Immersion Model

Students at Deutsche Schule Melbourne grow up bilingually and biculturally, with German and English as the languages of instruction.

Deutsche Schule Melbourne strives to develop students into people who can easily adapt to and function in different cultural environments. Our bilingual immersion strategy is integral to achieving this goal. 

Teaching is based on a 'one teacher-one language' approach, in which teachers only conduct classes in their native-language, be it German or English. This approach ensures that each language is modelled by native speakers, minimising confusion and creating more opportunities for practise. All teachers at our school are bilingual in English and German and speak both languages fluently.

From Foundation Year to Year 6, we focus on content and language integrated learning (CLIL). This involves running classes in both German and English – and teaching the cultural values of each country. 

In line with current research on children from both bilingual and monolingual backgrounds, students learn to read and write in German and English concurrently. In Year 1 and 2, 80% of classes are taught in German. The proportion of classes taught in English gradually increases so that by Year 6 it will amount to approximately 50% of teaching time.

Students starting in Foundation Year at our school do not need to have German language skills.

We structure classroom activities to assist students who do not speak German as one of their main languages.

Deutsche Schule Melbourne strengthens students’ understanding of their responsibilities within the global community. Numerous activities also cement the school’s position in its multicultural Australian setting. 

Participation in sports and other recreational activities are part of our school life.

'A bilingual education is powerful. It helps children develop and understand diverse perspectives – and opens a world of opportunity. At DSM, we make learning German and English as natural as possible by integrating them into all our classes. We believe it’s a more seamless and effective way to learn.

Bernice Ressel, Principal
Learning to READ in German and English

With the benefit of an additional Primary School year in Australia (called Foundation Year) students have the chance to complete the first half of the German Year 1 curriculum at this level. Children have more time to explore sounds and letters and focus on the content of the Victorian Curriculum.

For both languages, children begin by developing their listening skills so they can acquire correct pronunciation.

German

Students learn sounds and the letters that produce them. We use a sound chart to help children recognise start, middle and end sounds in words. For every letter, there are also spelling words (Lernwörter) which are composed of sounds the children already know.

After establishing their phonic knowledge, they learn spelling patterns by breaking words down into syllables.

English

To understand different spelling patterns, students separate words into distinct units of sounds known as phonemes (similar to syllables). They start with the most common sound and work toward alternative pronunciations – as well as two and three-letter phonemes known as diagraphs and trigraphs.

In English, students are encouraged to gradually incorporate sight words (commonly used words that children memorise by sight) into their reading texts.

Other tactics we use to support the children in their reading include:

  • Songs which teach them routine and vocabulary in both languages
  • Pictures to help them visualise the text
  • Encouraging children from English-speaking backgrounds to ask complex questions in English first – which the teacher will repeat in German and vice versa
Learning to WRITE in German and English

We focus strongly on spelling with German as a phonetic language and English as a non-phonetic language. When students learn the sounds of letters, they’re gradually taught the shapes and strokes as well.

As a proud bilingual school, our students learn to write in a variety of ways, including:

  • Kinesthetics: Children walk letters out, form them with kinetic sand and mould them with modelling clay
  • Storytelling: Students write weekend stories in both languages by using sounds they hear in words
Learning to SPEAK and UNDERSTAND in German and English

At Deutsche Schule Melbourne, we encourage our students to learn by doing.

In the early years, we use a lot of gestures, facial expressions and repetition. As students advance, we support their speaking and understanding through visual prompts and ‘scaffolding’. Scaffolding is a supportive framework that lets students feel comfortable taking the next step in their learning. Teachers gradually release responsibility so that ‘the expert fades from the learning situation as the novice masters the necessary skills within meaningful activities’ (Callison, 2001, p2).

To expand their vocabulary, we encourage students to create word fields around specific topics.