5 Tips for Distance Learning for Bilingual Education

Schools around the globe had to shift to distance learning on short notice due to Covid-19. The German English Bilingual Primary School ‘Deutsche Schule Melbourne’ started off with teaching remotely for the first time prior to the 2020 Easter holidays and has now gone back to remote learning after the winter holidays. When the bilingual school moved to distance learning one of the main concerns of the parent community was “Will my child still have enough German exposure especially if we are not speaking German at home?” Based on the experience over the last weeks we would like to share some insights about how bilingual education can work in a distance learning environment:

1. Video and Audio Instructions for Student Activities Are Key  

Our teachers upload video and audio instructions in their native language to the seesaw platform in addition to written information. This enables the students to play the video or audio file multiple times on demand and they are exposed to both languages. Another advantage of video is that students can learn to SPEAK and UNDERSTAND both languages through the use of gestures, facial expressions and repetition. That is especially crucial for the younger students, from Foundation Year to Year 2, to advance their skills in both languages and to keep them focused and involved. 

2. Engage with Students via Live Video Calls 

We found that daily class video calls, in our case via zoom, are extremely helpful to ensure the students and teachers stay connected. During those calls the students are exposed to both languages depending on the teacher’s native tongue. In addition, our teachers use the so called ‘break out room’ function of zoom. It enables them to split their students into virtual “rooms” so that they can interact, discuss certain topics and socialise in smaller groups. The teachers are able to join the different ‘break out rooms’ and bring back all their students into one “room” at any time.

3. Daily Online Feedback to Keep up the Motivation 

The students upload their completed tasks in the form of photo, video, audio or written content to the seesaw platform. On a daily basis the teachers check the content, give feedback and encourage them with motivating comments, mainly in form of audio to increase the language exposure. This approach keeps the students engaged and motivated when partaking in bilingual education via distance learning. It also ensures that the activities completed by the students are corrected within a short time frame.   

4. Additional Language Trainings in Virtual Classes 

For students who need support in either German or English dedicated lessons are offered via video call to ensure the students' progress during distance learning. This program is especially helpful for students who are non-native German or English speakers. These additional virtual classes are scheduled weekly with specialist teachers in a small group or a one-on-one setting. In addition, a German Mentoring Program was initiated with the support of German teaching students: tutoring and reading sessions in German are offered via zoom against the payment of a fee.  

5. German Library hour via Video Recording 

In a regular week at school every class has a library hour to borrow books, to read and to listen to the teacher reading out. During distance learning the format changed. Now our  librarian records videos reading out from picture books and uploads them to the seesaw platform to the respective class. The picture books vary depending on lower and upper primary grades. So far, the feedback from the students has been very positive. They are enjoying these videos so much that they even ask when the next video is uploaded. The end of the video includes a speech impulse in form of a question about the book. This encourages the students to speak by recording and uploading an audio comment.

Bilingual Education and the Benefits of a Bilingual Brain  

About Deutsche Schule Melbourne  

As an accredited German school abroad, Deutsche Schule Melbourne offers a quality bilingual education for students and a vibrant, cohesive culture for the teacher and parent community. The successful bilingual education program makes learning a new language easy. From Foundation to Year 2, 80% of subjects are taught in German. By Year 6, this reduces to 50%. Based on a ‘one teacher-one language’ approach in which classes are conducted in the teacher’s native language (German or English). However, all teachers at the school are bilingual in English and German and speak both languages fluently. Every other lesson is taught in German and incorporates both curricula. Students at Deutsche Schule Melbourne grow up bilingually and bi-culturally, with German and English as the languages of instruction. 

 ‘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.’, says Bernice Ressel, Principal of Deutsche Schule Melbourne.  

If you want to learn more about our bilingual education program, please join our upcoming Open Dayrequest a brochure or get in touch with Deutsche Schule Melbourne’s Admission Manager Stefanie Dietrich.