First week of online teaching of groups (which I would otherwise have met face-to-face, in an actual classroom): completed!
Monday was terrifying, and intensive, Tuesday better, Wednesday hard work. Thursday was tiring, but ultimately satisfactory.
The final class of the week was what used to be my only class – until my erstwhile colleague decided to withdraw from a virus-benighted world to the safety of her flat – the group of five- to seven-year olds that have mostly been with me since they were just three or four.
Over the years, we’ve established a familiar routine in our weekly sixty-minute lesson, one which begins with a review of last week’s topics (picture flashcards, games on the whiteboard) and ends with some variation of Bingo, a candy for each child, and a few minutes of VHS.
Why VHS, you might be wondering, assuming you even remember what that technology is? Because with VHS I just have to slot the cassette into the machine and press ‘play’. There’s no messing around choosing scenes using the tiny buttons on the DVD player remote control, a skill that I never really mastered.
In the intense cut and thrust of a first-year primary school group, there’s no time to hesitate, no margin for error. Better then, equipment which is familiar, which needs no cueing up from week to week, than something which is unfamiliar, so risky, so unpredictable, so potentially the cause of a lesson-plan disaster!
To think, though, until this week, all I had to worry about was the possibility I wouldn’t be able to quickly and efficiently locate the right moment in ‘Ice Age’ (the pack of sabre-toothed tigers are mustering to attack the mammoth and his friends – it’s very exciting!) But then, BOOM, suddenly all language courses in our Regione, in fact all courses of any type, are to shift to ‘didattica a distanza’.
Rather a game changer, that was.
So anyway, it’s Thursday, five-thirty p.m. and I have my Zoom meeting open and ready to roll. Children are starting to arrive. They have no idea what to expect, as at this age they’re still doing school in an actual school. But they don’t seem bothered by the prospect of something different. I guess there’s quite a lot that’s unfamiliar about the world when you’re just six…
Once the initial fuss, making sure everyone has their audio/microphones turned on, is done, I begin. The picture flashcards are familiar, as is my approach. And I’ve chosen an old topic to review at first, something I’m sure they’ll have no problem with, just so we can all get used to the new situation.
Next, on to an online story, which means sharing my screen and making sure everyone can see and hear it before pressing play. Lesson plan, stage 2, check!
And soon after that, it’s time for the ‘game break’, a new idea which aims to give everyone (including me) a few minutes of mental downtime at the lesson’s mid-way point. I’d found a colouring game online that I knew everyone would love, though it meant pasting a link into the Zoom chatbox and asking the kids to locate a handy parent or babysitter and have them click it and sit with them until a browser window had opened and they could begin colouring, as I had previously shown them.
Well, despite everything, that worked well! And so, on to the second half of the lesson and a new, more complex set of vocabulary (things you take to school: pen, pencil, ruler, school bag, etc.), an online video/story to reinforce the new words, and a game to practice it (what is this that I’m drawing on the whiteboard?)
And wow! The end of the lesson is alarmingly near already! There’s just time for a quick bingo, with the school words (I have to apologise that there’s no way to deliver boiled sweets via Zoom), and that’s it for the day, and for the week!
Assuming you’re willing to engage with it, becomes familiar.
The kids do it all the time. Their parents, too, I imagine.
Perhaps in this day and age, we’re all in the same boat, willingly or otherwise!
I guess I could have tried harder to master the DVD player remote control a few years back, and so consigned the VHS player and cassettes to the recycling. But I was busy, you know how it is. And reluctant.
No matter. With technology, there’s usually a chance to catch up. Eventually.
And now? I’m a master of ‘didattica a distanza’!
Having got through my first week of it, I think I deserve a nice glass of wine.
N.b. In anticipation of receiving a bunch of emails later on today from people wondering what any of that has to do with learning Italian, well, it absolutely does! So think it through, before you start to type.
Here’s a final reminder about this week’s new, advanced-level easy reader ebook, ‘Chi è per me Cecilia‘.
It’s still just £5.99, so 25% off the usual ‘easy reader’ ebook price of £7.99. But only until Sunday night!
Or choose something easier from our catalog page. There, all of our ebooks are listed by type, and in level order. And all with links to the free sample chapter downloads, so you can evaluate the level, type and length of the material BEFORE you buy it (and check that it will work appropriately with the device you want to use it on…)
Thursday’s FREE edition of ‘easy’ Italian news is waiting for your to read/listen to it, if you haven’t already done so. Click here.