Before starting at NMS, all children undergo an English language test to receive either ‘English mother tongue’ or ‘English partner tongue’ status (and hence the reverse status for German). Accordingly, all students with English mother tongue status will attend German partner tongue lessons. With many children coming to NMS from abroad and/or growing up in bilingual families, language skills in the German partner tongue classes vary considerably. Children with no or very little German participate as far as possible in the German partner tongue lessons and attend additional ‘German for beginners’ lessons. Their performance in German classes will not be graded for two years.
The varying levels of language proficiency and prior knowledge children bring to the mother tongue classes, and particularly the partner tongue classes, require substantial differentiation which is achieved through practical, more accessible teaching methods (e.g. daily or weekly plans). As far as possible, the school aims to provide children with the individual support they need, helping them to gradually increase their autonomy and assume responsibility for their own learning. As in all other subjects, the promotion of methodological and social skills plays a key role.
The German programme at the Nelson-Mandela School generally follows the Berliner Rahmenlehrplan Deutsch (Berlin Framework Curriculum for German). Children in the German mother tongue category learn reading and writing in German. German partner tongue (and hence English mother tongue) students usually begin reading and writing in German in 3rd grade, based on the prior thorough acquisition of literacy in their mother tongue. At the end of 3rd grade, many children are also fully literate in their partner tongue.
Grades 1-4 predominantly work with Konfetti textbooks, years 5 and 6 have so far used Praxis Sprache. The lessons are supplemented with various other materials at all grade levels. Among them, computer-based learning and diagnostic programmes such as Antolin enhance the acquisition of READING skills and Online-Diagnose Westermann the acquisition of READING, GRAMMAR and SPELLING skills. Further online programmes, for instance Scoyo, are currently being tested in a number of classes.
Where possible, German lessons provide interdisciplinary learning opportunities and frequently take up topics from other subjects. Thanks to their predominantly project-based approach, the lower primary years are particularly suited to this method. In the upper years, topics increasingly ensue from German lesson contents (e.g. topic areas such as fairy tales, myths, ballads, etc.).
READING skills play a special role at our school. In grades 1-6, the selection of and occupation with different types of texts, including non-literary texts, stories, myths, fables, fairy tales, anecdotes, poems and novels, promotes reading motivation and reading skills. Materials range from picture books and magazines to required reading. Students work together on their required reading as well as choosing suitable books for individual reading exercise and subsequent book presentations. The school aims to include regular (public) library visits in the schedule.
Our story reading morning during the Christmas season is an annual highlight. All teachers at the school read aloud from their favourite books and children can choose two readings they will attend. As a result, children from different grades and classes get together in small groups to listen to and discuss the stories. This is a special event for big and small children alike.
The school also runs a reading tutoring programme. 5th or 6th grade classes are assigned to specific flex classes which they visit throughout the school year to undertake joint activities and read to each other.
Every year, our school also takes part in the national 6th grade reading competition, an exciting event for all 6th graders.
In addition to the normal lessons, lower-achieving students attend German remedial lessons during lunchtime, either once or twice a week. These extra lessons take place in small, temporary groups. Since spelling is a challenge for many bilingual children, all German teachers regularly test German mother tongue students in grades 1 to 6 using the Hamburger Rechtschreibprobe (HSP, Hamburg spelling test).This allows them to offer remedial teaching to dyslexic children at an early stage. The special-needs programme is to be launched in school year 2013/14 and will be integrated into the German lessons in the form of mixed-class learning groups.
Within the German programme, the Nelson Mandela School intends to provide more thorough preparation for the transition from 6th grade to 7th grade. At present, the department is working on a concept involving minimum requirements (comparable to the mathematics department).