• Germany's news in English
 
jobs_header_v3
Revolutionary teaching: Immersion at Phorms
A typical day, diving into different languages and culture. Photo: Silke Weinsheimer/Phorms Education SE

Revolutionary teaching: Immersion at Phorms

The Local · 8 Jan 2016, 11:46

Published: 08 Jan 2016 08:46 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Jan 2016 11:46 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Phorms is no ordinary school.

Even at the preschool level, a visitor might be surprised to walk in and hear four-year-olds seamlessly switching between languages as they set the breakfast table or help each other tie their shoes.

“Most of the kids switch so fast between English and German, they’re not even aware they’re doing it,” says Meadhbh Greene, a reception teacher at Phorms Campus Berlin Süd, originally from Ireland.

“We make sure that language is interwoven into the daily fabric of their lives.”

Since the Foundation of the first school in 2006, Phorms has been doing things a little differently, using two-way immersion on all levels from day one – in contrast to regular public schools in Germany where children must wait until the fifth or sixth grade before they are first introduced to English.

Phorms Education, which introduced a new model of education in Germany nearly ten years ago, now has seven schools in the country: in Hamburg, Berlin-Mitte and Berlin-Süd, Frankfurt City and Frankfurt TaunusMunich and the Josef-Schwarz-Schule in Baden-Württemberg.

“It really works because it copies how we acquire language as children, naturally,” Greene explains.

“You can look back as far as Aristotle for support of the immersion method – he talks about active learning and passive learning. The kids are always actively engaged and they learn without even realizing it.”

The two languages are treated as equally important, making the school a prime choice for both German parents who want their kids to learn English early on, and expat parents who want their kids to get to know the German culture and language.

“The goal is to achieve competency in the foreign language in all areas: in reading, listening, and writing,” explains Selena Mell, Head of the primary school at Phorms Campus Berlin Süd. “Students should acquire the same language skills equally in both languages.”

As opposed to offering separate language classes where students get only an hour of instruction, at Phorms more than half of the subjects are taught in English while the rest are taught in German.

“Students learn the language in context, and have the same expectations in math, social sciences, and other areas as students at any other school,” Mell says.

Teachers are expected not to simply translate when a student doesn’t understand, but to use a mix of learning tools, kinaesthetic, visual, and otherwise, to help students to interact. Students learn to utilise facial expressions, body language, and contextual queues.

“When students don’t understand what is said, they develop lots of different ways of finding out how to solve the problem,” Greene explains. In her preschool classes children might ask each other for help use hand gestures, or just keep guessing until they get it right.

Greene calls it peer-to-peer learning – and says it’s a skill that can change students’ lives.

“They learn how to solve problems themselves and develop ways to learn in the future,” she says.

“When you translate that later on in their lives, our students look deeper into contextual cues and ask more questions,” Mell confirms. “They communicate when they need assistance – because they have learned through the program to do that.”

Sean Jackson, a native Californian and secondary teacher at Phorms Campus Berlin Süd, sees the proof of such skills daily in his English literature classes.

“In a public German school students primarily practice reading and writing,” he says. “But my students listen, speak, respond, and engage in discussions in English. They develop a constant ability to listen and respond, incorporating their own vocabulary and thoughts.”

He says that students and teachers alike understand that language cannot be acquired merely through worksheets and vocabulary lists.

“They realize that the learning of a language is the utilization of that language on a daily basis. There’s a constant analytical discussion here.”

But it’s not all about analysis – Greene adds that immersion can also make students more confident, more caring individuals.

“Studies in the US have shown that there are lower instances of bullying among bilingual children, because they are more accepting of differences. And they’re not afraid to ask for help,” Greene says. It’s something she sees daily in her own work.

“Children recognize when another student is having difficulty understanding, and they offer to help. And kids who struggle at the start of the year get to the point when they’re the ones offering help, and that’s great for their self-confidence. It’s something they take with them when they get older.”

You can learn more about the Phorms schools and their concept at one of their information events. Click here to find out more.

This article was produced by The Local in partnership with Phorms Education.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


Today's headlines
Afghan teen arrested over German murder-rape
Photo: Hendrik Schmidt / DPA / AFP file picture

A teenage Afghan asylum seeker has been arrested on suspicion of the rape and murder of a 19-year-old female student in Germany, police and prosecutors said Saturday.

Nazi POW leaves estate to 'kind' Scottish village
The former German soldier stayed on to work in the Perthshire village for a time after the war. Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP file picture

A former Nazi prisoner of war has left his entire estate in his will to a small village in Scotland to show his appreciation for the kindness he received there during his captivity.

US tries to block Chinese purchase of Aixtron
Photo: Oliver Berg / DPA / AFP

US President Barack Obama on Friday moved to block a Chinese company's purchase of German semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron by rejecting the inclusion of Aixtron's US business in the deal.

Merkel to chart 2017 election battle at party congress
Photo: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

After Donald Trump's shock victory, Francois Hollande's decision not to seek re-election and populism on the rise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is next up on the campaign podium to set out her strategy for winning in 2017 polls.

Berlin vs Munich: whose newborn polar bear is cuter?
Berlin's (left) and Munich's (right) newborn bears. Photos: Tierpark Berlin / DPA

Both city zoos welcomed baby polar bears into the world in November, with Berlin zoo its releasing first photos on Friday. But which one is more adorable?

Learn how to speak German like a silver screen icon
Dirty Harry. Photo: DPA

We all agree that there is no other option than to learn irregular German verbs by rote. But when you want a bit of downtime, why not learn from your big screen heroes?

Stolen Dachau 'Work will set you free' gate found: police
The entrance to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Photo: DPA

An iron gate from the former Nazi concentration camp in Germany's Dachau with the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free") has been found two years after it was stolen, police said Friday.

Mystery flight path artist draws new message in sky
Photo: DPA

A pilot who likes to draw patterns in the sky using his flight path has returned with his greatest artwork yet.

Berlin 'abusing power' to stop Snowden coming to Germany
Edward Snowden. Photo: DPA

Opposition parties have accused the coalition government of overstepping its authority in its attempt to block American whistleblower Edward Snowden's trip to Germany.

Germany gains record number of Michelin-star restaurants
Head of the Michelin Guide, Michael Ellis (centre) with Michelin-star chefs at a presentation in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Germany had a slew of newly minted Michelin-star restaurants this year, and its top-rated establishments held onto their prestigious three stars.

Lifestyle
10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter
Sponsored Article
The key to launching your international career
Lifestyle
Our 10-step guide for doing Christmas just like a German
National
Here's why so many Germans vote for the far-right AfD
National
7 events in Germany that'll make December unforgettable
Lifestyle
7 frosty German sayings to make you a winter wordsmith
National
This is how unequal German society has become
National
Six things you should know about the Lufthansa strike
National
9 ways living in Germany will make you a better person
National
These 10 German Christmas markets cannot be missed
Features
8 German words that unlock amazing secrets in English
Culture
10 German words with simply hilarious literal translations
Lifestyle
7 things Germans do that make foreigners feel awkward
International
Why Donald Trump's grandad was booted out of Germany
National
This is what is really inside your Döner kebab
National
Rejoice! Christmas markets start opening across Germany
Education
These German universities are best at landing you a job
Travel
Why Heidelberg is Germany's most inspiring city
Lifestyle
This soppy German Christmas ad will bring you to tears
National
Here's where Germans speak the best (and worst) English
Culture
10 German books you have to read before you die
Culture
U-Bahn train found filled with autumn foliage in Berlin
Features
Seven German words that unlock amazing secrets about English
Travel
Germany's ten most beautiful towns you've never visited
6,591
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd