Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Foreign Languages K–12

A Library of Classroom Practices

Italian: U.S. and Italian Homes
Connect to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice
As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • What kinds of vocabulary-learning activities do you use?
  • How do you maintain a sense of cultural authenticity when focusing on vocabulary learning?
  • How do you structure vocabulary study to move students from learning single words to engaging in communicative activities?
  • What kinds of bodily/kinesthetic or musical/rhythmic activities do you use? How do you make students feel comfortable enough to participate in these activities?
  • How might an ongoing email exchange provide students with communication and cultural experiences?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you've just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

  • Touring a French City (French) demonstrates multiple activities for learning and practicing vocabulary.
  • Happy New Year! (Japanese) illustrates the use of visuals and cultural perspectives to teach vocabulary to a class with a strong Japanese heritage.
  • A Place I Call Home (Arabic) presents a sequence of activities that builds vocabulary and lets students demonstrate their learning in conversation.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Use multiple activities to encourage students to attach meaning to vocabulary words. Although the teacher is often the source of initial vocabulary presentation, students must be actively engaged in associating words and meanings in a number of formats so that they can recall them short and long term. For presentation, group large vocabulary units into chunks of related words to help students learn terms through association. Students learn and remember new words better if they can organize them into categories. Ms. DiGennaro used the following sequence for her lesson: Housing styles, rooms, furniture, and words of location. To illustrate meaning for individual words, you can match the terms to visuals. Younger students benefit from clear line drawings or illustrations from children's books in the target language. High school students, such as those in Ms. DiGennaro's class, can use photographs and magazine pictures. Some vocabulary can also be taught through actions, such as the directions vocabulary Ms. DiGennaro taught through a kinesthetic activity -- the dance. After the initial presentation, practice should be varied and scaffolded from activities that focus on recognition (for example, matching definitions, following directions, or manipulating items or visuals), to activities that focus on recall (for example, a card game or a pair or group competition), and finally to those that focus on usage (describing, expressing preferences, or discussing similarities and differences).
  • Use authentic images to help students connect language to a cultural context. Direct translation of everyday words conveys their meaning, but images can help evoke a feel for the culture. Photographs, Web sites, and magazine pictures can provide memorable images to correspond with a set of vocabulary terms about homes, villages, cities, clothing, sports, and much more. In Ms. DiGennaro's class, magazine pictures of furniture illustrated a sense of Italian style, and the labels students attached to the pictures served as a vocabulary review. The visuals also aided students in their comparison of U.S. and Italian homes and furnishings by exposing them to visual differences that may not have been obvious otherwise. You can add this cultural authenticity to many units.
  • Look for ways to involve students in direct communication with peers from the target culture. Students can write emails or send written or videotaped messages by mail. This exchange allows students to use language in real communication and learn about the target culture from an authentic source. Try to include regular opportunities for your students to communicate with students in the target culture so that their content knowledge and communication abilities can both expand. Successful exchanges require a commitment from both schools. Some teachers have found schools through online sources or professional associations.

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