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Old 02.09.2010, 21:03
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Homework in a foreign language...

My daughter Emilie will only start 1st Klasse next year but today as all her French friends started primary school back home, I started to think of the homework she will have to do.. in German.

For those who have kids in the local Swiss system ,how do you help your kids if your level of French or German is not enough? I know than in first class, she will not have much to do, but just with the reading and writing for a start, I have a horrible french/german pronunciation, my Grammar is faulty and my vocab range is quite limited. I feel I will be an obstacle to her learning. Emilie is lucky to have a German dad, but I know that I will be the one responsible for the H/W.

So do you still help alone? or have you hired a student or tutor ?
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Old 02.09.2010, 21:09
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

In principle, homework should be done by the child independently as it is (or should be) a follow up to work already covered in class.

This means that while a parent should offer support and encouragement, she shouldn't actually 'help' the child with the homework as it could no longer be considered the child's own work (which then makes it difficult for the teacher to assess how the child is getting on).

How this works in practice, of course, you will discover for yourself, but that's how it's supposed to work.

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Old 02.09.2010, 21:12
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

look and see if there is a homework program after school- my son's school has it and it helps alot. he does his homework there and when he comes home we go over it together and it helps me too!

if they don't have it, i would consider talking to the teacher and seeing if they set up a special time for extra help- in our school it's wednesdays, so instead of leaving at 11 they leave at 12 with the extra hour specifically for students who need extra help in language, math, etc.

good luck- and no worries, she'll catch up very fast at that age!
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Old 02.09.2010, 21:24
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

Well I was schooled in the fashion that life is one hellish struggle to win at everything, and that those who did poorly shouldn't be touched for fear of contracting "stupid". (yeah, horrific 800 year old private school, to remain nameless). So it depends what school your daughter goes to. If it a competitive one, get her a tutor so she can do well immediately - if she starts off poorly it may be hard for her to catch up. If she goes to a warm, nurturing school then leave it up to the school to help her. Either way, there's no reason that you should be able to do the homework. Good luck!
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Old 02.09.2010, 21:27
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

Quote:
In principle, homework should be done by the child independently as it is (or should be) a follow up to work already covered in class.

This means that while a parent should offer support and encouragement, she shouldn't actually 'help' the child with the homework as it could no longer be considered the child's own work (which then makes it difficult for the teacher to assess how the child is getting on).

How this works in practice, of course, you will discover for yourself, but that's how it's supposed to work.

I am a teacher myself so it is absolutely obvious that I'm not going to do the homework instead of my children...

Actually, I had not expected my thread to be understood like this.. let me give me some examples :

your child has to read 2 pages of his /her book.. if you can't understand the sentence..so far with my level B1 German, I can but later on?

If you child come with an article in history and he needs a clarification. if you don't have the language level to read it ? there is nothing wrong in helping your kid with giving an explanation..

If he has a spelling test , you want to make sure he/she's learnt the words..but if you don't understand them..of course a dictionary will help ,but sometimes it can be more tricky.

If he has been given an instruction on a maths exercise and he's not sure what to do...( mind you whatever the language, I'll be hopeless with maths).

I'm a French teacher, I will check that my kids have done their French homework, I will not do it instead of them but if they have a spelling test or an exam the next day, you can be sure I will help them revise their vocab and explain whatever grammar rules they have to know if they don't understand ..this is what I call helping ..
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Old 02.09.2010, 21:33
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

@ economisto

I 'm not a competitor, I'm a teacher but was a lousy student who even repeated a class in France..I don't want to push her, but I want my kids to have the same chances of succeeding as everyone else..and reading some threads, it looks like here foreign kids are already at a disadvantage. At the moment, my daughter's level of German is not very good..she can't even conjugate verbs correctly.. but i'm optimitic as she has another year of kindy and she is much more brighter than me...
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Old 02.09.2010, 21:36
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

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your child has to read 2 pages of his /her book.. if you can't understand the sentence..so far with my level B1 German, I can but later on?
Later on your child should have acquired the skills to work out what the text is about for himself, using dictionaries or other tools as appropriate.

Quote:
If you child come with an article in history and he needs a clarification. if you don't have the language level to read it ? there is nothing wrong in helping your kid with giving an explanation..
Again, by the time your child is working at a language level that is higher than your own, he should have acquired the means to clarify for himself, using the internet, library books or other learning tools.

Quote:
If he has a spelling test , you want to make sure he/she's learnt the words..but if you don't understand them..of course a dictionary will help ,but sometimes it can be more tricky.
Learning spelling, in essence, is merely rote learning. Comprehension of the words, while desirable, isn't actually necessary. In German, anyway, spelling is so regular that spelling tests aren't particularly important past about second grade.

Quote:
If he has been given an instruction on a maths exercise and he's not sure what to do...( mind you whatever the language, I'll be hopeless with maths).
As I said in my previous post, homework should be a follow up to work done in class. If a child doesn't understand what to do, he should pay attention when the homework is being set. If he doesn't understand how to do it, then the teacher should be informed, as the work will clearly need to be revised.

