Italian Virtual Class - Chiavi di Lettura
The basic premise of the IVC Chiavi di Lettura (Italian Virtual Class Keys to Interpretation) method is to create an Italian community and bring it, culturally intact, via Internet technology to Emory students, so that they may learn the language in an authentic, natural manner. An online multi-media text and a written text and workbook support both real and virtual study abroad trips. Each section of the on-line component is regionally based and includes authentic interviews with native speakers in natural settings. Art, art history, history, music, folklore, traditions, and a wide range of other topics featured in the curriculum are specific to periods and regions and support the book's continuous cultural track. Because the emphasis is on cultural acquisition rather than on grammar, students do not study grammar outside of its cultural context; thus, the cultural element and the grammar remain connected and are learned as a unit. The primacy of cultural acquisition over grammar acquisition makes the approach by Emory's Italian studies program unique. Through tasks that involve reading, writing, listening, and speaking, the instructor of the IVC Chiavi di Lettura method creates the scaffolding necessary for students to discover the grammatical structures. The focus remains from start to finish, however, on culture and communication about this culture.
Within the framework of a study abroad trip, students in the IVC Chiavi di Lettura are able to learn exponentially from their peers abroad. Students who actually do go abroad become a real part of the text, showing up in photographs, videos, textbook readings, and exercises. Emory students at home witness the two cultures as they intersect, making observations and comparisons they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to note. Since the method has a regional focus, students compare regional linguistic choices, dialects, and accents. They also witness linguistic breakdowns as their peers work to communicate with the Italians they meet, gleaning valuable insights as a result.
The IVC Chiavi di Lettura method has a flexible curriculum that incorporates student input, projects, and class work into its format. Students work together to produce vocabulary lists, visual learning aids, paradigms, timelines, outlines, photographs, plays, descriptions, book covers, songs, poetry, short films, interview questions, interviews, and so on. Since the text is a dynamic presence in the classroom, teachers are able to focus on student interests and thus make the material individually meaningful, using student homework and research in class to foster learning and growth. Students are asked to insert all new vocabulary lists, web research, and homework into their co-constructed workbook. Thus they make the material and textbook their own, and they have an active hand in its authorship. Because students investigate topics that are most interesting to them, no two textbooks are ever identical as a result.
Using the bank of knowledge and experience that all students bring to class with them, the teacher and students work together to locate stepping-stones or linguistic keys. Once these keys are in place, students continue to use the knowledge that they already have to forge new connections, coming to understand language in a very personal way. These techniques enable students to engage with the language naturally, with little stress. They are not required to understand everything they see, hear, or read right away. A constant recycling and return to previously viewed materials allows students to bring insight and tools that are different from those they brought to an earlier reading of the same passage and thus relieves them of the pressure to understand everything on the first reading. Students ultimately learn how to learn a language, become less reliant on the teacher and more trusting of their own bank of knowledge and skill sets to solve problems and decode language DNA. They realize just how skilled they are at interpreting the language puzzle. They learn Italian as they did their first language not as a series of individual grammar points or components to be memorized, but as a dynamic, living language.