Overview of the English Curriculum at the Nelson Mandela State International School for Middle school and Upper Secondary

Our namesake, Nelson Mandela, once said “Education is a powerful tool to change the world”. In the English Department we take this literally.

The Nelson Mandela State International School offers English as part of a bilingual concept with German as the counterpart language. Both languages are required to have equal status at the school. Students wishing to attend the school must have a level of English comparable to that of a native speaker and attain an 80% passing grade in their admission exams.

Challenges we face

Dream in light years, challenge miles, walk step by step by William Shakespeare

In creating an internal year 7-10 curriculum at the bilingual Nelson Mandela
School we have developed a curriculum that contains units of work that are designed to engage the students at their different learning levels, taking into consideration the extra requirements for preparation for the German MSA (Middle School Exam), the local “Abitur” exams and the international I.B.


“ …the most gratifying projects are ones that have the potential to bring people together-to overcome differences among various groups, and to spark dialogue” by Nancy Kates

Many of our assignments are project-based and include a variety of group, pair and individual work. We generally adhere to the “Berliner Rahmenplan” (Berlin school curriculum) as well as to the British National Curriculum Key Stage 3 in years 7 to 9, and on Key Stage 4 (GCSE)for the year ten curriculum. But it does not stop there. Our students are further encouraged not only to develop their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, but also their group work, research, logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Reading, Writing and Oral Discourse as a Focus

 “If you don´t have the time to read, you don´t have the time or the tools to write” by Stehen King

Since studies, old and modern, show that students who are encouraged to read widely and extensively perform better in language arts, one of our two main focuses are on reading and writing. Each year the students are required to complete 2-4 books from approved departmental book sets depending on the strength of the groups, in addition to studying at least two books and a “film as text” as a group. Their focus in studying literature is not only to understand and appreciate the author’s craft, but also to use critical thinking to explore the themes and issues evident in the literary works orally and in writing and to reflect and compare on these same issues in our modern society. The novels are often used as a springboard for class discussions, on the cultural, social and political setting of the time, creative writing activities, drama activities, personal reflections and research assignments. On top of this, poetry and poetry analysis are explored at every class level. The students are encouraged to also practice their writing skills in all the major writing forms. During the academic year, the students are required to study at least one play through which they learn drama conventions. Obviously here whilst Shakespeare is an all-time favorite, modern plays are also explored.


“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with purpose” by Zora Neale Hurston

We aim to include one research assignment per year. The students learn how to search for information, analyze the validity of different sources on the internet, take notes, paraphrase, summarize and present researched information in an organized and coherent way. Additionally, we develop the students’ spelling, vocabulary, grammar and syntax skills. Grammar basics and spelling patterns are keenly taught whenever necessary. So that the students’ learning in these areas is more meaningful, vocabulary is usually linked to the text being read, and grammar and syntax are linked to the style of writing being taught.

Accomplishments of the English Department

“as a human being, if you can do something to impact someone´s life, that´s about the greatest accomplishment you can have “by John Seagull

Overall, the English Department has introduced important student activities and projects and won important contests for NMS that have helped in shaping and strengthening the NMS school profile and mission statement. In 2002, for example, we competed against other Berlin schools by adapting scenes from “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Merchant of Venice” into a play of our own that emphasized the role of Shakespeare and his own particular stand against racism for the “DenkMal” competition, a local Berlin competition that helps in the battle against racism, and which was shown at the House of Parliaments. We were thrilled to win the first prize. Our Shakes-bear, who patiently greets all of our students in the morning, stands witness to that on the ground floor of the secondary campus.

Later, in 2004, the Department introduced the Mondialogo Competition, a then new initiative of Daimler Chrysler and UNESCO aiming to emphasize and enhance inter-cultural dialogue throughout the globe. Twenty students out of the 9th grade participated in this contest, and together with their partner school in Kuwait, won the 2nd place amongst 1500 schools worldwide. On another more politically orientated level, and with the aid of a few of our dedicated students, the English Department managed to introduce the school to its first UN debating conference at the JFK School (BERMUN). It is presently being organized by one of our English Department colleagues.

From 2008 to 2010, the English Department was involved in the Berlin TUSCH project “Theater und Schule”, which nets local schools with famous theatres all across Berlin, with whose help the NMS has produced dramas that have been shown at the English Theater. Our partner then was `The English Theatre.

Every year, our new 7th grades dive into the writing of an autobiography unit. The outcome reflects the unique, diverse and delightful nature, experiences and lives of our 7th graders. Usually following the completion of the unit, parents are invited to listen to the students reading from their autobiographies. As digitalization is one of our core aims at NMS, our 7th graders also create podcasts or video casts reflecting on books for example that they read in class. Many of these are on our website for you to enjoy.

In one of year 8s projects, the students for example undertook a creative story called “The Story behind the Door”. The idea of the project requires the students to take pictures of doors they like in and around Berlin, either independently or in a group. Then they have to imagine what happens behind these doors. This involves all of the short story literary requirements in which the student deals with characterization, themes, conflicts, language amongst other things. Many good examples are on the Nelson Mandela website for you to listen in to (see https://www.nelson-mandela-schule.net/de/sekundarschule-7-10/schaukasten/2016-2017-7-10-de.html).

In year 9, the one project that has been one of our permanent landmarks is the First World War Poetry Unit. In this unit the students study WWI from the perspective of some of the greatest poets who lived and fought during that time. The students learn how to reflect on, comprehend and analyze poetry of that time. They may be requested to learn some of this poetry or create some of their own. All of this work culminates in an evening of poetry to which the parents are invited.

Throughout the years the English Department has also successfully staged plays in the various grades e.g.An “Inspector Called” in year 9, or “The Children of Beslan” in year 10. This last play was written by the students themselves and directed by an external director.

(see https://www.facebook.com/pg/KinderVonBeslan/about/)

Our upper secondary students take part annually in Debating Matters, a UK project that takes place in UK, but which was initiated in Berlin for the first time in 2015/2016 and has been an ongoing project at the Nelson Mandela school with great success. In 2017 the Nelson Mandela debating group got the unique chance to debate against the British national Champion and won the international cup that was held at the Barbican that year (seehttps://www.battleofideas.org.uk/2017/session/debating-matters-competition-international-final-2017-online-privacy/). Further, the students in the upper secondary are encouraged to research and come up with answers to challenges of the future e.g. climate change, pollution, media and technology. They have just recently produced Y-tube similar videos to direct young audiences to a healthier and less waste-producing life-style that are witty and helpful.

Our Plans for the Future

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it” by Jim Moran

In conclusion we, the teachers of the English Department, continue to help our students and hence change the world step by step.

Nihal Adler HoD English 2019/2020