I wish to stress again that in Swiss schools it is considered of vital importance that a child should take responsibility for his own work and do it by himself, using whatever tools are necessary to do so. There is nothing that annoys a Swiss teacher more than seeing that a child has been 'helped' by a well-meaning adult. And believe me, they know...
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Old 03.09.2010, 07:53
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

Thanks for these clarifications about the Swiss system. Now I really hope that my kids will not suffer from learning difficulties if we stay in the swiss system because from what you 're writing, you really need to be a good achiever . Looks like it is a "sink or swim " situation for the others here. Saying that, the Swiss parents I know take homework very seriously and always pays quite some time with their kids making sure it's done. Are they bad parents then?
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Old 03.09.2010, 09:03
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

You may want to check with the school and see if they offer language lessons or help for the parents. I know of some school districts that offer this, as it has become an impediment for the children if their parents don't understand the homework.

While in principal I agree it is the child's responsibility, there still needs to be parent oversight at a minimum and some involvement, at the lower age group in particular in my experience. For example, I have to read the 'cahier du soir' and determine if my child completed the 3 exercises listed there; I also have to sign off on the all the cahiers once per week. This needs at least minimal knowledge of the local language. Also, when tests such as dictee are forthcoming, the child is expected to prepare at home. This cannot be done alone, an adult or older sibling must play the role or mimic the teacher in preparation. When learning new words or in the early stages of reading, correcting bad or incorrect pronunciation or accents is important so as to not lead them to think it is correct (thus continuing the error).
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Old 03.09.2010, 09:16
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

Hi Olympe,

If your child's homework includes reading 2 pages of her early reading book to you, why not use it as a chance to improve your German vocab.

Have a dictionary to hand so if there is a word you don't understand you can look it up.

Many years ago I learned Danish and one of the aids I used was Disney children's books (Winnie the Pooh etc) that came with a cassette (see I said it was a long time ago....) with the story being read out. It's amazing how quickly you pick things up with repetition.

Our son is still only 3 and going to Kinderkrippe. When it comes to the particular stage, I'm going to listen to his reading - but I may well consider asking a German-speaking neighbour to read with him sometimes just so he doesn't pick up my bad pronunciation habits.

Cheers,
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Old 03.09.2010, 12:22
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

yes, this is what I already do when I read their night stories..kids books are great to learn vocab!
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Old 03.09.2010, 12:36
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

Hi,

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yes, this is what I already do when I read their night stories..kids books are great to learn vocab!
As an aside, we're a Dutch/English speaking household - so we strictly speak our respective languages to our little one. This means he makes that separation between the different languages. So far we never read German books to him - only Dutch or English - as he should get his German from a native speaker - e.g. Kinderkrippe, Neighbours, local kids etc.

I just wonder what approach others have (just to take the thread slightly OT).

Cheers,
Nick
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Old 03.09.2010, 12:38
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

We have on occasion, when we felt it was merited, given our children more assistance in getting their homework completed - but I've no problem them getting detention for laziness. My wife and I are not native German speakers, and neither of us are fluent. The biggest problem we found was that we sometimes couldn't help our kids work out what they were supposed to do.

What we did (and still do to some extent) was to ask the teacher to make sure that our child understood what the homework task was and encourage our children to discuss the task with their classmates.

When your kid gets to 4th class, if she's not doing well in German, that would be the time to get an hour or two of extra tuition per week. We did that with our third child and it made a huge difference. All three are doing fine now.

As others have said - reading books is the key to getting good grammar and vocabulary. I have read German books to my children sometimes, but generally, I will only speak to my children in English. ( They hate my German attempts anyway ).
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Old 03.09.2010, 13:10
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

My husband is German but I know that as for as homework is concerned, it will be my responsibility as a parent.. I'm the one who 's got more time and patience I have to say so most of the time, especially when he's on business trip, it will be all down to me.

Unfortunately ( or not ) , we speak English at home and this is one of the main reasons we moved to Swizterland. Having grown up in a British school and with only English speakers as friends and colleagues for 4 years, Emilie's first language has become english..

Since we're here, things are improving every day. She attends a local school and we speak more and more German at home. So we're not surrounded by an English speaking environment constantly. Her 2 year old sis is becoming bilingual German/French with some Bern deutsch as well!

This is why we have German kids books at home..gift from German relatives and the books they choose at the library. If my 2nd one comes up with a German book, I don't send her away and read it to her. But most of the time ,as my husband and I take turns for bed time..one night I read a French sotry, the next evening my husband reads a German one..

and why my husband does not speak French and why I have not been able to pass level B1/B2 in German is another topic...


gosh, I don't usually gives so many thanks in one thread hehe! but thanks all to help me put things into perspective...have to say, I have started the same discussion on a french family forum... all these different approaches to learning are very interesting..
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Old 03.09.2010, 15:12
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

Hi olympe

Rest assured it won't be a problem for many years yet. My French is B1 level, which has so far been perfectly fine for helping my son with his homework, and he's just started 5th grade last week! And by then, your German will be vastly improved.

