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German International School (GISSV) (Berkeley, CA)
Re: Seeking German-Bilingual Daycare/Preschool
Check out the Berkeley campus of GISSV www.gissv.org. The school offers a good bilingual German/English program starting in preschool. Our two kids love it. GISSV parent
Re: Immersion school for gifted kids?
You ask about how private immersion programs handle kids who are gifted. We are at GISSV and I can tell you what I have found. My experience is that the teacher-student ratio is so good, the teachers can give a fantastic amount of individualized attention to each child. (In my son's class of 15 kids there is a full time teacher and a full time intern). I saw this in the parent teacher conference this fall where I was impressed how well the teachers knew and understood my child. I have heard from other parents that the teachers, who go through a very long and rigorous training in Germany, get a lot of training on teaching across learning differences. What I've seen for myself is that they make learning fun in very creative ways, and that they are well able to teach children who are both native German speakers and those who are not. Some of the classrooms are mixed grade (including my son's), which both gives the kids a larger peer group to play with and allows for more differentiated education. Learning simultaneously in German (which we don't speak at home) and English has been a great challenge for my child but one that he has also not expressed any frustration about. He and I get to discuss how concepts get different names in different languages, how letters get pronounced differently in different languages, etc. It's exciting for me to see that his daily early elementary education comes with the knowledge that there is more than one way to think about things, just on the level of language. We've never given him any kind of intelligence test, but at parent-teacher conferences since preschool the teachers have uniformly described him as extreme on the scale of quick to learn. He has never reported being bored at school. Like yours, he would be described as slow to warm, and I've been very happy that the small size and warm feel have made GISSV a school where he feels very, very comfortable. And, yes, there is good structure to the program. Hope this helps. happy GISSV parent
Re: Immersion school for gifted kids?
I have found GISSV to have a very fluid learning environment - both socially and academically. The small class size enables the teachers to focus on each child's unique needs. Moreover, all of the teachers are extremely dedicated and energetic. Also, the kids know students from classes above and below them. So if they skip a grade or perhaps just do certain subjects with older kids, they are socially comfortable because they are still with friends. The teaching philosophy generally encourages questions, including why are we learning things to begin with. These sorts of questions give kids, gifted or not, a context for their education. And of course, offering your child an opportunity to learn another language is a fabulous gift, regardless of which language you choose. Satisfied GISSV Parent
Re: Immersion school for gifted kids?
Our son goes to GISSV. I think due to the small class sizes the teachers are really good at differentiation, e.g. in math, where they work a lot with work sheets, not all kids get the same worksheets. The more advanced ones get more challenging ones.
My impression of the school is that all the teachers work incredibly hard for each kid to be as successful and learn as much as they can. A couple of years ago they had a kid (who has since moved away) that attended class in some subjects at his grade level and in some subjects one grade level up. The idea was for him to eventually jump a grade but not all subjects at once. Happy GISSV mom
Re: Importance of community in immersion schools?
My impression at GISSV is that there is actually a sense of community. There are a number of school events that foster the parents getting together and at least for our family, we definitely have found friends there. Many families spend time together outside of school and some families carpool (some on a regular, some on an ''as needed'' basis). There is also a group of moms who meet every morning at school and then often take their dogs on a walk together. GISSV mom
You ask for other thoughts on language immersion challenges. My child started at GISSV with zero German, and is now fluent. I was nervous, but it worked! I have been really happy with the school - they know what they are doing. They also offer an incredible teacher-student ratio. I feel like my child is well understood and is being challenged and nurtured in a warm environment. We did an exhaustive search of where to go for kindergarten - public, private, language immersion and non - and decided that this was the school for us. We're very happy. happy GISSV parent
In my mind, the community aspect is a very strong feature of the Berkeley GISSV campus. There is a mix of long-time residents and some expatriates. Most families have German language background, but not all, and expats are mostly, but not exclusively from German speaking countries.
Newcomers are typically included into the community right away, be it the dog-walking group (you can participate without a dog), coffee shop get-togethers, dinners, shared Thanksgiving, playdates for their kids, or organizing school community events together. They receive tips and tricks and advice on tpical newcomer problems. There is even a school fleamarket for furniture and electronics that outgoing expats sell to incoming expats when the timing is right.
For the entire community there are also annual skiing and annual camping trips for everybody who wants to. Of course, some people are more into socializing than others. But it is not unheard of that families visit each other on their respective home continents after their stint at GISSV, or open their houses during their own vacation to other visiting families.
