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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Adjusting My Instruction to Aid Student Comprehension

         Today I officially completed my first day at Maria Luigia, where I will be teaching once a week to a variety of English language learning classrooms for the next two weeks. In Maria Luigia, I will be teaching middle school Italian students the English language. Unfortunately, due to conflicts with my class schedule change in February, I will have to begin a new teaching placement at a local elementary school. I am anticipating, however, the unique opportunity to compare the different experiences, and how each will impact myself as a teacher. Nevertheless, for my first day at Maria Luigia, I was asked to create a short presentation on myself (including family, interests, schooling, etc.), using basic phrases and tenses for a lower level English class, and more advanced vocabulary as well as the present perfect tense (I did not even remember what tense this was) for two more advanced English classes.
            Throughout the course of my first day at Maria Luigia, I was able to apply knowledge and skills I gained through my Teaching Bilingual Students course at Boston College. During my first presentation, I relied solely on the phrases I had written on my powerpoint slides, not truly engaging with the students or asking questions and checking for clarification. Although I attempted to use some gestures in order to aid in student comprehension, it was not a conscious part of my instruction. After gaging feedback throughout my presentation, however, I became aware of a variety of phrases that needed to be changed and simplified, as well as areas I could actively involve the students and make the material I was presenting to them more memorable. For example, on one of my slides, I had written “I take Italian and art history.” Many of the students, however, vocalized a great deal of confusion with this statement. I therefore became cognizant of the fact that a lot of common expressions in English are not easily understood by those who are not fluent, and readily changed my wording to “I study Italian and art history,” to achieve greater understanding.

               Moreover, I was sure to include a greater variety of facial expressions, gestures, and slower speech productions to better reach the students following the first presentation. While delivering my first presentation and aiding in the completion of a class activity, I was told a few times to slow down my speech. Even when I was consciously aware that my speech was lagging far behind what is typical of a native English speaker, many students continued asking for my instruction to be delivered “Più lentamente.” I began to consider how confused and frazzled I become when Italians converse with me, particularly igniting a memory of a tour guide who had earlier showed myself and the other Parma students a library in the city, and even when asked to slow down, still seemed to speak a mile a minute. For the remaining two classes, I talked at a rate that seemed almost silly, but in the end resulted in universal understanding, and created a safer, less intimidating environment where students readily participated and were eager to practice their English without feeling nervous or hesitant. In this sense, I was already required to make conscious, active adjustments to my teaching style and techniques, ones which touched upon the culturally competent practices highlighted throughout my Teaching Bilingual students course. I am anxious to continue bettering my teaching style, as well as am apprehensive for how difficult it will be to teach elementary school students in the upcoming months, as their English language abilities will be significantly below the students I have worked with thus far. Nevertheless, I am already looking forward to next week at Maria Luigia, and disappointed I have such limited amount of time with these students. I hope that, despite being restricted to solely two weeks, I will be able to impact the students and inspire them to continue their English language learning with passion and motivation. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Caroline! I am glad that things are going well for you in Parma. I am really impressed by how well you adjusted to the needs of your students and in such a short amount of time. That is such an important quality to have as a teacher and you have it!

    I really appreciated the part where you described yourself as "putting yourself in your students' shoes." As someone who took spanish during middle and high school, I remember what it was like when teachers would talk too fast during class or use slang like "I take Italian" rather than the more formal "I study Italian" for example. It's admirable that you took your past feelings into consideration to create a classroom environment for the students that was less intimidating, more inviting, and interactive. Sometimes I feel like I have to tell the people in Dublin to slow down their English when they are speaking to me haha. It can seem like a foreign language at times, so I can only imagine speaking to people in Italian on the street.

    Lastly, I think it is pertinent and important that you talked about the necessity for facial gestures and specific body language within a classroom, especially when teaching English as a second language. All of these things are skills that we cannot acquire in a lynch textbook and it seems like you are picking them up and really perfecting your craft of teaching. Keep up the good work!


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