I made it. I have survived my first two weeks working with Italian children and trust me when I say I have learnt a lot. For these first two weeks, George (a fellow Durham student) and I have been running an English Summer Camp with the assistance of two of our ‘best Italian friends’! This is the first time a camp like this has been run in the town, so we had to wing it! Sunday afternoon before the camp began George and I came up with a general sketch of the week ahead with the expectation of having around 20 children between the ages of 6-13 years old from 7:30- 13:30. Needless to say when it came to 9 o’clock and the day’s activities were due to start, we were surprised to find 45 children ranging from 6-14 years old lounging in front of us. In addition to this we were told that later on in the week there would be children who would be staying in the afternoon. So wing it we did!
The most challenging aspect of the week was discipline, neither of us knew how children were disciplined in schools, so we tried various methods. For future reference, counting down from 3 seemed to be the best method… Another challenge we encounter was the vast difference in the abilities and personalities of the children. In Italy children start formal school at 6 years old, so we struggled to find activities that the whole group could do together to learn English and have fun, with the added attitude of the teenagers! To solve this we split the group into two so we could do age appropriate activities.
I led the group with ages 6-9 years. We went over various topics such as colours and animals to ensure that when they returned to school, they could impress the teachers with their memory. I adapted already known games such as splat with colours and animals. We played mime games, which didn’t go as well as I thought it would, either because they struggled with the language or were completely uncreative with their bodies. One of the potential issues with the Italian Education system is that they break up in the middle of June, and begin the new year in the middle of September. With a 3 month break it would be unsurprising that children forget a lot of what they learnt previously. I also introduced directions to the children, left, right, etc with various games. We did a treasure hunt, to great success.
I learnt some useful phrases in Italian, such as ‘tutti in cerchio!’, and just as a side note, these Italian children could not make a decent circle without a guideline to stand on! But often I resorted to general noises to gain attention. However in the most desperate times when things had descended into complete chaos I reverted to the good ole Essex ‘oi!’. Of course this wouldn’t be appropriate in schools, but for the camp it was. I am now very interested to see what the discipline is like in schools.
Image 1: camp week one. Image 2: amazing workers at Happy Camp