Working with Teachers of French and Italian

In addition to research and dedication to students, our faculty members also devote time to promoting language learning and teaching in the community, state, and nation. Professor of Italian Janice Aski and Associate Professor of French Maggie Flinn have both organized events aimed at gathering instructors of the languages to equip them with more resources both to teach and to attract more students.

Italian Summit: the Future of Italian in Ohio High Schools and Universities

With the support of the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago, the Department of French and Italian, and the Center for Languages, Literatures and Cultures, in February Janice Aski organized the first-ever Italian Teachers’ Summit. The topic of the summit was the future of Italian in Ohio High Schools and Universities. Language classes across the country have been seeing a decline in enrollments. Aski realized that the best way to promote language learning and increase interest in Italian was to establish collaboration between high school and university teachers.

The summit was a big success. It spanned an entire day, during which teachers from Columbus, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky discussed how to increase enrollments in Italian in high schools and universities, how to increase the number of students who take the AP test, and what universities can do to support high school language programs and vice versa. Keynote speakers included Alberta Lai from the Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago, Sandro Corso from Educational Office of the Consulate General of Italy in Chicago, and Kathleen Shelton from the Department of Education of Ohio.

Participants had highly positive comments after the summit. They found it very useful to be in the same room, to see that everyone is dealing with the same issues, and to generate creative programming ideas together. People made great connections and are now able to share best practices. Aski also added that having representatives from the government present was beneficial, as it helped paint the bigger picture of Italian education in the state.

Aski is not planning to repeat the summit on an annual basis; further events will depend on need and momentum. Currently, she is working on establishing Italian language programs for middle school students. One initiative is a one-week summer camp, where an Ohio State undergraduate student will be teaching language, and a graduate student will be teaching global citizenship. Aski has also established contact with Indianola Alternative K-8 School, where Ohio State students will teach Italian once a week during an afterschool program. These programs will give early exposure to students in Columbus city schools, where languages are not offered, and allow Ohio State students to engage with the community outside of the university.

Continuing Education Workshop for French Teachers: bande dessinée for the French Classroom

This summer Maggie Flinn will also be reaching out to local teachers of French. With a generous gift from Engie-Axium and the support of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Department of French and Italian, Flinn sat down to brainstorm a program that would have a high impact, reach many people, and be sustainable. The result is a two-day workshop that will introduce local French teachers to the history and cultural significance of French-language comics.

With the help of PhD students Kirby Childress and Brian Troth, and French MA alumna Nicole Hanlon, the workshop will include both lecture-like and hands on planning sessions. Bande dessinée books will be introduced and analyzed much like they are in Flinn’s French 5701 course, which studies the history and vocabulary of this medium. The final session of the two days will be a planning session, where participants will be asked to put what they have learned into a syllabus or classroom activity. Teachers will walk away with books, resource packets, and a plan on how to integrate this material into their specific classrooms. The workshop will be conducted mainly in French.

About 20-25 teachers from Central Ohio and beyond will join the workshop. Flinn stresses that the workshop will not instruct participants on how to teach this topic. All teachers have their own classrooms with varying ages and backgrounds. They have excellent pedagogical skills and know how to best reach their audience.  Instead, the workshop will provide knowledge and resources, which can then be adapted to any classroom, allowing this fascinating topic to reach thousands of students every year.