Language Learning in the Early Years

The International School of Zug and Luzern (ISZL) provides authentic and integrated German language experiences from Early Years, nurturing a love of language learning.

As part of the Early Years curriculum at ISZL, through a variety of routines and activities, the German language is interwoven into the child’s day. The children experience German language integration throughout the week at key moments such as:

  • Morning meeting
  • Mittagstisch – Lunchtime
  • Indoor and outdoor play time

In this way, the language plays a significant role in the child’s day-to-day life at school and the children have the opportunity to be immersed in German. German teachers join the children at lunchtime, and in this relaxed, informal setting we share personal stories, discuss food and the morning’s experiences through German. Joining children in their play provides abundant opportunity for language development. Playing through German also allows children to acquire social language that is so helpful when making friends and playing harmoniously with classmates and neighbours.

Throughout the Early Years at ISZL, German is taught in this authentic and integrated way, and is personalised to meet the needs of children of different ages and at different stages in their language learning journey. Children who are already becoming proficient German speakers have opportunities to share their understanding, and those children who are beginning their learning journey have opportunities to listen, to develop strategies for comprehension and try out their new language.

Joyful activities

It is vital that children’s language learning experiences at an early age are positive and foster a lifelong love of language learning. This belief is at the core of our practice and can be seen in regular organised activities such as:

  • Singing
  • Sharing books, poems and stories
  • Cooking
  • Forest sessions 

Singing is an integral part of our German lessons. It is clear that singing can be highly motivational, and the positive effects of music and song on the mood are well documented. Many of us are more than happy to sing the same song many times and songs themselves involve repetition. Children joyfully acquire and develop their language through song.  

Regular storytime is also a key part of our programme. Enjoying German stories broadens children’s vocabulary and heightens their awareness of rich language patterns as well as story structure. Books with a pattern or repetitive text are very popular, allowing children to predict the next page or sentence of a story, thus building confidence and vocabulary. This active participation in reading – for example, repeating phrases – not only helps comprehension but also provides a model for accurate pronunciation.

Cooking with young children is a comprehensive learning experience, which allows them to apply a range of transferable skills including mathematical, organisational and language skills. Baking traditional and seasonal breads with Early Years children offers another important connection to the Swiss cultural heritage. Grittibänze, Zopfteighäsli, Sonntagszopf all feature in the school’s baking calendar and are eagerly created – and consumed!

The beautiful and extensive Swiss forest provides a perfect setting to learn German. Our forest education promotes an appreciation of the beautiful physical environment we enjoy in Switzerland. In addition to learning about this habitat, the children learn to cook and explore through German and become familiar with the local rules and etiquette essential to protecting and sharing this wonderful resource. Our German language sessions always aim to provide ample opportunities for spontaneous and natural conversations in a relaxed environment. The forest serves as a vibrant and stimulating backdrop for storytelling and dramatic productions through the German language.

Connecting with the local community

Switzerland offers a vibrant community-based diary of festivals and celebrations. Whether families are here for a short time or many years, they benefit from active participation in the local community. Like many children in the area, the children at ISZL take part in traffic training conducted by the local police. We have found that local Swiss organizations warmly welcome our participation in such local events as;

  • Pumpkin harvest at a local farm
  • Baar Lichterweg (Path of Lights during Advent)
  • Candle dipping workshop
  • Baar Fasnacht (Carnival) parade

Our youngest learners and their families make life-long memories through their participation in these community events. Creating a beautiful beeswax candle is now a regular winter ritual in Kindergarten. We are warmly welcomed at a local ‘Kerzenziehen’ workshop and the children are guided in crafting their own candles. Sharing these experiences with the school community often gives families the confidence to take part in these local traditions independently, anchoring their connection to their Swiss neighbourhood.

Our Goals with German Education at Early Years 

Our goal is to help the children to see the rewards that come with learning a language. Specifically, we want them to become comfortable with the sounds and rhythms of the German language, acquainting them with the cues of context and gesture that allow them to identify both known and unknown words and phrases. In addition to providing a solid foundation for all future language learning, the ability to comprehend, and then to interact, with their Swiss environment is an empowering experience for children of this age. Whether understanding and using short phrases in shops and on public transport, joining in games at a playground, participating more fully in sports and clubs in the local community, or simply interacting more fully with Swiss neighbours and acquaintances, we aim to develop and nurture a long-lasting familiarity with the language.

Learn more about the Early Years Community at ISZL.

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