Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 8

I actually finished this course prior to Easter, finally catching up on the blog posts!!

I was bang on time, on the nose, no time to spare. Gf and I were watching Star Trek downstairs ’til I noticed it was 1829 and legged it up to my computer! Still first though, and by a good way. The first student arrived (to our relief) at 1837. And another soon after.  So I had five minutes of talking to the teacher again. I wasn’t very good at expanding on my answers! Nevertheless, we talked a bit about lockdown easing and my time in Sicily. Then once the others arrived, the second arrived soon after the first, same two as last week, we started talking about International Women’s Day (which is today). That was cool.

Newsletter thingy. Oops I had misunderstood. The other student who I thought had also done it already last week actually hadn’t. So when the teacher asked who wants to do it this week, I said her name, because I didn’t want her to miss out two weeks in a row but instead I guess she felt put on the spot, oops. Instead, we are asked to ask the five W’s to the third student and he should reply and that should form his contribution (as not already done also). I haven’t done another one but I don’t think it will matter as I suspect once we finish this one that will be it for tonight and we’ll move on to something else. I forgot, but also subconsciously probably reckoned, based on how things have gone, that I have a week in hand! Really better do one this time round. Well…mayyybe. There are only two more lessons and two other students still have to contribute…hmmm!

The student is asked to write it for next week. Then we move on to reviewing combined pronouns. So I was correct about not needing it. Not convinced I will next week either, or the one after, but I will TRY and do one. Then it’s ready for when it does arise, if it does in the last two lessons that remain after this one! Also because it is good practice.

Reviewing pronouns takes the shape of the teacher reading the extract to grammar book to us.  In English cos it is slides made from that book that has explanation in English. Haiya.


A grammar controlled practice. We do it with no prep time. I misunderstand the task on the fly, oops. But correct myself easily. Straightforward, then, despite no time to do it before going through it.

Then we move on to a review of the imperative. We haven’t done the imperative so far this course but ok. Again, the teacher reads us the grammar book. Ahh, the point is what we do with pronouns and imperatives e.g. Marco, mettiti la giacca. The pronouns go after the imperative, attached.

P99 – Verbi monosillabici all’imperativi + pronomi

=We had to take it in turns to read the forms aloud e.g. I had fa’ fammi fallo fammelo.

Then I got lost again, turned out the activity we went to next was ABOVE the grammar box not after it. I still got mine right though even though I still hadn’t found the task, based on the teacher saying it to me (the teacher hadn’t realised I was lost, they used this approach with all of us). Lots of grammar tonight.

Then we move on to do some reading on p.103.  Joy of joys we get time to read alone – it is a longer text and we are allocated a third each to read and then summarise. Then we discuss the topic of the text. Which was cool.

Io sono dell’idea che… (This, the teacher said in an incidental kind of way and I noted it down because it is a nice phrase for expressing opinion)

Next we move on to a film “il mostro” with Roberto Benigni. There is a long description in English and then some tasks in Italian, including watching the film extract. I mistakenly answer directly for the first one but for once in a way we aren’t supposed to, oops.

  1. Sono troppo stanca. Mi fa male la testa.

^^We have to make up common excuses. Then watch the extract and try to pick out any excuses that we can. 

  • Sto male, sto molto male
  • Scusi ho un altro impegno

B. Now we have to try and hear what the amministratore says.

  • Ma che dice?
  • Signora aspetti
  • Un giorno gliela farò pagare
  • Pagherà tutto

C We have to compare what happens in Italy when someone calls in sick to work with here.  There, someone might go to your house and check.

darsi malato – call in sick

Dobbiamo solo presentare un certificato medico se stiamo a casa più di 5 giorni

And finish! As we are finishing, the teacher asks us if we would like to do more with films next time. I said yes! It was nice to be asked about future lesson content.


