teaching Italian as a second language – on speaking

Dopo tanto tempo…after so long

On Sept. 26 we had our first in a series of three annual conferences on Teaching Italian. The symposium/workshop was a success despite the rain, the number of chefs in the kitchen, issues with staff and other help, and the revolving door of personnel working on the organizational aspect of the conference. My co-organizer, Andrea Dini, was brillant in putting all this together, from start to finish.

Italian teachers of New Jersey were given an opportunity to revisit the speaking skill, and encouraged to think of how to get their students to speak more in Italian. The morning sessions comprised of 5 speakers who presented various aspects on speaking in a “from theory to practice” format. What the research says is important because it provides us with the foundation of what works. However, making this theory applicable to the classroom environment is always an undertaking for the newest faculty to the most seasoned teacher. The examples provided in the morning talks were elaborated in afternoon workshop sessions where the research was made real through the development of materials for the classroom.

In the example of yours truly, my morning talk “Revisiting the In-class Presentation: Making the Most of the Presentational Mode of Communication” addressed what research reveals about in-class presentations. Not surprisingly, presentations in general present the mode of communication at which students generally excel because they can have sufficient time to prepare in advance. My revisiting this was not to provide advice as to how to increase the presenter’s level of proficiency (although this would in fact be a derivative), but rather when in a class of 25-30 high schools, how does it become more than presenter-teacher participation? Well, in my afternoon workshop, I elaborated the phases of the presentational mode of communication and how to get the students involved at different phases and how to keep them engaged in their classmates’ presentations. It was truly a hands-on opportunity for teachers to modify and manipulate some best practices and activities and adapt them to their environment. For anyone who is interested, I could provide you with my project ideas and PowerPoint presentation.

In addition to the great line-up of talent, the content was also exceptional. We had Janice Aski of the Ohio State University, Elissa Tognozzi of UCLA, Irene Marchegiani of SUNY and Gabriella Colussi Arthur of York University (Canada).

In addition to the great turnout, engaged teachers, and positive feedback, we also had the fantastic good fortune of donations from Ferrero USA. Here are just two pictures of the deliciously fatty good treats they donated 😉


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