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Teaching about sporting events in the Italian Language Class to Increase Student Engagement and Intercultural Awareness

European Championship

In my last post for the Language Learning Community, I described a lesson I use in my German classroom with the goal of increasing student’s intercultural awareness and student engagement. For this month’s post, I will share a lesson from my Italian class. Fun fact: I was born in Italy! My goal is to use personal stories and knowledge from my past to help students make progress towards building their intrigue and growing their intercultural awareness.

A sample lesson from my class

I like to integrate current events into my lesson plans. Did you know that the European Football Cup is currently underway? This provides me with an excellent opportunity to introduce students to a popular sport that Italians love.

Why is the sport called football and soccer in different parts of the world?

I can have my student’s research this question as an introduction to the lesson. The answer can be complex, but this question provides me with the opportunity to raise interest and awareness. In Italy, the sport is actually called “calcio”, which means “kick”; after all, the players kick the ball on the field. Italians typically call the sport by its English original name of “football”, as the British invented the sport! In the U.S., the sport is called “soccer”. Each countries’ name for the sport is an interesting tidbit worth sharing and exploring!

I share links with my students so they can research the background of the competition. Regardless of semantics, “calcio” is Italy’s most beloved sport. Unfortunately, in June 2010 and 2014, Italy did very poorly in the World Cup, however, we have won the competition four times, which is tied with Germany who has also won it four times, and is the second highest number of wins after Brazil, who has been champion five times. In Italy, we are considered among the world’s very best in the sport! Typically, I’m not the biggest sports fan, but I have become very patriotic when it comes to the national teams competing in any discipline.

How does teaching about Italian Football lead to intercultural awareness?

The Italian national teams are called “azzurri” (light blue). This color derives from the emblem of the Savoy Royal family that was a red cross over a light blue background. When Italy voted to become a Republic after the Second World War, the monarchs were exiled and their symbols abolished, with the exception of the light blue color, which is the color of the sports’ uniforms today. Italians are not super patriotic in general, we unconsciously still associate patriotism with our history in the Second World War, but the only time when everybody is united is when Italy is competing in a sporting competition at the international level.

In my classes, I like to mention how some of the Italian soccer players singing, or trying to sing the national anthem upon their return to Rome in the “Circo Massimo”, after having won their 4th world cup, may seem out of sync. This is often because in Italy, we do not put a lot of emphasis to the lyrics of the National Anthem and it is usually only used during sporting events.

Getting back to the lesson plan, here are some videos Italian instructors could share with their students, especially when they are learning online. A recommendation for a follow up activity could include further listening, comprehension, and cultural projects.

  • In this video students can enjoy an example of one of the National teams in Rome.
  • In this video students can learn the historical meaning of the Italian anthem.
  • In this video students can enjoy the National Team singing all together.

Instructors could share a promotional advertisement in class as a follow-up activity; you could include a choice of “spot pubblicitari”, or an ad where the football players have participated. This adds an entertaining aspect to the lesson plan so students don’t stay connected. Here are some other links you could share:

  • Italia Euro 2021: Students explore the excitement of the summer competition.
  • Spot of the National Team: I choose Italy. Students will enjoy the reasons why the Italian Football Players are choosing Italy for their vacations.
  • National Coach: Students will have a chance to see the region of the National Coach.

My recommendation to teachers is to include these links with students to build their interest in the content, which in the end raises student participation and leads to higher levels of engagement.

I hope you have enjoyed learning how this lesson plan can peak student’s interest in the lesson content to grow an understanding of the Italian culture through learning about the world of calcio.

Fino alla prossima volta! Until next time!

By Grazia Novelli

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