  • I only have two more lessons left, eeek! However <drumroll> I have finally pulled my finger out and found another course to do. This time it is with International House. I did the entrance test and got 41/48 = advanced. The levels are broken down into numbers (just like they were when I taught at IHPA so I guess that is maybe an IH thing as this is not IHPA!). Advanced goes from 17 through 22 (more numbers than there were at IHPA, but the courses are shorter too) and in consultation with them I am going to enter 19. (Mostly because the day/time of the class is suitable – as in, same as the current one!) It is a six-week course, one a week for two hours. I am excited! It starts in mid April so I get a little break after this course before starting the next, which is also nice.
  • Thinking time. Having been in the student position, I am getting a lot better at giving students thinking time! Not being afraid to wait that little bit longer. Some of the activities in our materials are ‘do as you go along’ type ones but they tend to be chat box based – which reminds me, come to think of it, we have used the chat box very little as students in this Italian class. The teacher uses the chatbox a fair bit but we students use it much more infrequently – the main time I remember is when we were doing the chain stories thing. The ‘do as you go along’ activities tend to be done verbally, one at a time. I suppose this is also due to difference in class size. The Italian class is small enough that you can do that, with generally about 3 of us, and at most 5.
  • If there is the freedom/scope to do so, involving students in the choice of lesson content is motivating. It really was nice to be asked. Honestly, for this course, I am still not sure what, if anything, is core/required content and what is teacher choice. The grammar points? <shrug>
  • When we did the reading activity, I read the whole text in order to make better sense of my bit (I had the final third). I think for information gap type activities, the information each student has should be able to stand alone in terms of meaning/coherence. I suppose it’s about making sure the text and the task are well-matched. It was fantastic being given time to read quietly though, rather than doing the read aloud thing.
  • We do a lot of controlled practice grammar activities but a lot less in the way of freer practice. Which is frustrating because I know the grammar but I need practice using it communicatively. Hopefully will get more of that in the next course I do. It would also be nice if the grammar was more rooted in a context.

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 7

I arrived first (as usual!) and for five minutes was chatting with the teacher. Was quite nice actually.  They’ve been in the UK for 5 years and are from Rome. Then another student arrived, which was nice too. A relief for the teacher, methinks 🙂 (Well it would be for me if I were in the teacher’s shoes!) I feel quite relaxed tonight. Nice and calm.

Intendersi – to be understood/to be knowledgeable about

Another five minutes, another student arrived. We’re talking about how to find a nice house. One of the students is between houses, staying at a friends.

  • bisogna accontentarsi
  • non ci sarà mai la casa perfetta

Oooo newsletter. My two weeks ago homework, perhaps. Yes…one of the other students has also done it so it seems more likely we will do something with it. Yep. So I suppose this means I will have to do homework this week to make another one in case we do it in a future lesson again.

Quest’anno a gennaio, 582,538 persone di 209 paesi SI sono iscritte a uno sfida globale – Veganuary. Questa sfida richiede a ciascun partecipante che l’accetta di evitare l’uso di ogni prodotto animale, cioè, provare di  a vivere vegano-a modo vegano. Lo scopo di questa sfida e di proteggere sia gli animali che l’ambiente e, faccendo cosi faccendo, migliorare persino la salute dei partecipanti. Questa volta la gente pensano anche a Covid perché si vogliono anche evitare altri pandemici pandemie. UnA gran parte di loro continuano a seguire uno stilo di vita vegano.

Not bad! Especially given how hastily done it was and how tired I was at the time. We didn’t use the other student’s this time so actually that will likely be for next week, meaning it is less urgent for me to make another one! We gave mine a title Veganaio: come ti salvi il mondo. Wow, turns out one of the other students is vegan too. Another doesn’t have eggs or milk but has meat sometimes.

Cacciatori-raccoglitori – hunter-gatherers

Course we end up having a discussion about veganism hehe. Good fun.

Un essere senziente – a sentient being

As ever, I feel sad that I haven’t been able to CHAT with the other students during this course. Even with just the limited exchanges through the teacher that there have been, I am getting quite fond of them!

Avere a cuore – hold something close to heart e.g. avere a cuore gli animali


Funnily enough it’s the facing page to the one with the fridges from the first lesson! Short text. No read silently time and I didn’t bother to ask again for it this time. Just cope! Ooops I was so busy trying to get my head around the text I am not entirely sure what the follow up task is – to make questions or to answer the ones below the text!


Am back a minute or two early it seems. And it is create questions (I used the time to ask). I thought it was but then I wasn’t sure. I should have more faith in myself!

