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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

Italian: U.S. and Italian Homes Class Context

Students are very curious about culture. Making connections to that culture and comparisons between theirs and ours is very important for them. The language that they’re learning right now might not continue with them for the rest of their lives, but information about the culture and an appreciation for the culture might.

— Marylee DiGennaro



Going to School in Italy

Living in Italy: Dwellings and Furnishings

Living in Italy: Family

Living in Italy: Daily Activities in the Home

Family Gatherings

Birthdays, celebrations, and holidays

Gift-Giving and Receiving; Shopping

Food Shopping

Italian Restaurants/Bars and Meals

Going Out to Eat

Planning for a Vacation

School Profile

Marylee DiGennaro teaches Italian II-V at North Haven High School in North Haven, Connecticut. The community’s 24,000 residents are mostly professionals, and a large percentage are Italian American. As a result, many of North Haven High School’s 1,045 students choose to study Italian. The school also offers Spanish, Latin, and French as part of its college-preparatory curriculum.

Lesson Design

The World Languages Department at North Haven High School uses a thematic curriculum based on the Standards. Ms. DiGennaro sequences these thematic units for her class based on her students’ interests and events that occur at particular times of the year (for example, holidays). Using a textbook as a springboard, she designs each lesson to include cultural issues and to address different learning styles. Ms. DiGennaro also offers students multiple opportunities to communicate with her, with each other, and with students from other countries. “It’s not just having them learn something,” she says, “but also be able to use it in a situation that might happen in another country in real life.”

The Lesson

In the videotaped lesson, students participated in multiple activities using vocabulary about the home. To reinforce the lesson and further explore cultural connections, the students prepared to use their new vocabulary in an ongoing email exchange with students in Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia, Italy. Prior to this school year, Ms. DiGennaro searched online for Italian high schools with email addresses. She contacted several schools and found Cagliari had a high school class whose students were studying English and were interested in corresponding. As a regular part of their lessons, Ms. DiGennaro’s students correspond one-on-one with the Italian students, who give them information about the topic they are studying. “I think it was nice for them to have that input from someone other than me,” she says.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Appealing to Multiple Intelligences: The teacher incorporates different nonverbal approaches, such as bodily/kinesthetic and musical/rhythmic ones, into lessons.
  • Providing Interactions With Native Speakers: The teacher designs opportunities for students to use the target language with native speakers, either in person, over the phone, or via email.
  • Visualizing Vocabulary: The teacher uses visuals to establish concrete images of vocabulary and to help students remember the terms.

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2