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Pen-pals meet in Germany

Primary teacher Nigel Pearson took his pupils to mainland Europe

Although modern foreign languages are increasingly being taught at key stages 1 and 2, it is still unusual for primary schools to take such young pupils on language-learning trips abroad.

However, we are taking a lead as a School of Excellence for German, and last year organised a visit to one of our pen-pal link schools, Scharnebeck, which is situated south of Hamburg.

We obtained funding from the British Council, the Goethe Institute and our LEA, and 25 children travelled to Germany for a week-long stay in a hostel and a schedule of exciting activities with the host school.

Children participated in the German school's lessons, and talked with the pupils about families, pets, hobbies and other topics, using German they had practised.

Scharnebeck teacher Marco Hoppe arranged a visit to the SV Hamburg stadium and pupils from the two schools were encouraged to mix and converse, especially about the football theme.

Later that week mixed teams of English and German boys and girls played in their own football tournament, and trophies were presented.

Children also participated in the village's St Martin's Day service and candle-lit procession, singing and holding lanterns. Other shared activities included a disco, film show and lots of email-swapping.

The children behaved excellently, demonstrating how, with funding and strong organisation, this kind of ambitious language-learning trip is possible with primary groups.

Nigel Pearson teaches at Dovedale Junior School, Liverpool and was primary German teacher of the year 2004

* National Centre for Early Language

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