The world of English in Primary school

In the primary school at DSS, English is taught as a foreign language. With four periods a week on the timetable across the four primary years, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) has grown to become an important and integral part of our primary curriculum. Being an international school community, the Primary English Programme at DSS proudly caters to the needs of the German-speaking students coming from and living overseas by providing the basis for inter-language and inter-cultural exchange opportunities. The awareness that language bridges gaps is the basis of our instruction. Our primary English department is staffed by a team of trained native-speaking teachers from all over the world, coming together to provide quality education to our young learners. Their diverse teaching backgrounds and varied classroom methodology capture the ethos of internationalism and solidarity within our multi-cultural school community. We are truly an international school community, which thrives in a state-accredited German institute of learning operating overseas. As such, we are able to maintain the delicate nature of an international teaching philosophy while upholding the standards of instruction prescribed by the curriculum in Germany. 

The Primary English as a Foreign Language Curriculum
 

The pedagogical objectives of our Primary EFL Curriculum mirrors the core principles of our Secondary EFL Curriculum – the teaching of communicative competence in the traditional four skills: Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing. The basis of the content syllabi for the four primary years is the Spiral Curriculum, developed in line with the teaching objectives of the Secondary EFL syllabi. We observe the philosophy of ‘fluency over accuracy’ by designing highly interactive classroom lessons, which provide plenty of opportunity for our teachers and students to explore the world of English cognitively, emotionally and socially. The focus on oral competency in the primary years is fundamental especially in Year 1 and Year 2. The literacy skills of Reading and Writing are integrated into the curriculum only at the end of Year 1 and in Year 2, to be formally consolidated in Year 3 and Year 4. Our primary students enrol in the secondary school as competent learners of both receptive and productive skills.

Differentiated Teaching
 

The Primary EFL programme is a gentle initiation into foreign language instruction in formal classroom settings. Given our diverse international student profile ranging from students with very little to no prior exposure to the English language to our students who are native-speakers, alongside those with a wide spectrum of intermediate competencies, our curriculum has been developed to address the individual needs of our young learners so that learning load and ‘stress’ is minimised. Although our Kindergarten English Programme provides many of our students with the opportunity for even earlier exposure, introduction to and success in the English language, our Primary EFL programme neither assumes nor requires prior English language knowledge or proficiency. In fact, private English lessons to ‘prepare’ new students with no experience with English, before joining us at DSS, are absolutely unnecessary. The Primary English Department subscribes to the philosophy of ‘equal education’ for all its students. By this we mean that every student should be taught according to his or her ability. In Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4, students are banded into four ability groups – Starters for our total beginners, Rollers for students with minimal oral competency, Movers for our more advanced learners and Flyers for our near-native or native speaking students. All our students are taught and challenged according to their individual abilities so that learning becomes effective and fun for them regardless of their proficiency levels.

External Certifications
 

In line with our practice of differentiated teaching, our Primary EFL Department is also looking into possibilities to further advance our EFL programme for our more proficient learners. Together with our secondary school counterpart, we are in the process of initiating external Cambridge certifications for our Year 3 and Year 4 Flyers this school year. The programme is offered as a non-compulsory elective to selected groups of students and the target certificates are the Cambridge Young Learners English Certificates (YLE). An in-house programme to prepare our students for these tests will be developed and our first batch of candidates are expected to sit their exams in March 2008. It is the desire of the Primary EFL Department to raise the standards of our programmes and to challenge our students across the board in a non-threatening, rewarding and fun-filled atmosphere. As the YLE tests have received much acclaim from teachers, young learners and their parents around the world, we hope that they will be as well-loved and appreciated by our own students who opt into the programme.

Annette Schweizer, Head of English Primary
Tim Kramer, Headmaster Primary School