I have just started doing a ten-week upper intermediate online course in Italian. My first lesson was on Monday evening. Here are my notes and reflections from that evening. It is fun being a language learner again!
I am so nervous!! Now I know how my students this morning felt, but luckily for me I am not trying to get to university off the back of this course! There are supposed to be 5 of us students. I arrived first so asked about this.
We started with icebreakery chit chat, which turned into an impromptu teaching using the whiteboard about ci as a pronoun, based on something someone said that needed correcting. Spent a lot of time on this. Is this the objective for today’s class? Pronouns?
We eventually end up with 4 students.
Se avessi più tempo libero, che cosa facessi? (last bit of discussion, this structure turned out to somewhat be the topic)
Ma gli obiettivi…cosa sono?
The dicussion is all through the teacher, asking us questions one by one.
The teacher (Italiano) speaks in English! Haiyaaa! I want to hear ITALIAN!!!
Il tempo è limitato.
Half an hour.
Then, we move on to grammar – indication that the lesson proper is beginning now. Review? I am the only newbie to this course, the rest did the previous level…
Ohhh the topic of our chat was for the topic of a listening in the coursebook!
….which we didn’t listen to.
We had to read aloud the rubric… and bits of task (not sure why).
The COURSEBOOK has English in too. Upper Intermediate. Whyyyyy. Or does it? Perhaps the grammar info comes from a grammar book that has English in it. I’ll find out when I have the coursebook (told to wait til after the first lesson to purchase it – this was in the pre-course bumpf so a general rule)!
T isn’t nominating, confused whether to reply or not!
I eventually chip in. Sometimes I am right to, sometimes not.
There’s even a powerpoint now, it just didn’t involve objectives. I guess so far the objective is to talk about hypothetical situations, unreal if-clauses.
Fill in the table, t asks us each in turn for the answers but no time to do the activity first. Doing it lockstep item by item.
I am sleeeepy.
We then had to say aloud in turn what was in the table already for the irregular verb Essere not pictured above.
Then some sentence completions but again not doing it ourselves first.
I got If I could eat anything for dinner, I would… and I said I already ate dinner, sorry teacher.
One of the students seemed much weaker than everyone else but had done previous course so was in this one.
I was to have a photo of the book but he talkin about it and I don’t have it yet ayyyy tech. Apparently it has a fumetto. Not sure what one of them is. A cartoon? Would help if I could see the page!
BREAK TIME!! Poor teacher called it to get some time to fix the tech issue!
We haven’t used breakout rooms yet, all communication goes via the teacher, no direct communication between students. When asked to define things I circomlocuted in Italiano to explain then got asked for English definition haha
Tech worked after break, I now have a picture, well, it is being shared on screen, though not entirely clear round the edges. Fumetto is indeed a cartoon.
Write a couple of sentences about how the world would be if run by kids. Had to ask to see the book page again, hah.
Se la societa fosse governate da bambini e ragazzi, cambierebbero molte cose. Per esempio, l’ambiente sarebbe prioritizzato quando delle legge nuovo fossero creato. Ma anche il cibo alla scuola sarebbe meglio.
Avrebbe la precedenza (yay, language upgrade!)
I thought upper intermediates would be better at speaking and answering questions, communicating, based on my experience of teaching upper ints!
Se il frigo potesse parlare
2 ss have now disappeared, me and 1 other left. One of those who have disappeared is the weakest one.
“Writing competition” about the fridges
We have to write a story about a fridge, about OUR fridge.
Un soprannome. I made a mistake, didn’t know we had to keep info til later and spoke out of turn with my nickname, oops.
5 aggietivi: Grande, alto, fresco, pulito, pieno
2 pensieri del frigorifero:
- Mangi un sacco di verdure, no?
- Perché tante foglie?
Then suddenly he said if you prefer write it in English first. NO!!
(Edit: we never came back to this, which also contributed to confusion in the next stage…we didn’t do the “writing competition” that we had to read aloud through a sentence each in turn…oh wait we did the chain story was it…)
He then said dieci sentences and it confused me. I want him to speak all in Italian so I could have my brain fully in Italian mode rather than be constantly switching.
“Era una notte buia e tempestosa, quando…” ‘ opening line.
Chain story using private chat, nice activity actually. Write a sentence and “pass it on” using direct message option to the designated “person sitting next to you”.
One of the missing students returned (not the weakest one). Teacher asked her to do the activity by herself because we had already started.
Difficulties: Private chat and everyone chat go in the same box, just labelled differently. Total communication breakdown.
Turns out I had understood the task but boy oh boy were we all confused. Including a phase of I thought I had misunderstood the task following the second explanation and so on and so forth. Poor teacher, he got quite flustered. I wanted to say, it’s ok, things going thoroughly tits up from time to time is a thing, don’t worry. Maybe try having written instructions for the activity next time, it might help.
We ended up with two stories instead of 3. Definitely without 10 sentences apiece.
Era una notte buia e tempestosa, quando uno strano rumore mi svegliò, come un rumore di rane. “Che cos’è?” mi chiedevo con il cuore che batteva velocissimi. Avevo tanto paura…
Era una notte buia e tempestosa, quando il mio frigo dice ad alta voce “Non sono trattato bene”. La sedia gli risponde: “ Cosa vuoi? Anch’io vedi sono vecchia e fragile e il padrone è pesante come una montagna” Giusto ma io devo contenere tutto il cibo e ce n’è un sacco.
My remaining active classmate had still not understood the activity. In fairness, I mainly had because of having done similar activities as a teacher before! The late-returning student was asked to judge which story was better.
Lesson then ended, very abruptly, no homework set, no wrapping up. Still no group work/talking directly to other students.
What I learnt from being a student again:
- Lesson objectives are really helpful.
- Understanding the purpose of an activity is helpful.
- Clear linking between stages is helpful.
- Being consistent in use of target language is helpful.
- Being given time to complete an activity before feedback is helpful.
- Clear instructions, which online means with visual support, are helpful.
- Absence of the above can be a mixture of confusing and frustrating, not helpful.
- Reading aloud for the sake of reading aloud is not helpful.
- Every last bit of communication going through the teacher is tedious (hoping this will change!).
- Ending abruptly is a bit confusing and disconcerting, not helpful.
- Language upgrades are welcome!
The good news is, I kept up easily enough, phew (I thought I was being ambitious taking upper int as I consider myself more an intermediate really. 9 more lessons to go. I guess if each course is only 9 lessons and you go up a level after each course, it might not be enough for people to really change level. Not sure how their levelling/course progression works, ‘spose I will find out at some point! Anyway, Now that I know what the lessons are like, what to expect, I can set about making the most of it in terms of what I learn (Italian AND what it’s like being a student – what works and doesn’t so much)! For a start, I need to up my game in the note-taking department, so they they are useful rather than a stream of consciousness!
A really good insight to language learning online, thank for sharing. I will definitely consider my classes more from a student perspective and will make sure all instructions are written and all learners are crystal clear on what the objective is for the lesson, and tasks too if not obvious.
Am enjoying reading your thoughts an comments and feel your pain! I think it is very important for us to be on the other side of the screen and see how our students see the lesson as well.