Given that everyone learns in a different way, and that your lesson plans should consider all kind of learners—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—there are a few aspects of Italian culture you might use to spice up your lesson plans in your Italian Class.
There’s probably nothing that screams “Italian” more than food. There’s a lot to say about it, both in terms of actual food—what is “really Italian”, recipes and their regional and international variations, adaptations that would horrify any Italian, etc.—and in terms of culture. Food—from family meals to aperitivo—plays a major role in how Italians interact and how they perceive themselves. Spoiler: Italians tend to be very conservative when it comes to food. The recipe/ingredients/preparation from their area/region/city/family is generally considered to be the norm—if not the best—and variations tend to be seen suspiciously. You might want to explore with your students the latest unfaltering debate on how a recipe every Italian considers 100% Italian actually contains ingredients originally from somewhere else (like tomato, to name just one). Or you might encourage your students to discuss the idea of food as fusion—meaning a mix of cultures and histories. Finally, your students could engage in preparing actual recipes, or they could create a video tutorial, a tasting contest, or research a recipe, diving into its history and background.
The connection between the Italian language and music—at least, classical music and opera—is as strong as the one with food. Italians are often thought to be passionate about opera. Well, that is not always the case, although it’s true that there are many opportunities for Italian musica lirica lovers to enjoy operas in spectacular places like the Arena di Verona. You and your class might want to explore the greatest Italian composers or investigate the relationship of Italians with the so-called musica colta. And then, to keep things closer to the interests of most young people, you might want to discover the contemporary music scene. Look for charts, most-streamed music, lyrics, and big concerts and festivals. Students will definitely recognize many artists and it will feel almost like home!
In addition to eating, talking about food, and going to operas, Italians debate a lot—and often intensely—about politics. In contrast to US culture, where people often feel it is best not to talk about politics at the dining table, Italians talk a lot about politics when having meals with friends and family. In class, you might want to incorporate some Italian newspapers—although politics is not the easiest section, as Italian reporters tend to take a lot for granted. If politics is too tricky a subject, you might want to investigate it in a larger sense, comparing and contrasting Italian culture with your students’ own cultures using a few major themes like women’s rights, same-sex marriage, adoption laws, or animal rights.
Finally, a less charged tool you may want to consider using to break the ice or discuss cultural or even linguistic topics is … poetry! To make those topics more approachable, why not start your next class with a post from the one of the prominent Italian insta-poets? These posts are short and immediate, and students will probably find them very familiar. They can spark interesting conversations, introduce your lesson theme, or just engage students. Speaking of literature, you might want to find out with your students which books are currently recommended by Italian booktokeror influencers. As for music, students might be surprised by the many similarities between their next must-read and the Italian ones. And hopefully, they can find some inspirations for their next reads.
By: Claudia Quesito
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