First Week Finished

Babilonia in Taormina, Sicily

How quickly the time passes. My first week of classes is finished and I have to say I’m quite content with my progress. Although I wouldn’t recommend my method of studying a bunch of grammar and vocabulary before actually starting to speak a language to most people, it seems to be working quite well for me.

Most of my fellow students seem to be much more comfortable just picking up language as they encounter it and studying grammar seems to just confuse the issue. But if you are comfortable with grammar and can already speak a second language, I think this is a very efficient way to learn a language quickly.

The morning grammar analysis class continues to be disorganized and messy. The instructor doesn’t have the lesson broken down into enough steps with the proper scaffolding (things that help a student complete a task) for the students to easily engage in the activities. For example, she gives us a text and simply says “discuss the text with your partner”. Better would be to include a list of questions or give a focus for the discussion.

Today we had a listening exercise where we were given a blank piece of paper and told to write down what we picked out of a very lengthy and quickly spoken recorded conversation. We then compared what we heard with a partner, changed partners, listened again, compared answers again, changed partners again and continued this process for about 10 listenings. In general, an interesting and productive listening exercise.

I especially think the exchange of what we heard between the students is a great communicative activity, but with such a lengthy and complicated conversation the blank piece of paper quickly became a total mess. Better would be to have some frame work to help organize the written conversation, for example maybe a few words of each line of the conversation already written on the paper.

In contrast the practice lessons in the afternoon are quite well thought out, lots of scaffolding with clearly defined tasks. Today we discussed a comic strip. The lesson was broken into the following activities: first, with the whole class, the instructor put on the board Fumetti which is Italian for comic strip. We had to guess what we thought it meant and then as a class we discussed various vocabulary related to comic strips in general.

In the next activities we worked in pairs: first we read a general description of the characters in the strip, then we answered some questions about the authors, next we had to read a couple of vignettes from the strip and match the characters in the strip with the descriptions given at the beginning. We then had to imagine what the beginning of the story would have been and finally what we thought would happen next. It is so much easier for students to follow a lesson that is well organized with specific tasks.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Taormina, Sicily page.