Another aspect that I really like, is that the children learn about the different cultures present at our campus which is surprisingly multi-cultural for its relatively small size. This happens informally, but is also integrated into the curriculum or festivities. E.g. a Brazilian drum band has become a staple at our annual Karneval in February. Did I mention that we like to celebrate together? And mix our traditions and food specialties? Yes, there might be Bratwurst, but potlucks may also feature falafel, pakora, sushi, dim sum, or koshari.
Last, but not least, the school community is rather small, and this might not be for everybody. Some children will prefer a larger group for socializing, but my child profoundly benefits from small class sizes and individualized teaching.
There is much more to this school. Come, check it out!
Re: Bilingual pre-schools people like?
The German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) has just moved from formerly cramped space, to a large campus in Berkeley (Cedar at LeRoy). We started in Kindergarten and liked it. There is now a Pre-Kindergarten or Bridge-K option, taught in German naturally. French is the 2nd (um 3rd) language, though hopefully that will switch to Spanish at some point. Dad
I am considering the Berkeley campus of the German International School of
Silicon Valley. I was hoping to get feedback from current or former parents
in response to some lingering questions.
1) Is creativity nurtured at all grade levels? How are kids taught about the writing process? How do they learn to write creatively? Is there more of a focus on handwriting than on creative writing?
2) How do teachers respond to learning differences? A reviewer on the ''great schools'' website, writing about the Mountain View campus (of which the Berkeley school is a satellite) asserts that at the Mountain View campus, differences in learning style are not accommodated. How is this handled at the Berkeley school?
3) A yelp reviewer - an unhappy parent - mentioned a case of bullying not being addressed by teachers or administration at the Berkeley campus despite frequent complaints since the children were supposed to work things out themselves. Any idea if this is a systemic problem?
4) How does the small size of the Berkeley campus feel? Constraining or nurturing? Or both? Are there things your child has not been able to explore because the small size constrains options?
5) How is discipline handled?
6) A reviewer of the Mountain View campus says it's a great curriculum if you want to move your child to Germany. But what if you want to, at some point, transition your child to a public school in the Bay Area. How will they fare? Thanks so much for any thoughts. East Bay mom
Regarding some of your other questions, I know some children who have moved to an American school, and to my knowledge these children didn't have much problems. Also, this year at the Berkeley Campus, the school has introduced specialty classes such as spelling and math classes for children with learning differences. For the moment, the small size is nurturing for my children and we take it one year at a time. The school teaches some subjects in combined classes (such as music and PE) which encourages social interaction in a larger than usual class setting. Bullying and discipline problems have not been an issue for my children really, so I cannot give first-hand feedback. - Happy GISSV mom GISSV mom
On the whole, it's a wonderful, really amazing group of kids she's with. The 1st through 4th graders play in age-mixed, gender-mixed groups without thinking that's weird. And I hear far less potty-mouthed playground talk than I would have expected, given what else I read on this forum. I don't know what makes the school community like this -- if it's the school, the German parenting style at home, or just these particular kids -- but to me it's one of the unexpected pluses of the school. parent
As for your question about discipline, I can tell you how my child has been treated. He sometimes disrupts the class and is pretty much the class clown. The teacher has created a smiley book for him. He tries to earn two smileys each day. The book works as an incentive and is also a way for the teacher to communicate with me on a daily basis. The teacher respects and enjoys my son's humor, but we are working to make sure it doesn't interrupt the class. So far, the smiley book has been successful. Regarding your question about transitioning to public school in the Bay Area, I don't see any difficulties. The kids work hard and play hard in both English and German and appear well prepared to transition to an American or German school. It is a great community for our kids (and our family). It is also very diverse. Of course there are many American, German and Swiss parents, but there are also parents from Egypt to Brazil. You should feel free to contact the school if you want to talk to me or any other parents. Sally
Re: Looking for small school, flexibly paced program
My two children are thriving at the German International School, Berkeley Campus (www.gissv.org). This is a German/English private full immersion school with small class sizes. They are good at differentiating between children of different abilities, both in German and English but also Mathematics. Open Houses are happening now for enrollment next year. -GISSV mom
I am US born and my husband is from Cologne. We live in El Cerrito on
the Albany border. We had always planned to send our children to the Bay
Area Kinderstube (BAKS) in Albany, but as our daughter has been on the
waiting list since I was pregnant with her, and at 3.5 years we've still not
been granted admission, we've basically given up. For those who have
gotten in, is there something we are missing? Visits and introductions to
teachers, and requesting a full-time schedule have been to no avail. Are
there other Pre-K programs or playgroups we should try, or just wait until
the GISSV's Kindergarten program? Appreciate any suggestions.
