Italian Study Abroad Provides Teaching Experience For Future Aggie Teachers

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: December 01, 2009

What started as a one-day visit to an Italian middle school has grown into an exciting opportunity for preservice Aggie teachers to teach English Language Learners.

In 2008, Janet Hammer and Patricia Wiese, clinical faculty members in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, journeyed with 14 Texas A&M University students to Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy, for a spring semester study abroad.

The students stayed at the Santa Chiara Study Center in Castiglion Fiorentino and taught English to children at the Dante Scuola Media, a middle school near the center. In addition to teaching, they completed theoretical coursework and went on daylong field excursions.

"Our original goals were to pilot a program where our preservice teachers would have the experience of teaching English to English Language Learners," says Hammer, "and since they were experiencing a true cultural immersion, they would develop empathy for the English learners they would have in their future classrooms in Texas."

Using PowerPoint, music and manipulatives, the education students developed and taught lessons for three levels of English learners. The English language instruction culminated in a special production at the local historic theater.

"Our students and the Italian children performed a bilingual production of Pinocchio, written and choreographed by Texas A&M students," Hammer says. "It was well attended by people from the local community."

Silena Faralli, lead English teacher and professional development coordinator at the Italian middle school, was impressed with the Aggie students' professionalism and hard work.

"They showed skills in managing class life and creating a positive learning environment, where all school children, including the weaker ones, were involved in the activities," she says. "By bringing their characteristic Texan flavor to our school life, these teachers were able to raise the enthusiasm in our middle school students."

This coming spring, Hammer and Wiese will return to Italy with 18 new preservice teachers to experience teaching English Language Learners yet again.