Scoula Elementare

 Today was a really fun day – and the culmination of a lot of work.  I was able to arrange to have my Mount St. Mary’s students visit elementary schools in Florence to help with English language instruction.  It was a wonderful opportunity to serve the local community and to get a glimpse into the real lives of Italian children.

The opportunity was made possible through my new colleague and friend, Vittoria Tettamanti, who teaches Italian at Syracuse University in Florence and who coordinates volunteer programs for Syracuse students.  Vittoria designed a lesson for teaching the English language to elementary school students by reading the Dr. Suess book: I Wish That I Had Duck Feet

As I prepared for our visit to Florence, I wanted to find additional opportunities for our students to immerse themselves into the local culture.  I happened to read about Vittoria and her work, and I knew that she was someone I had to meet.  It turns out that she has so many requests from schools here for her reading program that she was very willing to allow our Mount students to participate.

The program requires a little bit of training – but we were up to the challenge!  And after some work, about half of our students conducted the reading program today in three different elementary schools.  And we will be doing the program in other schools over the next few weeks.

Students in these elementary schools take English as a special class – similar to how our children in the U.S. take art, physical education, and music.  Third grade students get one hour per week of instruction in English.  Fourth graders get two hours per week, and fifth graders get three hours per week.  The schools we visited were 1st through 5th grade. 

Just to comment on the Italian education system – After 5th grade, students in Italy go to middle school for three years (like our 6th through 8th grade) then they go to high school for five years!  Students can choose the high school they want to go to based on the specialty of the school.  Some schools specialize in mathematics and science, some in literature and languages, and some in various trades.

We were all impressed with the English ability of the students we had in the classes today.  They were all either 4th or 5th graders.  Most of these students understood a good part of what we said in English, and many of them could speak fairly well. 

The actual reading program for the children lasts about an hour.  It begins by using flashcards to review vocabulary that will be used in the story.  The I Wish That I Had Duck Feet story is read to the children while one of the Mount students acts out the story using various props.  The story is then read a second time through as the children participate in acting out the story.  The session continues with a game of Simon Says and ends with the Italian children asking the Mount students questions in English.  It was really a wonderful experience for all involved!

Here are some pictures from today!  When we do the classes next week, I’ll post some pictures from these classes, too! 

This is one of the elementary schools we visited – note the Italian flag:

There was plenty of artwork lining the hallways of the schools:

This was the door to the English classroom:

One of the classrooms in the school:

Kevin, Erin, and Seth acting out the story: 

Kevin and Seth are trying to introduce the “high five” to Italy.  They taught an entire classroom of fifth graders to do it!  (I was actually amazed that the children had never seen a “high five” before!)  

Mary, Caitlyn, and Mary going over vocabulary before their story reading.

Joe, Brian, Bill, and Tim acting out the story for their class.

Vickie, Fiona, and Anna showing their “Deer Horns” as they act out the story in their class!

Look who has Duck Feet!  Traci, Elise, and Kevin acting out the story for their class!


One Response to “Scoula Elementare”

  1. Mom Says:

    What fun! Our kids should have such language education! Which language tho? Spanish would be the most useful here in Maryland…..

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