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The annual report about foreign citizenship students, issued by the Italian Minister of Education (MIUR), challenges us to think about the real possibility of educational success for immigrants.
Reading the data, we find out that in 2013/2014, only 90,6% of foreign students in Secondary school have passed the year, while this percentage amongst Italian students reaches 96,8%.
Fifty years ago the debate about education in Italy focused on the fact that school was unable to guarantee social mobility, to eliminate the disadvantage and to intervene using effective instruments for students as a whole.
Nowadays Italian school has changed significantly but, according to the above-mentioned report, the challenges posed by non-Italian speaking students in Italian school don’t seem to be properly tackled yet.
What can we do, as teachers, to support all our students (Italian and foreigners) in achieving the same results?
Dealing with recently immigrated students, we usually make an effort particularly during the very first phase, when these students are not able to communicate yet. However, even when immigrated students start handling basic interpersonal communicative skills (so-called BICS), they might still encounter comprehension problems when the cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) is necessary to succeed in an Italian school. We should therefore support particularly these students during all the phases of their integration process.
As teachers, we cannot take sets of linguistic skills for granted. We have to set the goal of a solid linguistic competence in every subject we teach. The acquisition of the second language, indeed, passes through every knowledge field, therefore all the teachers should collaborate in pursuing this goal.
The present essay focuses on “simplification”: a technique that can be useful in adapting texts to the competence level of the studentship. Through simplification, we can create comprehensible texts, that are at the same time useful to determine improvements in our students’ competence. The “simplification” technique can be used both for oral lessons and for written texts but, for convenience’s sake, we will here implement this technique on a written lesson taken from a secondary school textbook.
We will discover that “simplification” doesn’t always imply a simple summarization, a selection of the most important concepts or a general oversimplification of the complexity. It rather has to do with making a text comprehensible, using different methods and instruments tailored to the capabilities of a studentship in a specific context. At times simplification can require rewriting the original text; some other times it requires building up activities to stimulate comprehension, to facilitate the acquisition of concepts, or to simply collect paratextual materials.