Schiller Gymnasium Project
Advanced Placement English Classes for Bilingual Students
Pilot Project Summary (WS 2016-17)
The project took into consideration the individual interests of the pupils. They were asked to create a PowerPoint about a subject of their choosing which they would later present to all the 7th grade English classes. Keeping in mind that, in the 8th grade, the United States would be introduced in the German textbooks, any topic about the U.S. was an option, or one could opt to introduce several cities in another English-speaking country. One could also recommend the various destinations of the Schiller-exchange-programs as well (Australia, England, Nigeria, etc.) – one could (as the student-teacher) introduce the idea of discussing one of the destinations or all of these destinations. The intention of this was to perk the interest of the students for a travel-abroad experience – which might be a nice link to Schiller in general. How or what the pupils decided to present was irrelevant, as the process of researching the topics in English and creating the PowerPoint is what counted. Each week the student-teachers assisted the pupils in finding “reliable” research sites on the internet to help facilitate them with the writing of their reports about their chosen topics, and they helped them create a visually appealing as well as informative PowerPoint presentation. Thus, presentations skills were also discussed.
The Pilot Project was conducted in the winter term of 2016: Class 7a, Schiller Gymnasium. Two student-teachers instructed one female pupil (age 13, US bilingual speaker) and one male pupil (age 13, British bilingual speaker) over an 8-week period prior to the Christmas break. After the holiday break, there was one more session to practice the presentation in front of the student-teachers before the pupils presented their projects to the four other 7th grade English classes.
My help with ideas or concepts was always available to the student-teachers as well as the help of the teachers on staff at Schiller. This varied, based on which courses were involved and which teachers had bilingual students.
The project was designed to help bilingual pupils use what they already knew to improve their skills in the foreign language as well as their strategic skills, such as researching and presenting. Most of the bilingual pupils were very strong in their communicative capacities, but by making them engage with the written word (while researching), they were forced to better their own understanding of the written word. They were at a higher level of oral proficiency and felt comfortable speaking at will. Their writing and reading skills were to be stimulated during this process, and they were to interact with the student-teachers only in English (direct method), thereby strengthening their language skills as well. Thus, even if it was difficult at first, the research was to be done on English websites. But they had the student-teachers to support them in this process. If German sites were used, other skills, such as negotiating skills (Byram’s ICC), were incorporated: locating pictures or texts that could be integrated, sifting through the materials to find the key facts (skimming & scanning techniques), in order to highlight the importance of some information over other pieces of not so relevant information. This not only helped them with English but aided them in developing skills that they could use later in other courses, thereby making the assignment more relevant for their school lives, enabling them to transfer their strategic skills from one subject to another, and thus creating an interdisciplinary relevance as well.
The teachers at Schiller were not only very pleased with the pupils' presentations, but the MA students also thoroughly enjoyed the project. And since the pilot project was such a great success, it took place the following two years as well: October 2017– February 2018 and October 2018–February 2019.
For a brief report about the project, see: https://www.schillergymnasium-muenster.de/siebtklaessler-halten-praesentationen-auf-englisch/