Eine sehr frustrierte Mama (frustrated mommy)
Re: Looking for an affordable K-4 private school
I am very happy with GISSV Berkeley Campus. This is a German immersion school, however don't be scared if you don't speak german yourself. We have families in every grade that fit that profile. The curriculum is well rounded and their K approach is play based which will give your child a nice adjustment time to get to know the language and teachers. My older son will be going to 3rd grade after the summer break and my second child will start K. Now to the affordability of the program, this school is subsidized by the german government which makes it very affordable for the kind of education they are able to give. Here is the link to their website: http://gissv.org click the Berkeley Campus tab on the side Best of luck GISSV mom
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
You must approach this with an open mind; there is a school which may fulfill your quest located in the East Bay. Your child is gifted but you do not seek a conformist, routine method of learning. Consider a private school where she will receive an excellent modern European education, she will be fluent in two languages and upon graduation from the High School receive a bilingual European Arbitur and American high school diploma which will qualify her to attend American and European universities. The teachers will work with your child based on her abilities and requirements.
Although it is a little late, children can enroll in the school any time during the school year and there is no birthday restrictions so if your child at 4 is ready, she could try this for a year and if it does not work out she will still be the correct age for kindergarten at another school next year.
Take a look at the German International School of Silicon Valley Berkeley Campus (GISSV). There is an open house on November 10, 2009 at 6:30 pm. Ralf who is the head of school would be more than happy to discuss with you how a program will be set up to keep you daughter intelectually stimulated while in kindergarten. The school is affordable as tuition is partially subsidized. Even though we do not speak German, our daughter in kindergarten was fluent in German after 6 months. The style of education is somewhat play based which will hopefully instill in her a life long quest for learning. Old Sage (i.e. wise guy)
I would appreciate some reviews of the German International School (GISSV) in Berkeley. We are a second-generation American family. Very little German is spoken in our home but we would like our child to pick up another language early in her education. Does the school accept children during the school year? What are their expectations with regard to knowledge of the German language? What educational model is followed in kindergarten and first grade? And how does tuition cost compare to other private schools? Thank you for your feedback!
You didn't write the age of your child but I know it would be no problem at all if your son/daughter has no or only little ability understanding or speaking German when entering K-Class. Of course it wouldn't hurt to immediately start German play dates and listen to German tapes/books once she/he has started;-).
And yes, the Berkeley Campus welcomes each and every new addition to the school, even if it is during the school year. The tuition of GISSV is actually on the lower end, compared to other private bi-lingual schools in the area. It shouldn't be too hard to proof this fact.
Class sizes are between 8-10 kids with 2-3 teachers in K-Class. Kids are provided a high-standard bilingual education and now that my son has started 1st grade, I am even happier to see that English, taught by a native English teacher and the German education go side by side ... reading and writing ... and playing and exploring. The best out of two worlds!
If you are interested in joining the growing GISSV family, I'd recommend to contact the office in Mountain View to make an appointment and meet the teachers/students. As far as I know, the first official open house will be beginning of October. Good luck! Happy GISSV Parent
The academics are really good, there is a lot of flexibility in the teaching, they do a lot of theater projects, PE, music, arts. The tuition is a lot lower than other private schools, about 10K for the school year, mainly because of subsidies from Germany. Kindergarten is developmental, but they do a lot of ''academic'' language and math projects so that learning to read and write in two languages and to calculate in first grade is a lot easier. First grade is where the academics start. But they have enough time for arts, music, theater, PE etc.
The best would be to contact the school at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe arrange for a classroom visit or talk to the teachers. GISSV mom
For German language, our kid started this fall knowing next to nothing. English is our language at home, though both parents have functional German. The school (and our kid) seems comfortable with this way of learning it. Some English-language kindergarteners pick up German quickly, they told us, others take it more slowly, and the teachers don't seem to give it a second thought.
They do take new kids during the school year. The tuition is subsidized by the German government, including for non-German kids. I'd suggest just contacting the school and asking to talk with the lower-school head or the teachers. They don't do a hard sell. Cathryn
My daughter will be ready for Kindergarten next year and we are currently looking into public as well as private schools. I am German and my husband and I are raising our children bilingually, so I was wondering if anybody can tell me about the German International School of Silicon Valley. I believe they have opened an East Bay Campus a few years ago? Does anybody have personal experiences with the school, the teachers and also with the school's educational approach? Thank you! CB
The approach the Teachers take in Kindergarten is play-based. I know that is a concern for some parents, but in my experience this approach builds a strong social foundation, a sense of logic and reasoning which primes the kids for the academic work they face in the first grade. In fact, many of the students are children of renowned scientist and mathematicians.
GISSV believes in small class sizes. This has also been very successful for my son. In his large pre-school he was rather introverted, but has, in this small setting, found his courage and strength to speak his mind about anything.
Academically I believe GISSV offers a great program. They teach at a pace that is in sync with the abilities of the children. The children are challenged, and they seem to enjoy it and thrive. My son loves homework and he is not the only kid in class that does.
