Thursday, October 25, 2012

German Schoolwork (Fall, 1st Grade)

What's it like to learn German in 1st grade?  (Or, Cycle 2.1, if you will.)

I'm glad you asked!

Before the demonstration, I'll quickly summarize some background in case you're just tuning in.  In the pre-primary years in Luxembourg (age-equivalent of American preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten), the curriculum involves some very basic work with letter sounds, writing letters and numbers, and other academics.  The main purpose of pre-primary is to pick up the local language (Luxembourgish), refine large and small motor skills, practice socialization, etc.  Actual "learning to read" is postponed until primary school, upon which instruction switches to German within the first few weeks.  Luxembourgish is primarily a spoken language, and remains the common "language of play" among the melting pot of nationalities/native languages represented at a Luxembourgish primary school.

I've taken some photos of the work Daphne's bringing home (click on any picture to enlarge).  In addition to learning to read and write, there is an unending stream of new German vocabulary to master at the same time.

The curriculum appears to revolve around a caterpillar named Mila, and her school-children friends.  I showed a few pictures of the Mila textbook in a previous post (here).  Accordingly, the curriculum first focuses on recognizing and writing M/m, then I/i, and so forth.

You can stop searching for your glasses, it's just blurry

Simultaneously, they begin to learn German words that contain these letters/letter sounds:

which words contain the "i" sound (at either beginning, middle or end)?
now, where  is the "L" sound, beginning, middle, or end?
another way of getting at same concept, where does the "I" sound occur?
They are also learning simple words that can be made with the letters in M-I-L-A, such as...
im = in 
ist im = is in
Daphne has a binder of vocabulary words, with a picture and French translation for each word.  The list began with "M" words, then "I" words were added.  Again, these are words that contain these letters, not necessarily begin with them.  Today she has her first test - on the M and I words.  As far as I know she doesn't have to spell them, but she must match the spoken or written word to the picture, recognize where the different letter sounds occur as above, etc.

In English, we have just one definite article - "the."  In French there are three - le, la, and les.   I can't remember Spanish (currently on language overload here), but as I recall it's similar to French.  In German, there are more than three (maybe 5-ish?), but Daphne is beginning with die, das, and der, and must learn them along with each noun.  They use a handy little system of color-coding to help remember.

And finally, here's an example of reading practice.  You can see it's a mixture of pictures and simple words.  Fortunately, here the full sentences are included off to the side so we can check if she's close as she reads them aloud.  We're not always this lucky.


Are we learning German along with her?  The short answer: not really.  Sure, we're picking up a few words here and there - numbers, colors, some random nouns.  The reality is that since she's doing this hours upon hours a day and we're not, we'd never keep pace.  And frankly, I don't even know the difference between die, das, and der.  I'm still focusing on French.

Can we help with her homework?  It's still early on, but the answer is sort of, sometimes.  Math - yes.   Deciphering/translating instructions - yes.  Going over vocabulary - a little.  We put the vocabulary words into Google Translate and have it pronounce them aloud, but this doesn't always work well.  And sometimes the homework involves knowing the names for pictures of nouns or actions, and then we can't be sure which precise word they're looking for.  We're still on the hunt for an app that would allow us to make our own German/English flashcards with audio.   In all honesty, we know this whole homework experience will be a lesson in letting go.  As a parent you want to ensure your kids "get it right!" We'll do our best, but to quote a phrase one hears quite often in Luxembourg, "It's nuht puhssible" to micromanage everything.  Still, we may be knocking on our German neighbor's door more and more often.

How is Daphne doing with German?  Is she able to keep up?  As far as we know, quite well.  When corrected work is sent home, it seems mostly correct with some scattered mistakes.  We have not had a formal conference yet, but her main teacher has told us in passing a couple times that she's doing fine.  We know we have Oregon kindergarten to thank in large part, as they focused heavily on reading and writing in English.  As far as speaking and understanding goes, we can't really tell just yet.  We know she's picking up some vocabulary and simple phrases, but still believe she's quite mystified for most of the school day.  I've said it before:  EVERYONE says "Kids learn language so fast!" but it's important to remember that it's not instantaneous.  You hear this so often that I think it sets the expectation way too high.  It often feels very slow-going.

Anyway, I guess we'll see how she does on her first test today!!!!

*Update Nov 12: The test was sent home for the parents to look over and sign.  It was very similar to the homework from above.  Daphne did really well!  She said the teacher even pointed out how well she did to the rest of the class, and that she was pretty embarrassed.  Don' worry, we assured we'd love her the same even if she'd bombed it.  :)  But so far so good!


Anonymous said...

Thansk Rosie. On the FWIW side, der is masculine, die is feminine and das is neutral. The problem is that logic only takes you so far when you get into inanimate objects and what is required is rote memorization right along with the noun just like the other languages. Yeah, kids will learn way faster and especially will do better with accents and pronunciation but it still is a years-long process.

Thanks for the blog,

Anonymous said...

Oh my, Rosie! I think you are all handling it very well! Thanks so much for all this good info.

Katie Toppel said...

Yay for Oregon Kindergarten! :0)
I'm glad she's doing so well!