Adventures in Teaching or Things I’ve Learned at Luca Pacioli
Laura Reardon, 2008-9
-It’s always helpful to have a conversation with the teacher that you’re working with several days before the lesson (or unit). Ask them specifically what their expectations are and tell them your ideas so that you can agree on a plan for the lesson. Sometimes they can tell you ahead of time what will and won’t work with a specific class.
-Try to vary the types of activities that you do in class. For example, when you have a two hour class it’s helpful to have at least 3 or 4 different activities that you can use. I generally try to do a little lecturing, some reading comprehension in groups, a debate, a skit or a game. Then, if I see that the students are getting bored with something I have the option to do something else.
-Have realistic expectations of what can and can’t be accomplished in an hour.
-Use different types of materials: video, handouts, worksheets, powerpoints, maps, pictures, etc. During American weeks we had several opportunities to watch movies that were relevant to the material that we had covered. Even though these movies were in English (we put on the English subtitles to help them), the students really enjoyed them. We were able to have several good debates and discussions.
-At least at first don’t expect the students to participate in class discussions. This was one of the first things I noticed upon arrival. The Italian school system differs somewhat from the American school system in this manner. There isn’t as much emphasis on discussion, debate and class participation.
-Ask direct questions instead of open-ended ones. It is much easier for the students to respond to a direct question with a clear answer.
-Even if the students say that they understand something, sometimes it’s best to go over it again. I’ve started looking around the room to see if students really understand a concept. If I see a lot of blank faces I’ll generally go back. Many of my students are afraid to be wrong and get embarrassed in front of their classmates.
-Learn names when you can. This has helped me immensely to not only manage the class but also better understand classroom dynamics.
-Sometimes even if the class is loud yelling just makes it worse. I started just stopping the lecture and being quiet until they noticed or reasoning with them.
-Be aware of the type of language you use and try to be prepared if there is specific Italian vocabulary that might be useful for a lesson. Students generally like to know the exact definitions for words so that they can translate from English to Italian. I try to explain something first in more basic English and then resort to Italian.
-Students notice right away when you’re tired or unenergetic and take advantage of it. I’ve noticed that the more enthusiasm I bring to the classroom the better the lesson goes. That being said, sometimes the students will just be tired or bored and you have to accept that.
Homework and Verifiche:
-After the first two months I stopped assigning homework (not everybody does his homework). Sometimes I would ask them to bring in an article but usually it’s been more effective to have the students work together in class on a worksheet or a debate.
-In terms of verifiche, I try to make sure that there are no surprises and that the types of question are varied. Many of my verifiche will have true/false, fill in the blank, multiple choice and open questions. I try not to make them just multiple choice because it tempts the students to copy from each other. I’ll often do a quick review just before the verifica to help the students. Another great way to review is Jeopardy (which we had the opportunity to play several times during American weeks).