Qual è il problema secondo Alberoni?

There we go.

My fellow vegan isn’t back yet.  But the other student is so we ask our questions through the teacher. And discuss the topic a bit.

The teacher feeds in vocab (like the above) in the chat box as we go.

È importante avere una diversa percezione individuale.

Ah! Now we are returning to those pronouns that we started at the end of last lesson! We do a series of grammar exercises of the sort that are in grammar books like Murphy’s English Grammar in Use for Italian but with explanation in English rather than Italian. The other student and I are asked in turn to answer. But we don’t do them by ourselves first. Which is ok because this is familiar ground.  Then we have to complete a table in the course book.

P. 92

Not quite the above but similar! The one in the course book has also ce and ne. We actually got some quiet time for that one! But then we didn’t go through it all and skipped to the next exercise of using combined pronouns to replace the nouns in bold. But no time to do it quietly first. But we managed!

We finished with three minutes to go and the teacher asked what we’d like to do so I said talk because there’s no time to start anything new. The teacher agreed, fortunately, and asked us how we felt about combined pronouns. And that took us to the end of another lesson! The third student didn’t attend the second half and the other 2 didn’t show up at all.


  • Being relaxed from the outset made a huge difference. Where a week ago it was the Monday after an intense week involving the first aid course, this time I had both shifted the backlog created by the course and had a lovely, restful weekend. I was better able to enjoy the lesson for what it was. And the two students who attended were the two I feel more rapport with (because they attend most regularly out of the total of 4 apart from me in the group), which also helped me feel relaxed. It was also nice when we did the discussion about veganism and I learnt something new about them, which was something we have in common as far as one was concerned. Oh to have done a getting to know you activity involving finding things in common and more personalisation activities throughout! I think, particularly in courses like the one I teach on which are very time-limited and all the more in the context of online teaching where students can’t chitchat at the start of the class while they wait for the teacher or when they finish an activity early etc, it is important not to underestimate the importance of getting to know you activities at the start and scope for personalisation throughout. I will be mentioning it in our imminent meeting about planning the course structure for next year (we are going from three terms to two long semesters). Being comfortable and relaxed makes a big difference to being able to learn and we can facilitate that to an extent (not entirely – some of it also depends what else is going on in students’ lives etc!).
  • You can get used to anything (and it is a lot easier to learn when you have adjusted to a greater extent) but it takes time to adjust. I think that is true of life (to an extent!) as well as language classes! Adjustment takes time. I think changing education systems (/learning in a way that is different from how you have learnt – or taught! – previously) is a form of culture shock. Which makes it make sense that each week I do get a little closer but it also isn’t quite linear. I have already mentioned this idea of adjustment previously but am repeating it because each time I have a sense of “oh I thought I had already got used to it but actually in comparison to today, I wasn’t as used to it as as I thought” or I think I’ve got the hang of it but then something happens that throws me off balance again. More and more I think it would be really helpful for teachers to incorporate an element of transparency around how and why things are done, particularly early on in a course so that students get a clear idea of how things work and why in your lessons. I think that would probably help with the process of adjustment. Obviously the lower the level of the language learner, the harder this would be. I suppose course books provide an element of this if they are used systematically. I think if you only draw on them for the odd activity and jump about, or you don’t use a course book at all, then you need to be more explicit to fill that gap.
  • Doing this course is making me think a lot about course design and delivery. Our course (the one I teach on, I mean), for example, is heavily skills-based and assessment-driven. Students are time-poor due to huge workloads so it is critical for us to make it absolutely clear how each lesson helps to prepare them a) for assessment and b) for university (with the assessments being designed/intended to teach and test skills needed for university study). Our students are motivated by requiring certain scores in order to progress onto their chosen degree course. They will do what is required to achieve that but they mostly don’t have time to go beyond. Which is fair enough. We can help (including to maintain their motivation to keep doing all the tasks) them by making clear links. This Italian course is VERY different, obviously. It is not assessment driven (that I am aware of), there is no particular end goal other than improving our speaking/listening/reading/writing skills in Italian. This means that there is a lot more freedom in the lessons for the teacher to do whatever they want with us. Which is lovely in theory but in practice is, I think, a lot more of a challenge for the teacher to do well. Even in IH Palermo, so another private language school context, there was more structure to the language courses. There was a set course book, or half course-book, for each level and we worked through that with the students. They had mid-course tests to check progress and end of course tests in order to progress to the next level. Of course creativity within that framework was encouraged. For the Italian course, we do have a course book but it is used somewhat randomly so if there is any recycling or progression built in, we lose that. Which means the onus is on the teacher to build it in. Likewise with learning outcomes. I think if I had to teach a course of this nature, I’d use a chunk of the first lesson negotiating learning objectives for the course and topics of interest. I’d want to know the students’ motivations for doing the course as well. So that there would be some framework to work within and so that the students would know about that framework and have a vested interest in it. That could also be revisited, added to etc. I wonder if that would make attendance less patchy. Maybe yes, maybe no. Depends entirely on the reason(s) for it!
  • We have used very little in the way of authentic materials so far. This has occurred to me in thinking about the above bullet point. There was that love song, that’s the only thing I can think of. The course book has some authentic material in it – extracts from Italian literary texts and the like – but we haven’t used those. I think that’s a missed opportunity, given we have a reasonable level of Italian (Upper Intermediate/aiming towards that or within it, in theory) and given there are no apparent course book usage requirements (in terms of how much is covered or in what order or to what end). Again, though, I suppose it is challenging to do that well (though if we have no objectives we need to achieve then perhaps it would be enough to use it in whatever way?!).

