The Children of Italy

To understand Italian Children you must understand a little of the culture that makes them unique. If you appreciate and accept them as individuals you will be well on the way to understanding.

At the camps, bonding is imperative. Remember that respect is a two-way relationship; offer respect and you shall receive it in abundance. Don’t ever try to pre-empt a child’s reaction to activities you devise; you may be surprised by what does and doesn’t entertain them! You will discover that the responsibility put upon you by the parents is total; you must protect, teach and nurture their children to the best of your abilities. As a tutor, you have a great gift to impart—knowledge. This must be done in a fun, non-authoritarian way. Keep in the forefront of your mind that this is a holiday for the children. They sit in a classroom all year and attend the camps during their school holidays. If you make an impact with English, they’ll never forget it. You will encounter children at all stages of learning. If you can give your attention to every child, listen to their problems, work with their ideas and dispel their fears, then happy pupils and appreciative parents are your prize.

You may encounter a language barrier, but try gesticulating, drawing, and acting to overcome this. Your facial expressions, gestures, tone and volume of voice, your vicinity to the pupils, the emotional sounds you utter (e.g. Wow! Oh? Yeah!), physical contact (touching their arms, shoulders, hands, heads) all emphasises emotions. How you teach (your personality, ability, and the emotions you convey) affects what students learn.
You will have to slow down your speaking speed a great deal and simplify your English. An Italian student’s English is made up of some 50–400 words. A nine-year-old understands simple words like dog, football, and teacher. A 12-year-old will not understand expressions like ‘I’d like to show you’ – ‘It’s cool’ or ‘He scored a goal’. You will find yourself having to repeat the same word, expression or sentence more than once.

You may find it challenging to reduce your vocabulary, but to communicate effectively with young children you should use a maximum of 50 – 200 words. Try practising this by speaking on a subject for ten minutes, introducing yourself, talking about a game, parts of the body, the weather or your family, using a maximum of 100 words. Other areas you may find challenging are in speaking slowly, repeating key phrases or making conversation at lunch and break times. It is imperative that you work on developing these skills as they will ensure understanding between tutor and students.

Italian children require enormous amounts of energy, enthusiasm and ideas to keep them entertained. The more material you have prepared, the easier it will be to keep their attention. Speak slowly, communicate at their pace, but keep the activities going. Things involving an element of competition, such as team games, quizzes, and bingo, will get children involved. Songs of any type, but especially pop songs, are also extremely useful and popular. They are a great way to get students to enjoy repetition without boring them.