If you're interested the next open house is Dec 11th @ 7:00pm at the Kensington campus: 1 Lawson Road Berkeley/Kensington CA 94707
My son is currently attending the first grade at the German International school. He started in the kindergarten group last year. We love the school. I'm German and my husband is American and we are also raising our kids bilingually. But even with me exclusively speaking German to my son for his first 5 years he would not ever answer in German. He understood, but was very insecure about using German. With the school being German immersion, within a couple of weeks attending he replied in German and is now completely fluent (and has not lost his English).
In terms of the educational approach, the Kindergarten class is very play based. The goal is to teach the children a love for learning. The kids are not expected to read or write at the end of Kindergarten - if they do its great, if not it is fine too. My son got to learn about science, art, math and music in really playful ways. First grade is a little bit more structured: the curriculum is based on the curriculum taught in Germany and books and general material are the same as in Germany. Class sizes are very small so the kids get lots of one on one time with the teachers (there are 2 in the Kindergarten class). The teachers are great as well - very warm, engaged and very approachable in working with the children.
They do have two more open houses coming up on December 11, and Jan 22, and there are always parents of currently enrolled children there. You can also learn more here: http://gissv.org/index.php?catID=500&navID=500&GOTO=1&LEVEL=2&PARENTID=0 Happy GISSV parent
Does anyone have information on/experience with the new German School in Berkeley? I'd like to enroll my son for some summer classes. I've called them and left a message but have not received a response. anon
My daughter is in her 3rd year of preschool at the Bay Area Kinderstube and I am considering sending her to the GISSV program for kindergarten to continue her exposure to German language acquisition. I hope some parents out there can provide some feedback/answer these questions for me.
How do current parents feel about the quality of the program? What is the daily schedule like for kindergarten? How many kids are in the class/what is the ratio between staff and child? Are there lots of holidays/school closures? How does the cost compare to other private kindergarten programs?
What kind of academic instruction are the children getting, how much is conducted in German and how much in English?
Is there a vehicle in place for parent input/involvement. Is there a Board of Directors, PTA?
If anyone can comment on these questions and/or share your experience so far, it would be much appreciated. Jennifer
The language of instruction is four mornings in German, one morning in English.
What strikes me is how engaged the teachers are, how they care for and try to support each child. The academics are embedded in child appropriate and very creative projects and a lot of focus is spent on social and emotional development. German language is not a requirement for entering K or 1st grade and students who donmt speak it get extra support from the teachers to catch up. My daughter loves her school and has never said anything else!
The cost is lower than other private schools as the German Government pays part of the teacherms salaries. They also have an after school program until 6:00 pm. The school is currently not offering childcare on school holidays. However, the PTA is approaching the school about it and I think they will offer it soon. There is a lot of parent involvement, being a new school, and there is an active PTA which organizes lotms of activities and brings needs to the attention of the school administration. GISSV parent
Quality of the program: Very high. As your daughter goes to Kinderstube, you are probably familar with the play-based approach. It feels very much like a somewhat more academic version of Kinderstube. They learn a lot but in a playful manner. They also do some really nice art and craft projects.
Schedule: Normal class is from 9 (drop-off starting at 8:30)to 2pm with an afterschool program until 6pm. They start with a circle time. After that the kids have the choice between two activities (they try to get about equal sized groups). After the first activity they have snack and then they do the activity they have not yet done (so everyone does the same). Then they eat lunch and finish with another circle. Although the teachers have a lesson plan for the week, they sometimes adjust it based on the needs or depending on something coming up.
There are currently 10 kids with one more starting later this month and another moving here from Germany around Christmas. There are usually two teachers in the classroom, so for the main activities of the day it's about five kids per teacher.
Holidays/school closures: There are a few more than in other schools. Currently there are not enough kids to make offering camps viable, but that might change in the future if more families need a place to put their kids during those times.
Cost: It's almost 10k$ per school year for the morning program. That's significantly cheaper than other private schools I've looked at.
Academic instruction: They are learning some math concepts, a lot of science and they have the ''letter of the week''. But it's all done in a playful manner. They also do a lot of art and craft projects.
Language: Mainly in german. The science teacher who comes in one day a week speaks primarily english with the kids (although she is german).
Parent input/PTA/etc.: A lot of those things are handled in Mountain View on the main campus. There are parent representatives at the Berkeley Campus. Most of the parent involvement centers around the local things (organising car pools for field trips, collecting money for a marble run etc., marketing for the East Bay Campus,...) that do not need to go via the main campus. Parents are required to work 20 hours per school year (driving a car pool for a field trip counts toward that). Ina
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