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The English curriculum at the NMS is based on the British national curriculum, but takes the particular circumstances of our school into consideration, for example, our bilingual (or multi-lingual) children, the predominance of German in the environment, fewer literacy hours than in British schools, the broad multicultural experiences of many of our children.

Mother-tongue

For Flex Mother-tongue English, “learning paths” have been created in phonics, spelling, reading, writing and handwriting. These learning paths cover the curriculum for the Flex years and the children work through the paths concurrently, at their own individual speed.

Phonetics is taught through the Jolly Phonics programme – a programme of ‘synthetic phonics’. This parallels the use of ‘synthetic phonics’ through Konfetti to teach literacy to the MT (mother-tongue) German children. The Jolly Phonics programme caters to multi-sensory learning and to all learning types, including kinaesthetic learners. It follows clear, progressive steps, developing reading and writing skills simultaneously. Cursive writing is introduced with the introduction of phonemes. The introduction of Jolly Phonics for the interactive Whiteboard further supports learning.

The Floppy Phonics synthetic phonics readers (Oxford Reading Tree) complement Jolly Phonics. The ORT books help to develop a ‘book sense’ and reading fluency. They also build the children’s sight vocabulary. Group reading and group discussion are used for developing oral skills and extending the active vocabulary of our bilingual and trilingual children. Individual, differentiated reading programmes can be offered through the use of parallel readers and novels.

Year Three sees the expansion of the use of class novels, the children reading at least 2-3 per year up to grade six. The teachers have developed activity packs for these novels, including comprehension activities, discussion topics, opportunities for dramatic or artistic response and language extension activities, increasingly at differentiated levels. The novels are also often offered at differentiated levels. We have continued to expand our range of class novel packs, following the recommendation of the English National Curriculum for various genres. We also endeavour to include novels from as many different English-speaking cultures as possible, reflecting the diversity of our student population.

In Years 5 & 6, Literature circles are introduced in many classes. These are reading, study and discussion groups based around different groupings of students reading a variety of different novels. They highlight discussion, student response, free choice, and collaboration.

The teaching of grammatical and structural awareness is done, where possible, through the children’s reading and writing. Grammar is taught in progressive steps, following the English National Curriculum. The Launch into Literacy scheme is used in Years Two to Six.

Writing themes often come from cross-curricular projects and the children become aware of the styles of language necessary for different writing genres – writing to inform, writing to entertain, factual language, poetic language etc. Through personalized writing, class newspapers, reporting projects such as the Berlinale project, the children learn to reflect the world around them and their many diverse experiences in their writing.

Partner-tongue

The introduction of a Partner-tongue English test for incoming Flex children from 2011/12 was an important development in ensuring that partner-tongue children are not overwhelmed by the school experience. It has resulted in English being used increasingly as a play language amongst the younger children, which results in increased ease and fluency.

In Flex classes, Partner-tongue English is taught orally and aurally. We cater first to the children’s initial language needs – school language and play language structures and functions. The children learn the language though game, movement and song. This is an ideal way to introduce German-speaking children to the various traditions and cultures of English-speaking cultures. The children learn traditional rhymes and songs, and clapping and skipping games that can be transferred to the schoolyard.

The foundation for the scientific terminology that will be necessary in higher grades in Environmental Studies is also laid in the Flex stage.

Story-telling is also an important facet of the early English-learning programme.  A professional story-teller visits an expanding number of classed throughout the school weekly. Through listening, the children absorb the rhythm of language and of stories and through retelling the story, the children practise their sequencing skills and various grammatical tenses and structures.

Children who are already reading and writing, or those who learn to read English passively are not held back, but formal literacy training does not begin until the German programme is finished and the children are secure in their first language.

The formal literacy programme begins in Year Three. The Jolly Phonics programme and the Oxford Reading Tree programme are used, but adapted to make them age-appropriate. The Way Ahead programme language programme is used in grades 3 - 5. This is an age-appropriate dedicated second-language teaching programme, with integrated reading exercises, grammar exercises and games and listening games.

In Years Four to Six, class novels are introduced, and are read through shared reading, individual reading and reading groups. The children do various differentiated activities in conjunction with the books. In Years Five and Six, the children also tackle some of the same themes as the mother-tongue children, but at a more simplified level.

Reading factual texts and websites and extracting information from them, explaining and reporting on scientific processes, and speculating and reasoning are highly important skills for the successful implementation of the Environmental Studies programme. Partner-tongue English and Environmental Studies have always been well-integrated in the school, in terms of themes and vocabulary. This will continue in the future, with increased focus on learning-skills.

Work in Progress: Remedial Support

The computer programme Wordshark was introduced throughout the Primary School as a resource to help children with specific learning difficulties. Currently, children with literacy problems receive extra help in the class during remedial lessons, but a more dedicated programme still needs to be developed. A reading resource of high-interest/low reading-age literature was started in the school library to cater for our older partner-tongue children as well as our mother-tongue children with reading difficulties.

Work in Progress: From Primary to Secondary

The gap between Primary and Secondary still needs to be bridged more effectively, with increased communication and understanding between Upper Primary and Lower Secondary. This could take the form of a liaison teacher or teacher and student visits and exchanges. The Language Ambassadors have been welcomed by their host classes this year and a clearer definition of their role and tasks together with an expansion of the programme would benefit the whole school.

22.09.2017 Nelson-Mandela-Schule · Staatliche Internationale Schule Berlin | Nelson Mandela School · State International School Berlin