First observe, then intervene.
The project is called Observing Interlingua precisely because it always starts from an observation of linguistic productions. Good teaching must be based on a careful and systematic analysis of what the students know how to do, of what they don’t know how to do but on which they are making efforts, and of what they don’t know how to do and seems to be beyond their goals of learning. The analysis must first of all concern the communicative functions, what the students want to express, and then the forms in which they are realized.
A formative evaluation. This observation is a form of formative evaluation: observing children serves the teacher first of all, to understand them and to prepare targeted and effective interventions. It is a positive evaluation, which looks first of all at what there is, what learners know how to do, and only then what is missing, their needs. It is an assessment not only of products, but also of cognitive and social processes, strategies, attempts to formulate hypotheses, which requires a clear understanding of the psycholinguistics of learning.
The educational interventions aim first of all to develop the communicative competence, that is the ability to express themselves in different contexts, with different aims and with different interlocutors. It is also a communicative competence to know how to extract ideas from a written text, to know how to organize them logically, to know how to construct a complex and precise discourse, in short, all forms of scholastic communication. Through a mature and conscious use of language we learn to think, to know, to exercise our rights in society, and this is the primary objective of our work. A second objective is formal accuracy, not making mistakes that, even when they do not disturb communication, compromise the aesthetics of the text and involve social stigmatization.
Cognitive approach. It starts from the understanding of the processes with which the students, autonomously and actively, try to reconstruct the rules of the Italian language. So also the didactic approach will be aimed at fostering autonomy, the active search for rules and regularity, intelligent discovery, functional reflection. Children must perform their experiments, evaluate options, reflect before choosing the best variant, in an atmosphere of intelligent play. In order to understand linguistic phenomena, students are often asked to use various types of objects and artifacts, which allow a semiotic mediation of thought: concretely disassemble and reassemble sentences and texts, using paper, cardboard, scissors, glue or the computer, favors a simple and concrete representation of complex and abstract phenomena.
Teamwork. In this experimentation, most of the activities are carried out in small or large groups. Following Vygotsky, we are convinced that the most complex cognitive operations develop first of all through dialogue and comparison with others, to then be internalized in the individual mind. The groups are formed to include pupils of different levels and with different skills, native and non-native: those who have more difficulties learn from exposure to the input of those who are more skilled, and it is shown that learners pay more attention to peers than to teachers. The model is an inclusive teaching that takes the whole class together and promotes socialization and integration: rather than creating different activities for different groups and levels, the same activities are proposed to which everyone can contribute in a different way and from which all they can learn something, though not necessarily the same thing.
Autonomy and metacognition.
We try to promote the autonomy of the students, leaving them to formulate hypotheses, alternatives and revisions. The teacher proposes the activities and objectives, moderates the work of the groups, coordinates the processes of sharing and interaction in the class group, but does not intervene directly on the production of the students. In this way they are stimulated, through specific activities and the comparison with the companions, to always evaluate their own texts, trying to improve them.
Minimum terminology. Students are invited to discuss and reflect on linguistic and communicative facts with their own words, which make sense to them. Technical terminology is introduced only if it is strictly necessary and is limited to terms to indicate classes of words (such as verb, noun, adjective, article) and a few other phenomena. Pupils are invited, especially in primary school, to create their own labels to talk about the phenomena, so that they can understand and find them functional to the process of analysis and understanding.
Motivation. The motivation of the students is supported in the first place by proposing intelligent activities and leaving them free to find the solutions on their own. The cooperative, playful, operational and concrete approach also means that reflection on the language is not a boring and mechanical exercise but becomes an opportunity to make discoveries and put oneself to the test. In general, it is preferable to work long on a few texts, analyzing them in depth, disassembling them and reassembling them in various ways: children feel more motivated to perfect their products and to refine their discoveries, even during many work sessions, rather than dispersing into so many ‘exercises’, ‘cards’ and ‘activities’ that are poorly connected.