School District, but my children are currently enrolled in a school out of district. How do I register?
Follow the directions for in-district residents. Fill out an application form: School of Choice form for K-2. For step-by-step instructions, please check out the MI Registration Guide.


How do I help my child if my family does not speak Mandarin at home?
There are many ways for parents that do not speak Mandarin to support their child at school. Similar to having your child learn to play a musical instrument, you can support them at learning without having the ability to play the instrument yourself. When it comes to lesson content, by staying in touch with your child's teacher and knowing what topics they are currently working on, you can always offer guidance about the content in your own native language. For the Mandarin language itself, here are a few ways to help:

  • Help your child make time to practice.
  • Have your student teach you to say something in the language every day.
  • Ask the teacher for resources your child can use at home.
  • Provide videos, books and music in the language.
  • Find cultural events connected to the language and culture being studied.
From Learning a Second Language: How Parents Can Help

If my child is new to Mandarin, will it be hard for him/her to catch up to native speaking students?
Similar to English-only classes, students enter Kindergarten with a wide range of backgrounds, experience, and abilities. All students in the MI program, non-native and native speakers included, will receive what all other students in California are expected to receive - content knowledge in the common core standards. The only difference will be they are learning the content in both Mandarin and English. Additionally, admitting non-native speakers (that have no Mandarin background) only at the kindergarten and first grade levels and starting with 80% content taught in Mandarin, the program is set up to harness a young student's natural ability to learn language through immersion. An annual direct donation drive sponsors the hiring of two teacher aides for classroom support and to facilitate small group work. Chinese and English homework support is also offered in the PlayThrive after school program. 


My child already knows many Chinese characters and can speak Mandarin fluently. Would he/she be held back by attending a school with many non-native speakers?
The purpose of the Mandarin Immersion Program is not only to teach Mandarin, but also to provide students with a rich educational learning experience as they learn content -- the content of Science, Social Science, Math, Technology, etc. Students in this program receive what all other students in California are expected to receive - content knowledge in the common core standards. 

Just as native English speaking families need not fear attending an English speaking school because their children already know English, native Mandarin speaking families need not worry that their children would be “held back” because they already know Mandarin. Because a child knows Mandarin at a 4 year old level, does not imply he/she knows the language fully. Language becomes increasingly more sophisticated as the content becomes more rigorous. Students gain fluency in academic language, not merely in social language. The same happens in an English-only setting with students who speak English as their native language.

The MI program is not about providing fun Mandarin opportunities or exposure to Mandarin through rote instruction, but a sound education that is taught in both Mandarin and English, resulting in bilingual students. The program is most suitable for families who truly value language learning and view it as an essential part of their child’s educational experience.


What grades will be available?
Transitional Kindergarten (if there is sufficient interest), Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and combination 3rd/4th grades. Each year, an additional grade will be added (i.e. 5th grade will be added in 2019-2020). Depending upon enrollment numbers, there may be up to 2 classes per grade. Kindergarten class size is limited to 28 students.

Will Traditional or Simplified Chinese characters be taught?
Simplified. While both types of characters are taught at immersion programs throughout the bay area, nearly all new schools are choosing to teach Simplified characters. There are even some schools that were teaching Traditional and have decided to switch to Simplified, due to parental demand and general increased use and availability of Simplified in the Chinese world. 

Parents that are interested in supplementing the program with instruction in Traditional characters may participate in the PTA to make that happen.

What will be taught in Mandarin vs. English?
The percentage of Mandarin - English instruction (i.e., the amount of time subjects are taught in Mandarin or English) in each gr
ade is the following:
  • K-1st grade: 80% Mandarin, 20% English
  • 2nd grade: 70% Mandarin, 30% English
  • 3rd grade: 60% Mandarin, 40% English
  • 4-5th grade: 50% Mandarin, 50% English
  • 6-8th grade: 20% Mandarin, 80% English
The subjects taught in Mandarin and English:
  • Kindergarten – 2nd Grade
    • Mandarin: Mandarin, Math, Social Science/ Science
    • English: English Language Arts, PE, Music, Art
  • Grades 3rd- 5th
    • Mandarin: Mandarin, Social Science/Science
    • English: English Language Arts, Math, Art, PE
  • Grades 6th-8th (At Kennedy Middle School)
    • Mandarin: Mandarin, Science or Social Science
    • English: English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science or Social Science, Electives
Is there an after school program?
Yes. The Mandarin bilingual after school program is run by PlayThrive.

What is the neighborhood and existing school like?
John Gill Elementary is located at 555 Ave Del Ora, Redwood City, CA 94062 in the Roosevelt Neighborhood (which is bordered by Roosevelt Ave., Brewster Ave., Alameda de las Pulgas, and El Camino Real). The school is centrally located in Redwood City, about 10 minutes driving distance from 101, 15 minutes driving distance from 280, and a 20 minute walk to the Caltrain station and downtown. The school is surrounded by mostly single home neighborhoods with Red Morton Park and Community Center within close walking distance. 

The historic campus is situated on Eagle Hill, with one side bordering Jefferson St. and the other sides surrounded by homes in the neighborhood. Several huge beautiful redwood trees shade the campus with plenty of outdoor space, sports fields, and playgrounds for students to explore. Learn more about John Gill at the school website.

More questions?
Email MI Program Parent Volunteers at mi@johngillpta.org