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German in the Early Years at ISZL
By Dr Michelle Hill, Assistant Principal of the Primary School

Our commitment to language learning

German is now part of the planned curriculum for all Primary School students at ISZL, beginning with our youngest learners in Early Years 1 and 2. We have a German Language Acquisition programme throughout the school and we are committed to supporting and developing multilingualism in our students. Through the inclusion of German throughout the school we are acknowledging the status of the language in our curriculum and language learning in general. For those children who come from German-speaking homes and families, having German in their earliest years is an equally positive experience as they are also learning language, learning about language and learning through language.

How will German be taught in the Early Years?

Our context is language rich, diverse and unique - German and the Swiss German dialect are the languages of our local area, within a multilingual host country. Research suggests that in such a context, starting early may provide the best outcomes as long as there is pedagogical alignment with our Early Years Vision document and our Language Guiding Statements. This aligns with research which emphasises the communicative and cultural components of language rather than acquisition of linguistic forms. This position is supported by a report from Early Advantage, which monitors research developments in early language learning: “the earlier a child begins, the better a child can learn a second language and the more benefits he or she can reap from that knowledge [...] through regular but intermittent second language exposure in a school.”

How will this look in practice?

German is integrated into six specific routine activities and learning engagements in Early Years 1 and 2,  planned by our qualified and experienced German Teacher and Swiss Assistant Teacher:

  • Class Morning Meetings
  • Community singing times,
  • Outdoor learning
  • Free-flow
  • Snack/lunch times
  • Forest visits

These are times when all children can engage in natural and authentic ways with the German Language and with Swiss and German culture. Appropriate activities and learning engagements may include stories in German, singing, cooking, conversation about the day and role-play.

What should parents expect from their child?

Some examples of the aims and outcomes for children’s learning in German are:

  • To become familiar with simple greetings (eg. good morning, happy birthday, my name is...goodbye)
  • To join in with familiar songs and stories with repeated phrases
  • To become familiar with a variety of nouns/verbs related to daily classroom or outdoor experiences eg foodstuffs, colours, body parts, toys and equipment, jumping, hopping, walking, stirring
  • To count and use numbers in a familiar context eg whilst reading a story, during a cooking activity

The model we use replicates how children are exposed to German outside of school, and will enable them to feel more confident when exposed to Swiss German. It breaks down the ‘us and them’ at a young age and encourages translanguaging practices, which are natural to bi- and multilingual children.

  • Early Years
  • German Learning
  • Language
  • Local Connections

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