Think I’ll leave it there for this time – now managing to fairly contentedly trundle through the lessons yet plenty of food for thought still. It’s been such a learning experience. 3 more lessons left! Still not got much further with investigating a follow-up course… I need to do the IH level test to start with, to know my level according to them, so that I can then find out when courses run. Of course with things opening up, there is a question mark over whether there will be an online course still to join! My gut feeling is yes, though, as schools will want to have a wide portfolio of offerings to get as much business as possible. It’s whether I can do it when I want to do it (Monday nights because Tuesday is my NAW!)! We shall see when I have enough brain to do the test… ! 🙂

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 6

Phewwww I made it just on time (and still the first!). Still got my positive attitude, also got a lot of tired because of how intense last week was. I managed to do my homework, amazingly. I wanted to do it enough to make it happen on Sunday, but I did it on my tablet so it has no accents yet <edits furiously while the others arrive> Yet another tech-related thing haha.

Homework: Quest’anno a gennaio, 582,538 persone di 209 paesi sono iscritte a uno sfida globale – Veganuary. Questa sfida richiede a ciascuno che l’accetta di evitare l’uso di ogni prodotto animale, cioè, provare di vivere vegan. Lo scopo di questa sfida e di proteggere sia gli animali che l’ambiente e, faccendo cosi, migliorare persino la salute dei partecipanti. Questa volta la gente pensano anche a Covid perche vogliono anche evitare altri pandemici. Un gran parte di loro continuano a seguire uno stilo di vita vegan.

We started with the newsletter thingy i.e. homework. Turns out Zoom is like Blackboard in that participants only see chatbox content sent after their arrival into the room. So there was a bit of confusion as the teacher hadn’t realised that.  Then I had to read mine from last week aloud, not sure why. Now we are going through one of the other students’ homework, which has given me some welcome breathing space, in between answering questions. That done, we establish that I and two others now have stories in the class newspaper and the teacher asks the remaining two (both of whom are here tonight) for their contribution. We review the 5 w’s again. Major communication issue with the student who was absent last week and doesn’t understand what we are doing – I feel you, student! Eventually we have moved on to something else instead. I’m not sure if the student understood in the end or not because I had a slight concentration lapse as the whole thing took a while. My homework was not required, after all that effort!

Now we are continuing with the grammar point from last week.

Congiuntivo trapassato + condizionale passato.

We use the rest of the exercise that we started two weeks ago and I did as review between the two weeks ago class and last week’s class (so that was nice and easy for me tonight!).

  1. Se fossimo rientrati più presto, avremmo potuto vedere un bel documentario in tv.

Now we are looking at some pictures. Describing what the person is doing and how they feel.

