Jan 18, 2011 by Peter Carabi
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BrainMaps - ESL Program

A few weeks back, I contributed a blogentry that provided some information on how Scientific Learning programs are implemented around the world via our Value Added Representative (VAR) partners.

Today, I want to discuss one such VAR in particular, our friends from BrainMaps, based in Shanghai, run by the husband and wife team of Tiffany and Rick Lee.  BrainMaps currently has a total of seven owned or affiliated centers, and it focuses on helping children generally between the ages of 6 and 12 more rapidly acquire English reading and oral fluency skills.  Over the next three to four years, BrainMaps plans to have over 50 centers throughout the People’s Republic of China. Perhaps more so than in any other non-English speaking country, the benefits of English proficiency for the Chinese are very concrete in economic terms.  English proficient professionals will on average earn over 50% more for the same job than their less proficient colleagues.

The Lee’s bring years of experience to the practice of English learning, having been heavily involved in the Wall Street Institute (a global network of English learning centers) prior to their association with Scientific Learning.  What drew them to our programs was the strong research base, the proven results, and the sharp contrast between our methodology versus the typical “content” approach of the competition.  Amongst a large collection of international, regional and local competitors in the after-school ESL market in China, BrainMaps is unique in providing a brain-fitness/cognitive skills approach to English learning. 

Children at a BrainMaps center begin with three to four months of intensive Fast ForWord use, usually beginning with the Fast ForWord Language program.  This is followed by 26 weeks of use of the Reading Assistant product, which includes an innovative 45 minute direct group instruction session each week with a teacher using an interactive whiteboard to provide guided reading activitiesaround a Reading Assistant story.  This session is followed by a student “recital” period, where, gathered in front of the parents who have arrived to fetch their child from the learning center, the child reads a selected Reading Assistant story.  Parents can see and hear the difference from week to week.  This kind or vivid progress, augmented by the Progress Tracker reports showing gains on Words Correct Per Minute (WCPM) as well as improved comprehension scores, is what gives parents and the children themselves confidence in the BrainMaps method.  After the 26 week period, the child reverts to another Fast ForWord program for two to three months, followed by another 26 week cycle of Reading Assistant, and so forth.

There is a rich vein of Chinese culture at play in the development of the BrainMaps instructional model.  According to the Lee’s, their learning model is similar to the steps required to become a Kung-fu master.   For Kung-fu mastery, there are three “must have” criteria, activating Ren-du acupuncture nodes, strengthening the inner chi-gong (internal energy), and intensively practicing the kung-fu formations.  For the non-native speaker to learn English effectively, the analogous steps are to first unlock the learning potential, and then, in a sense, construct the English brain.  Proper use of Fast ForWord productshelps to address these two criteria.  Finally, enriching the English knowledgecomes about through use of Reading Assistant software, as well as via the Fast ForWord Reading programs.

BrainMaps branding includes the phrase, Powered By Scientific Learning, and we are proud of our association with this innovative use of our programs to help Chinese learners master English, putting them on a path for future success.  The Lee’s welcome visitors who may be passing through Shanghai, and they can also be reached at rick.lee@brainmaps.com.cn.  Or, feel free to contact me at pcarabi@scilearn.com.