English…Playing Games…Learning nothing…I blame the teacher…

Teacher writing on a Chalkboard
I have been trying to be good about eating and drinking since Christmas. I was so good before you see, no alcohol except on special occasions, no biscuits, crisps, cake etc., etc., and I did feel better for it. But alas, since returning from New York I have been very slack allowing myself far too many treats. I’ve tried no alcohol from Monday to Friday but Wednesday is my downfall. On a Wednesday afternoon I teach English and I use the word teach in its widest sense, as I have a group of children ages 7 – 12; a rather wide age span. Really I’m a babysitter for a couple of hours. The sessions are organised by the local Council (Comune). Some of the children have been coming for three years, some two and some only started last November. But, they don’t seem to learn ANY English and by the end of two hours I’m exhausted and just HAVE to open a bottle when I return home to calm my frazzled nerves and relax.

Bottle of Wine and glass

Every week I ask them, ‘What day is it today?’ Remember, I have been doing this every WEDNESDAY for ages and I ask them the same question each week. They look at each other, shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Boh,’ which translated is, ‘Don’t know, don’t care.’

Three Students with Books

They are lovely lively, enthusiastic noisy and energetic naughty kids. All they really want to do is have fun, run about and play games so I try to combine this with learning English. I have devised a number of activities during my time as local teacher. Depending on their mood I usually warm up with some drama activity, which involves miming, singing or jumping about. Their favourite game is SPLAT…It’s a drama circle game and involves shouting, ducking and diving and pretending to shoot each other. Enough said – not a single English word learnt, (unless you include SPLAT) but a jolly good time had by all.

splat2

After all this physical exercise we do a word search. Each week I use a different theme and they love them. They race to beat each other in finding all the words. When they’ve finished finding all the words I make sure they understand the meanings and write them down otherwise there’s little point to the exercise.

This week, for a change, I asked all twelve students to sit down around the table with a blank piece of paper. I also had a blank piece of paper in front of me.

‘Okay,’ I said with poised pencil, ‘you must write down all the words you can remember in English without looking back in your books and then make at least three sentences. I will write down all the Italian words I can remember and then make three sentences. You have ten minutes starting…now!’

hand holding a pencil

Heads went down and they really grafted. I was totally amazed and pleased with how many words they knew, of course the spelling was a bit iffy but even so…perhaps they have learnt something after all.

As for my Italian, well, the kids were pretty impressed with it, but they were quick to tell me that my sentences were grammatically incorrect. In Italy grammar is the most important part of teaching any language, the teachers maintain that you must know all the grammar before you can really speak a language. The problem is, that although the students here are very good on paper, they cannot take part in any conversation. So which side of the fence would you sit on? Grammar or limited grammar? I think there must be a middle ground.

Right, where’s that bottle, think I need a drop right now, just writing about the lessons has given me stress and anxiety!

FOOTNOTE: I wrote this little piece last Friday and as I post it today I have to tell you that I am in agony. I fell over on the wet decking outside last Saturday evening (I had NOT been drinking) and crack! A rib or two went…ouch, it’s painful. Sadly, I will not be able to teach tomorrow and I feel really bad about it. I really do love the kids I teach and will miss them tomorrow and hope they miss me…