Oberata – overwhelmed by work

One thing I do not like about Zoom: When the teacher shares their screen, it goes full screen on my screen, meaning my notes window is hidden. So then I have to get it to shrink again. Every time.

We are spending a LOT of time on this activity. I am very curious what it will lead into! 🙂 I wonder how it would be if we had been given the pictures and had to work with a partner to say and/or write something about each one, perhaps in response to prompts to direct our attention to what is required, then share whole class quickly…

BREAK TIME! And we are told we will do some reading after the break so I guess that is what it leads into – the suspense is over!

End of break. We seem to have lost 2 students and the other 2 are still switched off but appear soon after.

Wheee I was brave. Teacher set to having us read aloud directly and I asked if we could have 5 minutes to read quietly first. I then had to then clarify that I am happy to do the read aloud thing if we could do that first, as the teacher objected defensively initially, saying they wanted to hear our pronunciation. Am now quite glad I went with my gut instinct on not giving unsolicited feedback on lack of opportunities for group work! At least this was just a simple request and that was hard enough.

Ho fatto la fame – suffer from hunger (hyperbole)

So we read silently then aloud. We didn’t discuss pron though <shrug>. Vocab, yes. So that is a bit confusing! But never mind. Then we had to write comprehension questions. Actually we did this whole activity from lead in to this point with the other text of this pair a few weeks ago, I just remembered! So I guess we will be retelling the story using the pictures after this.

My question: Che tipo di carattere ha Natalia Aspesi?

Yep, we are doing the retelling the story using the pictures thing. Fair enough. At least this time there are only 2 pages of pictures! Less epic scrolling up and down by the teacher necessary! Yay!  Ohh, also because we didn’t have to do the ordering thing this time so as they are on the page they are in the right order for the text. Everyone had to take a turn doing this. Which I only discovered when I eventually got called on. Confession time, I was splatted on the futon behind my computer at the time. Having one of THOSE evenings. But I managed just fine.

Now we have moved on to object pronouns suddenly, 9 minutes to go. A bit disorienting! And we are reading aloud a grammar explanation page. We have used this book before and it isn’t the course book (as I have discovered since getting the course book). It is aimed at English people. Teacher is explaining mostly in Italian which is nice. Then we made a list of things to take to a party and went through it saying “I will take it” or “I will take them”.  I wonder if this means we have finished with the unreal if clauses now. Next week we will do combined direct and indirect pronouns. No homework. So…I guess we have finished with the newsletter thingy? In which case I did my homework for nothing. On the other hand, if we do go back to it even though it wasn’t reset for homework explicitly this time round, I can use it. We will see…


  • For the first time since the course began, I did not put 100% in during the lesson. My intrinsic motivation was outstripped by my fatigue and I didn’t find the lesson engaging enough to balance that out! I am reminded of Dörnyei and Ushioda (2012)

“Motivation is responsible for why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity and how hard they are going to pursue it” (ibid: kindle loc 259, emphasis as per original)

and also the motivation model with its ideal self/internal factors, ought to self/external factors and L2 learning experience as the three contributors to motivation (kindle loc 1852) and how motivation is not static (kindle loc 1903). It is so true. Also, I don’t blame the teacher for it. I found the pace too slow but that doesn’t mean the pace was too slow – it might have been just right for some or a bit quick for others. I feel that my motivation is my responsibility but equally I am not going to beat myself up for not putting 100% in to this lesson. Energy is limited. Good enough is good enough. Nobody died! I think we need to accept this with our students as well. Their motivation, performance, participation will all fluctuate from lesson to lesson and within lessons. And that’s ok. We do our best to create an engaging learning experience but we won’t always be able to balance out everything else that is going on. Even more so when there is a global pandemic going on!

  • I’m glad I finally addressed the reading aloud issue. I thought when he let us read silently before the jigsaw activity in a previous lesson, we had cracked it but it turned out not to be the case. I think it’s important for teachers to listen to student requests and, where possible, if they aren’t unreasonable, fulfil them. In this case, all that was requested was 5 minutes of delay in order to read quietly first before reading aloud, so a very small ask. The teacher wasn’t happy, though. I think we need to remember that a request is not a criticism of us as teachers, it is just something that the student wants/needs in order to learn better. I actually struggled to read the text in five minutes because of how tired I was. Turns out reading in another language is hard when you are tired. Despite the fatigue and struggle, though, I did the reading aloud thing much better having read to myself first. I won’t be addressing the lack of pair/group-work thing as the above response suggests the teacher wouldn’t be open to it especially as it would require a greater degree of change than the five minutes of silent reading request.
  • It’s annoying from the student perspective if homework is set and then forgotten about. I don’t mind that much because I know doing the homework helped me learn more, made me use more Italian. But if I’d known it wasn’t going to be used or submitted or anything, then I might have chosen to just go splat on Sunday (when I did it) instead, because I was exhausted from the work/mental health first aid course combination of during the week beforehand. We’ll see what happens in the next lesson. It may be we do something with it then, in which case I am ready already which could be a score – watch this space!
  • Thinking about homework has also made me think about how I have done very little autonomous learning thus far. I completed an activity we had started in class on one occasion (the one we then came back to in this lesson!) but other than that about all I manage to do is watch something in Italian about once a week (on my NAW day). Why? Because priorities and juggling. Work, obviously. But in my free time, I spend time with my girlfriend and that is important to me because I think quality time is important for a relationship to flourish. It’s not long since I moved in with her so there has been a lot of adjusting to a new way of being. It is (obviously) very different from living alone/with a housemate. I also need to exercise regularly. Plus cooking and cleaning and suchlike. Time is finite and there is a lot to pack in. I suppose also it comes back to motivation. I’m really motivated to do my best in lessons and learn what I can, when it isn’t trumped by fatigue, but doing extra work outside the lessons is an extra time commitment and I lack the motivation to prioritise it. Other things have higher priority as mentioned above. And I don’t mind if it slows down my rate of improvement either, I’m not in a hurry and have no external factors pushing on me for it (e.g. moving to the country, needing a particular level of the language for work or study etc). Yet I remember when I was in Palermo, we had a big expectation on students to do lots of autonomous learning and I did loads of work trying to get my learners to engage with that (which was far from wasted!). I think ultimately it’s about making it clear to the learners that improvement will be quicker if they do engage with autonomous learning and making sure they have the tools and know-how to do it, providing the support, but letting them make the choice as to whether and how much they engage, which will depend on their motivation for doing the course and on what else they are juggling in day to day life and how they choose to prioritise things. It may be the course is a once or twice a week time to do something nice and different for oneself but otherwise not a priority, just a bit of fun and that should be just as valid as doing it for work/to be able to move somewhere else/to get more money etc where autonomous learning may be more likely to be prioritised if the learner is aware of the value of it. As far as my current students are concerned, I am not trying to get them to do any extra stuff at all. They simply don’t have time. They have multiple modules all with a heavy workload (and at least one is attending school in her own country – China – as well!). If they do their coursework, their homework and any flipped preparation, that is enough. There is extra stuff available and signposted but it is entirely their choice how much or if they engage, so that it doesn’t become another stressor for them. They have enough of those filling their buckets!
  • Was just thinking, there are only 4 more lessons left for this course (and even this far in, I come out of it with something new to chew over every time!). This means I should start looking into other courses like I said I was going to… Time, eh. Maybe that will be my homework for this week! Before any more marking comes in on the teaching side of things…

Ok, wittering over for another week! See you next time! 🙂

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 2

I am on time, first to arrive again. 2 others are on time too and arrive soon after. Warm up chitchat is about Covid.

Io non sono un complottista – I am not a conspiracy theorist

Rendersi conto di – realise.

Our disappearing weaker student has arrived 5 mins late. “x’s iPad” no video like the rest of us. I hope she is ok. Silence when addressed by the teacher…

Talking about Covid for quite a while. Then link into review of congiuntivo. Se tu fossi Boris Johnson, cosa faresti?

Per evitare la diffusione del virus…

I am boiling! Don’t want to go away from the class/video but am wearing thermal vest and fluffy jumper and turns out the heating makes it warm in here in the evening! (By day when I work in here, heating is off, I am dressed for that, oops…) = environmental factors sure do influence ability to concentrate!  

… Finally I switched off video to go and put something more suitable on. Phew. Switching off video/audio to do something seems to be acceptable. Not something I have experience with from teaching point of view because we have classes of 18-21 students so they don’t have their video on a lot of the time (and could therefore nip away to do something quite easily!)

No way!!! We are going to repeat the fridge thing from last time! Can we just not…. Haiiya. Flogging a dead horse comes to mind…

At least this time I know not to reply for the “What is the nickname of your fridge?” bit!

Soppranome: Miele

5 aggietivi: Grande, alto, fresco, pulito, pieno

2 pensieri del frigorifero:

  • Mangi un sacco di verdure, no?
  • Perché tante foglie?

Here we go again <copy paste>. Wonder if the connection between tasks will be clearer,

Oh now it’s changed to 3 adjectives of physical description and 3 adjectives of character description. 

Era una notte nera e tempestuosa e Miele stava nella cucina che parlava con il forno.

Doing it differently this time, we have to send the line of the story to the teacher rather than to another student. Teacher sends the sentence to someone who adds a new sentence and sends it back. I think the nickname and adjectives was supposed to “get the creative juices flowing”.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Fede il frigo era irritato. “Smettila di fare uscire il freddo!”  Ma non c’era nessuno a cui parlare.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Miele stava nella cucina che parlava con il forno, chiedeva al forno “ma perche mi rubano sempre e danno il mio cibo a te” Ma perché lo chiedi a me? Che ne so Io? Non voglio nemmeno questo cibo né il calore che mi fanno entrare.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Fede il frigo era irritato. “Smettila di fare uscire il freddo!”  Ma non c’era nessuno con cui parlare. il cibo all’interno del frigo ha iniziato a ballare. “Lasciamo uscire, abbiamo freddo” cantavano insieme.

I have the course book now, so I can look through it while waiting after each time I send my line through, which is nice.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Miele stava nella cucina che parlava con il forno, chiedeva al forno “ma perche mi rubano sempre e danno il mio cibo a te”. “io sono il prescelto” ha detto forno, “rispettami!” il forno non sapeva che Miele aveva poteri speciali. il giorno successivo il forno non era più caldo, e il forno non rubò più il cibo… Il forno se n’è andò via ma poi tutto il cibo di Miele alla fine imputridii.

We end up with three stories this time. <I forgot to copy paste them all> We had to each take a turn to read one aloud and then say which one we liked best.

Oooo we get a break again tonight despite no tech issues, phewww. So break time is A Thing not just a response to tech issues, good to know. Very helpful in a 2hr class when you are staring at a screen after having stared at a screen all day!


Silent student has gone (having not said anything up the point of leaving), student no3 has also gone, we are down to 2 again. Wonder if student 3 will arrive late again like last time or just not appear again?


editori – publishing houses

sono pago’a di qualcosa… sono sodisfatto,a di qualcosa

una iattura – una sfortuna

ripiegare – fall back

Reading aloud a written text, sentence by sentence. Hard. No time to read it silently first and as soon as we have taken our turn to read aloud, we are quizzed on vocabulary. No time to process the text meaning. Then, trying to read while the other person reads aloud. This also interferes with actual understanding.

We then had to make up two comprehension questions for each other.

  • Cosa succederebbe se non ce n’era più  ci fosse più la stampa tradizionale, se ciascuno stampava stampasse il suo quotidiano da solo? (Dohhh, I missed that here I should have used the structure we did last week!)
  • Lo scrittore pensa sì or non che la stampa fatta a casa sarebbe una cosa positiva?

I am so tired and my eyes hurt (Cos work all day at the computer too). Makes it really hard to come up with words/phrases/sentences. Soooo tempted to do like the others and leave!

We had to argue a given point of view.

E’ meglio RIMANERE con il giornalismo perché COSI l’informazione c’è e dobbiamo solo trovarlo and leggerlo con criticità per sapere cosa succede nel mondo. Senza il giornalismo, sapremmo solo quello che i politici vogliono che sappiamo.

He asked the other student to respond to me but didn’t let me give my final line. I am too tired to argue. Bad student!

Ooo we had a small wrap-up this time – the teacher mentioned the stories we wrote in the repeat from last week activity…After starting a new activity, which we did orally, with 3 minutes of lesson time left. Whyyyy.  Neither of us students were thrilled about that.

