• Germany's news in English
 
app_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

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)

Today's headlines
Germany-denying beauty king fights cops with guns, teeth
Left: Adrian Ursache in his glam days as the 1998 Mr. Germany. Right: Police trying to evict him from his own 'country'. Photos: DPA.

Former Mr. Germany winner and founder of a group that denies the existence of Germany refused to be evicted, provoking a shootout - and bite-out - with police.

Politicians renew call to bring Snowden to Germany
Photo: GUARDIAN / GLENN GREENWALD / LAURA POITRAS.

Green and Die Linke (Left Party) politicians are asking that NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden be allowed into Germany for an ongoing investigation.

Merkel urged to address Turkmenistan rights record
Angela Merkel with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Photo: DPA

Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to bring up major rights violations, including a "policy of disappearances", when Germany hosts the president of Turkmenistan next week.

Epic father-daughter comedy picked for Oscars success
A scene from film Toni Erdmann. Photo: DPA

German Films has chosen Toni Erdmann, a beefy comedy about a father's struggle to save his daughter from her isolating career, as its 2017 Oscars choice.

Germany mulls pullout from Turkish airbase: report
A German Tornado jet at the Incirlik base in Turkey. Photo: Bundeswehr/DPA.

Germany's military is preparing to pull out from a Turkish airbase as a row between the two NATO partners escalates, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday.

German man arrested over Bali meth lab
Bali. Photo: DPA

A German man has been arrested on Indonesia's Bali island for allegedly making crystal methamphetamine in a secret lab, officials said Thursday, with authorities seizing bags of powders and bottles used to produce the drug.

Giant 2-metre catfish attacks woman in Bavarian lake
A wels catfish. Photo: DPA

When a young woman went for a swim in an idyllic south Bavarian region, she got more than she bargained for.

Mayor fires refugee project intern for wearing headscarf
File photo: DPA.

A Palestinian who was hired to work as an intern on a refugee project was fired by a town hall this week because she wouldn't take off her headscarf.

President who pioneered Moscow ties dies aged 97
Former Cold War President of West Germany Walter Scheel. Photo: DPA.

Former West German president Walter Scheel, who helped pave the way for his country's rapprochement with the communist East, has died aged 97, his party's spokesman said on Wednesday.

Former East to lag behind West for years to come: study
Poverty in eastern Germany. File photo: DPA

Eastern Germany remains economically anaemic with little prospect of catching up with the rest of the country by 2030, a study published on Wednesday said.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,566
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd