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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Surprisingly Strong Impact of Simple Observation

During my second day at Maria Luigia, I visited one of the classrooms I had already been to, as well as a new classroom. Throughout the course of the two hours I was at my pre-practicum, one particular experience stood out to me as being extremely relevant to my future as an educator both in Italy and in the United States. During the first portion of my school day, when I was revisiting the classroom I had attended last week, I listened to students’ group presentations in English on an array of famous Italians throughout history, including Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Francesco Guicciardini. During these presentations, I noted a number of difficulties the majority of students encountered. A number of students struggled with the use of “lived,” instead using “lied” and “lifed” in its place. Additionally, students grappled with the past tense word “wrote,” incorrectly attempting to conjugate the irregular word to be “writed” on multiple occasions. In this sense, I experienced first hand a phenomenon that was emphasized throughout my Teaching Bilingual Students course, or the difficulty second language learners of English have with past tense, especially the irregular past tense. Moreover, students also had trouble forming questions that made logical sense, an observation that surprised me, as I had never seriously considered this aspect of language learning. For example, one group presented the question “Who was?” instead of “Who was he?” In a similar manner, another group posed the question “Who Leonardo da Vinci was?” instead of “Who was Leonardo da Vinci?” It therefore became clear that the use of past tense permeated the majority of the students’ struggles and was an area that required a great deal of targeted instruction and work for this class.

Observing students’ presentations was, therefore, extremely eye opening and informative for my future lessons. I became keenly aware of the particularities of the English language that most cause second language learners confusion, aspects I had not considered in much depth prior to this experience. Previously, I had mainly focused on employing simple vocabulary and sentence structures, rather than delving into the more specific grammatical functions of the phrases I was using. I was also not truly considering the students themselves in my presentation planning. I was generically attempting to use one single formula for all of the classes I was teaching (simple vocabulary and tenses) rather than individualizing my teaching styles and adjusting them to fit the needs of each class. Through the basic experience of carefully observing the students talk, I learned a great deal about their needs, as well as how to have the greatest impact on them during my very limited time at Maria Luigia. Therefore, although I only have one more session at this placement before I begin attending my second placement, I will be sure to integrate this newfound information and realizations of the importance of individualizing my instruction to fit the students’ needs, as well as integrate this practice into my future instruction to become a more competent educator as a whole.

1 comment:

  1. Caroline-

    It's so great that you were able to have such an informative experience at your new school. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to teach at a school where the primary language is Italian. I am working at a school in Rome but interacting is much easier because all students speak fluent, or almost fluent, English. Here in Italy, I often find myself thinking about language here and the ways we can teach and develop language. I feel fortunate to have English as my first language not only because it is so difficult but also because of it is so widely spoken. While schools in the US typically teach Spanish or French, nearly every school in Italy teaches English. However, there are so many irregular verbs and strange phrases in English, it makes you wonder why it's so popular!

    Best of luck at your new placement! Remember that the Italians depend on gestures and facial expressions in conversation so much more than Americans do. The students will be so excited to have you there they won't even care that you don't share the same native language. Can't wait to hear about it!


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