What I learnt about being a student in this session:

  • It’s really hard to understand a text if you aren’t given time to read and process it quietly before being expected to do things with it. Oooo. I have an idea. I will read ahead in the course book. I don’t know which activities we will do or how we will do them but if I read any texts in advance then reading aloud will be less difficult.
  • seeking feedback is important. The language centre sent a feedback form this morning, so I mentioned that I find reading aloud without time to process silently first difficult and that I thought clearer lessons objectives (as in made clear to us) and opportunities for pair and groupwork would enhance the lessons. I also said the teacher is good at giving us feedback on what we say (didn’t want to only give “to improve” feedback!). It’s difficult to give feedback unless invited to do so. I will give my students a feedback form at the end of this week, I think!
  • If you are going to repeat an activity from a previous lesson, specially one which takes up a large amount of time (it took a good half an hour in the end!), have a really good justification for it and make that clear to the students. The activity didn’t work as planned last time, but we did it and had the freer practice it offered despite ending up one story down. It would have been nice to do some thing different this week.
  • Unconscious bias is a thing. Male teacher assumed male student had understood the activity last week and that it was me who had messed up. This came through clearly in the way the activity was explained this week. He’s a nice dude, I don’t for a moment think it was deliberate but it is interesting. I think as teachers we need to try and be self-aware in this and question our assumptions about things.
  • Fatigue is a thing. I know one of my students is doing school lessons by China day and our (the college) lessons by China night until 1-2a.m. (cos of the time difference) – she must be exhausted. This was one of the useful things I learnt during my tutorials with my students which took place last Friday. Learning on top of other commitments is difficult. Learning when tired is very difficult and frustrating. For the slot where I do one half of the class then the other, I will make sure she is in the first half.
  • Guidance regarding how to improve between lessons is helpful and students don’t know it for themselves without the teacher helping. For all we can search for websites, we have no way of knowing which are good or less good and are likely to miss good ones because searching is like that, it’s hit and miss. For autonomous learning to succeed, students need knowledge of resources as well as to know how to learn. I want something like the Experimenting with English handout I made for my learners in Sicily!
  • Don’t start a new activity 3 minutes before the lesson is due to end. Lesson plan timing going south is a thing but adapting to that is important. Being clear about what the key goal of the lesson is, and what activity(ies) need to be done in order for it to be achieved, is crucial as that informs choices about how long to spend on activities (both at the planning stage and in the lesson), what to skip if skipping is required etc. I’m not sure what the key goal of the lesson was. Perhaps using the congiuntivo imperfetto part 2? Not sure where the text fitted in with that – my comprehension question involved the structure but it was accidental and it was the only question that did. It was a 2hr lesson, ½ hr was spent chatting about covid (with some congiuntivo imperfetto worked in eventually), ½ hr (perhaps a bit more actually) spent on repeating the story, 10 minutes was break time. I think we had about 45 minutes on the reading text, approx. Which was reading aloud, sentence by sentence, vocabulary, “comprehension” questions and then the writing and then reading what we wrote activity about defending a given point of view relating to the text.
  • Italian coursebooks  (or at least this one) aren’t like English coursebooks. Rather than lead in/intro to a topic, texts, language work, oral/written production kind of flows, this one goes text, fill in grammar from memory, grammar focus, other random speaking and writing tasks and different texts. It’s confusing! And interesting! I read the introduction to the course book and apparently it assumes you have already used the previous coursebook where a given character does this and that and now the character is going to do the other. And it’s very much teaching culture too (hence the text at the start of each chapter), which it makes explicit in the introduction too. I’ve got the teacher book too. So that I can do the units I’ve missed (which I guess they did in the previous course) and have the answers. It may also shed some light on how the course book works, not had a chance to look yet!

I’m learning a lot from being a student again, it has to be said! A most excellent form of CPD! Hope this is of interest to some of you, apologies if not – it is a useful way for me to process the lessons and to store all my reflections and learnings!

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 1

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.

Congiuntivo imperfetto

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.

Grammar activity joys

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!

Non peggiorerebbe

Se il frigo potesse parlare

If fridges could talk…

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.

Soppranome: Miele

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!