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Three Language Learning Activities for the Italian Classroom

By Audrey Alleyne

The activities suggested here encourage students to interact by moving around freely in the classroom and talking to one another, so that learning Italian becomes natural.

How to Introduce the Italian Language

Both children and adults enjoy stories and pictures. Introduce students to the Italian language by showing them a map of Italy followed by pictures of scenes and important tourist attractions in Italy. Use as many visual aids as possible at the beginning of the course and throughout. Speak a little about the history of the country and move gradually into the sounds of the language and the Italian alphabet. Give students the good news that Italian vocabulary is very interesting and easy to learn, because there are many words which are similar in meaning and spelling to English with only a difference in pronunciation. If there are students whose native language is Spanish, they will find the Italian vocabulary even more to their advantage.

Practicing the Alphabet

Following the teaching of the alphabet, do reinforce knowledge and memory of it by bringing it to life. Ask students to spell their names using the Italian alphabet. Once this is satisfactorily accomplished, encourage them to pronounce words by interacting in a possible real life situation. Here you may introduce real Italian names and have students act roles of meeting and greeting each other. In addition to practicing pronunciation, students will also learn some basic phrases of greeting. Here are some typical names and example of a group activity involving this idea.

Some Italian Names

Males:

Arturo Giuseppi

Francesco De Ferrari

Sergio Puccino

Giovani Antonelli

Guido Verdi

Luciano Corva

Females:

Francesca Antonicelli

Donatella Pavarotti

Giulia Bracardi

Andrea Liguori

Cristina Sarpi

Laura Chiesa

Introducing Italian Vocabulary

Assign a name to each student. Tell them that they are guests at a reception party. Allow some of them to be seated at a table, while others are guests who now arriving. For those arriving, give them a slip of paper with the name of the person they are supposed to be seated next to. Each student in turn approaches guests around the table, introduces himself and asks the person’s name. Once the arriving guest finds the person with the name corresponding to that on the slip of paper, he seats himself.

Example of a dialogue:

Francesco – Buona sera signora. Mi chiamo Francesco. Lei, come si chiama?

Donatella – Mi chiamo Donatella.

Francesco – Scusi (he approaches another female student).

Francesco – Buona sera signora. Io sono Francesco. Lei è Cristina?

Cristina – Sì, sono Cristina.

Francesco – Grazie (he sits down, shakes Cristina’s hand and says) Piacere.

Cristina – Piacere.

English translation:

F – Good evening Madam. My name is Francesco. What is your name?

D – My name is Donatella.

F – I’m sorry.

F – Good evening Madam. I am Francesco. Are you Cristina?

C – Yes, I am Cristina

F – Thank you. Pleased to meet you.

Encourage variety of language with answers like:

Sì, sono io – Yes I am

and

No, non sono – No, I am not

also

Buongiorno – good morning

and

signore – sir (as appropriate)

Activities Using Numbers

The second lesson in the Italian classroom should begin with a review of the first lesson. Once the teacher is satisfied that students know the alphabet and remember how to spell names, students can now move on to the learning of numbers and practicing their use. Playing a game of Bingo will involve both the use of the alphabet and the numbers. Play mini games with numbers from one to 25 at first and work right up to 100 in batches of 25 in succeeding lessons. A Bingo game will also introduce new vocabulary as the teacher calls different everyday words to represent the letters in the word Bingo. For example:

B nove (B 9)

B as in Buona notte, banca, banana (Good night, bank, banana)

I dieci (I 10)

I as in Italiano, importante, inverno (Italian, important, winter)

N quattordici (N 14)

N as in nonno, Natale, notte (grandfather, Christmas, night)

G diciannove (G 19)

G as in grazie, grande, giorno (thanks, big, day)

O ventidue (O 22)

O as in ottobre, opera, oceano (October, opera, ocean).

Telling the time in Italian is another activity that involves using numbers. Use

Che ora è? / Che ore sono? – What time is it?

A che ora? A che ora? – At what time?

with just the basic on the hour times. Add minutes after and before in later lessons. For example:

È l'una – It's 1:00

all'una at 1:00

Sono le due – 2:00

A Lesson on Colors

An activity for a third lesson can be that of teaching colors. Here, students can work in pairs or groups after learning the colors, to color various objects on paper or in sketch pads. Once familiar with the names of the colors, they may take turns at describing the color of each others clothes or eyes for example, using:

Di che colore è il tuo vestito? What color is your dress…?

Di che colore sono? What color are your eyes?

A Sense of Achievement

The classroom activities for Italian language lessons provide an interesting way to begin instruction in the Italian classroom. The teacher may have other ideas to add or enhance those mentioned. For example, in a more advanced lesson on the alphabet, after students have learned more vocabulary, have them fill in the missing letters in words by calling them out in Italian. Give points or a small prize to the individual winner who spells the most words correctly. The game may also be played with pairs or groups competing to complete the words.

Do monitor the activities closely to encourage good pronunciation. Praise students often so that they maintain confidence, and use good judgment in correcting mistakes. When you do correct, do so constructively as well as tactfully. At the end of the activities, praise students again on a sense of achievement and reflect on additional vocabulary. Reinforce the lesson by discussing common mistakes. Students would most certainly display a great deal of satisfaction with these activities.

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