Oddly enough, we had a small difficulty last night with my daughter's homework, from 1st grade. She brought home a sheet of pictures; she had to colour in all the pics that had the 'a' sound in them and therefore map a path through the images to get from top to bottom.

It was harder to do than my son's 4th grade homework: the pictures themselves were a bit dubious and badly copied ('what's this splodgy one here - fairy, do you think? Oh, hang on, perhaps it's an angel...), we didn't have all the vocab in our heads and had to look some up, and even then there was much discussion about exactly how to pronounce so-and-so word and whether it had an 'a' in it.

I don't think it went terribly well - she came home today saying that they marked their homework, that 'it was really funny, Mummy, because S who sits in the next desk along from me had just coloured in ALL the pictures, but everyone else had done it right only they all used a completely different route through the pictures to us'.

I'm not worrying about it, though. Her teachers are obviously aware it's not her native language even though she does now speak it well, and will if necessary arrange for her to do an extra 'appui' session (small groups of kids retained for half an hour one or more days a week for more personal work), to help her hammer out the reading skills.

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Old 07.09.2010, 12:09
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

Everyone tells you they are expected to do their homework independently. But our experience has been that all the Swiss parents we know with successful kids help/support their kids in their homework. They are able to answer questions when the child doesn't understand the homework directions and can help them review for tests and review their reports before they hand them in. My daughter sees this when she stays overnight with friends. There is also the subtle help with the language and grammar you don't realize you are giving because you do it so automatically.

It should help that you have a native German speaker in the house even if he is not primarily responsible for supporting your daughter's homework. If the afterschool homework (nachhilfe) help is good then that is a good option. Otherwise I would suggest hiring a tutor. If they get behind they sometimes lose confidence and that only makes it worse.
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Old 07.09.2010, 12:59
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

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Everyone tells you they are expected to do their homework independently. But our experience has been that all the Swiss parents we know with successful kids help/support their kids in their homework. They are able to answer questions when the child doesn't understand the homework directions and can help them review for tests and review their reports before they hand them in.
It's perfectly normal to support the kids with their homework, I think, which isn't of course the same thing as filling in a sheet of subtraction sums for them (or even correcting their odd error afterwards, so the teacher mistakenly assumes they fully understand the concept).

For example, last year my son had several presentations to prepare. 'I'm going to do mine on dinosaurs', he announced the first time. I explained why 'dinosaurs' was rather a large topic for a 5-10 minute presentation, and that he should perhaps narrow it down to a certain aspect. We talked about brainstorming and mindmapping, looked at what materials we had available to work from (having only arrived here less than a year ago at the time, neither of us would be able to write a script alone and knew we'd have to heavily crib) and narrowed it down to 'how fossils are formed, and how the remains show that some dinosaurs are carnivorous and others are herbivores'.

He did the research, made notes in English and chose some pictures. I largely wrote the script (only because of his then level of language ability) and then demonstrated effective presentation techniques so he didn't just drone face downwards to his paper. I also showed him different mounting techniques, such as double framing, and how to visually balance the display. He then practised the script with his French tutor, to make sure he was pronouncing the words correctly and reading with some semblance of meaning.

He got a good grade, partly because of peer marking from his lovely classmates who commented how interesting it was to listen to; this is nice, but not why I helped him. I and his future teachers/employers couldn't care less about his dinosaur presentation mark in 3rd grade. But he learnt a heck of a lot about how to research, prepare and give a presentation at a basic kid level, none of which he would now know if I'd just let him do it all alone.

My daughter, though - her piece of homework this week was to write out the numbers 1-20, then count groups of objects and write the total in the box. She's on her own with that one.

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Old 07.09.2010, 13:21
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

I helped my daughter learn vocabulary for her French test. It was great because it not only helps her learn, but it also improves my German and French.

Der Tannenbaum = La forêt de sapins See. I still remember it!
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Old 07.09.2010, 14:09
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Re: Homework in a foreign language...

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I helped my daughter learn vocabulary for her French test. It was great because it not only helps her learn, but it also improves my German and French.

Der Tannenbaum = La forêt de sapins See. I still remember it!
I'm the same, but the other way round. It's been brilliant doing 3rd and 4th grade French alongside my son; I've had a total revision on forming present, perfect, imperfect and future tenses ('we' are going to do the conditional and subjunctive moods this year ). He's also just started doing German as a foreign language, and I'm happily refreshing my 20-odd years' ago O-level!

And who says that SAHMs are atrophying their brains, eh?

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Old 09.09.2010, 19:23
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Homework helper!

Hi, I am a newbie, so struggling with the German homework for my two children. I found a great website called www.dict.cc which has been a great help with pronunication when they are reading and learning words.
Starting back in school myself for German, so every little helps!
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