by Christina Bärtges | 11 Sep 2020
Hallo from Early Years DaF (German as a Foreign Language)!
It has been a whirlwind adjusting to the new circumstances.
During the ‘good ol’ days,’, being physically in the same space made it easy to relate, to bond, and to create meaningful interactions together with the children that they will remember. Clearly, circumstances for teaching and learning have changed for everyone but after some weeks experimenting, the children and I are finding new ways to engage and interact, and the Early Years DaF kids are finding their groove. Auf Deutsch!
The whole purpose of any language is communication with each other. Most kids really cannot wait to communicate and share themselves, given the opportunity. What they want to talk about may not be exactly the topic of the lesson plan, yet the kids never fail to want to share, to tell, to hide or be silly during DaF. That children want to interact and communicate even during online DaF is already half the battle won. Equipping them with what they need to express themselves auf Deutsch, is the other half.
Most of the DaF groups started the year with a form of “Was ist das?” (What is that?)
To prompt them to do this activity with me, I simply asked “Can you go and get your favourite thing, that you want to show me? Schnell!” And upon returning in front of their screens, I would ask them full of interest and excitement “Was ist das?” and we would learn the noun, and maybe an adjective or the color that defined their object of interest. I even learned some Spanish words from a pair of brothers whose mother tongue is Spanish. English is their 2nd language, and now they are being exposed to their third language - Deutsch. That they were able to teach their teacher something for a change was a rewarding experience for them. I could tell by how surprised they looked when I asked them what “Auto” was auf Spanisch, and how enthusiastically they shared the answers to my questions.
It is these little positive associations with the subject DaF and the language German, that I want to foster and build in Early Years DaF because this will set the tone for their future learning.
During “Was ist das?” we had many schnelle Autos (fast cars), einen bunten Rubix Würfel (a colorful Rubks Cube), ein gelbes Küken (a yellow chic), einen Sattelschlepper (a trailer truck), einen Hund, eine Katze, eine Königin, ein Buch und viele mehr.
All groups acquired slightly different vocabulary (nouns). What they all got familiar with however, is THE fundamental question that anyone needs, to make sense of and learn about the world: “Was ist das?”
A spontaneous online version of hide and seek emerged and then spread across groups, because, let’s face it, there are always instances when a child is not in front of their screen. That’s just a reality. So, instead of getting frustrated, I also started “hiding” and disappearing from view, and taught the children to say “Ms. Christina, woooo bist duuu?” (Where are you?). Then suddenly a Kopf (head) would appear on screen, or ein Fuß (a foot), oder eine Hand oder Haare then we would laugh and then the kids get to hide and I would “seek”… “Wo bist du?” and when they popped up back into view, they would say “Hier bin ich!” (here I am!)
It is not the planning in advance that made this happen. These things happen spontaneously in the situation, guided by the appreciation for a child’s point of view, and the willingness to be playful and engage with them on their terms.
A 30-minute class goes by quickly when you’re playing and having fun and when you can speak about things that are important to you and applicable to your own life, you will retain the information better, but more importantly, you are more likely to use what you have learned out of your own account.
The challenge for me as a DaF teacher is not to keep the children still and obedient during online class. My challenge at the moment is to keep track of what everyone is learning individually, in order to be able to fit it into the bigger picture of DaF within our school. It is a challenge that I accept, well aware that this will be a continuous learning process for me as well.