Learning Italian with the family

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13 May 2020

Italian classA new year, a new principal and a renewed languages offering. That is how the community of St Robert’s School, Newtown, kicked off 2020 and, despite the challenges of remote learning, the students and families are excited about learning Italian together. For new principal Sarah Kelly, ‘it is an interesting time to lead a community, a privileged time to assist families in the very unique situation we’ve all been placed in’.

About the renewed languages offering, Mrs Kelly shared: ‘At the end of 2019, the Indonesian teacher moved on to a different role within a high school, which gave us an opportunity, on staff advice at the start of this year, to relook at our languages offering. We had the opportunity to keep Indonesian and the staff really pushed for the community to have a voice in what was next, so they encouraged that we ask. We went through a process with CEM and Jennifer Brown-Omichi, then we let the parents know that we would be taking time to rethink our languages offering and put some information out to the community like a strategic plan of what it would look like.’

In this new approach to language learning, everyone learns together: students in every level, as well as all teaching and non-teaching staff, and even parents and families are invited to join in. After a well-attended parent night with Mrs Brown-Omichi and a comprehensive response to the parent survey, they began preparations to start learning Italian together in Term 2 – ‘and then COVID-19 happened’, said Mrs Kelly.

As it turns out, learning from home has had unexpected benefits that will support language learning even after restrictions are lifted. Mrs Kelly said: ‘We now have resources on our website for families to use in their Italian learning 24/7 and for teachers to use during class time. Families are recording themselves speaking Italian and uploading it as evidence using Seesaw, which we are using much more authentically. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support from parents and families and by the commitment of our staff.’

On the support they have received from Mrs Brown-Omichi, Project Officer of Languages, and the team at Catholic Education Melbourne, ‘they have been amazing, we’re lucky to have her leading it’.

‘This approach to language learning is definitely something new’, said Mrs Brown-Omichi. ‘A really key element is that it has high frequency, so the students do short bursts of language every day, somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. The community is really excited, they’re really getting involved. Sarah is really consultative, she wants to make sure that the community is heard. That sense of joy is what we want to bring into every school. When everyone gets involved and everyone has fun, you know it’s going to be successful.’