On my fourth week of student teaching abroad, I had the opportunity to observe a true lesson taught by my cooperating teacher. The past three weeks were a combination of the English curriculum taught from the student book and my own personal English lessons. Today, my cooperating teacher had brought in her own activity for the students to test their language abilities and progress from the past school week. The activity required the students to recreate the conversation they copied down in their notebooks between two children that involved a series of simple sayings such as, “Hi, how are you?” and “How old is he?” The students were each given a separate notecard with one phrase on it and asked to line up in correct order of the conversation. As I watch the students try and figure out the proper order of the conversation, I recorded the advantages and disadvantages of the activity.
Some positive aspects of the lesson include that it required students to recall the homework they completed over the weekend, and how it made students think comprehensively to figure out the context of the conversation. For example, students must understand that “I’m fine, thank you,” follows “Hi, how are you?” in a conversation. The negative aspects included that the students had difficulty distinguishing the different characters in the conversation and the location of certain phrases. For example, the students had difficulty distinguishing the placement of “Hi” in relation to the placement of “Hello!” From an English speaking point of view, the two phrases are the exact same; therefore, to a new learner, it can be confusing to distinguish the difference between the two because they carry the same meaning in the English language, unlike how the Italian greeting “Ciao!” is both “hi” and “hello.”
In comparing methods, the Italian method of teaching a language is substantially different than the American method. The Italian method involves the teaching of conversational phrases and practical usage of learnt words. In the American language classroom, there is more of a focus on reading and writing the language. Throughout elementary and high school, I attended countless Spanish classes and relentlessly memorized verb conjugations and vocabulary. Since graduating high school, I can read and write Spanish, but I am hesitant to speak Spanish in a conversational manner. However, in my Italian class here, I am learning how to interact with the people in my surroundings via conversational language. The students in the third grade classroom at San Gaspare are learning how to interact with English speakers, as well as the language’s grammar and vocabulary. The differential learning in Italian classrooms allows students to learn both the practical and theoretical aspects of the English language for long-term use.