Event Capsules | February 21, 2020

Reinvigorating the Humanities through Interdisciplinary, Experiential and CLIL Pedagogy: “When History Comes to Life” in the World Language Classroom and Beyond

The Teachers on Teaching group centered their 2019 workshop around experiential pedagogy that focuses on historical content.  Organized by Monica Calabritto, Paolo Fasoli, Kelly Paciaroni, and Julie Van Peteghem, “When History Comes to Life: Experiential Pedagogy in the World Language and Social Sciences Classrooms” attracted a hybrid audience of instructors ranging from middle and high school to college on November 15, 2019 at Hunter College.  The nature and content of the event bridged all levels of instruction beautifully and stimulated a continued dialogue in ongoing efforts to sustain world language studies and keep the Humanities alive and flourishing in our educational system.

In the first session, Translating/Viewing/Hearing the Past, the speakers suggested a series of diverse sources used in their classes: eighty-year-old student journals found in the Hunter College archives, the architectural stratification of a Roman church, and songs that expose social injustice. Julie Van Peteghem’s presentation, Translating the Past: Experiential Learning in the Archives, was inspired by her translation class at Hunter College, in which students work on materials that have never before been translated. Alberto Gelmi’s presentation, Stratigrafie – Strolls Across Time in Italy, focused “on strategies to train students to read the spatial and historical complexities of landscapes and cities.” The Basilica of San Clemente was his central example framed as an architectural palimpsest.  Gelmi, a PhD Candidate at The Graduate Center, uses this framework for courses he teaches at CUNY.  Monica Schinaider, Senior Lecturer of Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages at Hunter College, in her presentation, History in the Foreign Language Classroom: Argentina’s Recent Past through Rock-and-Roll, demonstrated how songs can help teach both language and political history in classes that are home to heritage and non-heritage students.

The second session, dedicated to Experiencing/Living the Past, focused on the imaginative act of role playing or impersonating the Other (namely the individual from the past, and women in particular).  Activities were presented as a means of fostering empathy and encouraging critical thinking, both of which are necessary elements for producing more sophisticated thought and language in L1 and L2. It opened with Monica Calabritto’s presentation: Exploring the Present through the Past: Twentieth and Twenty-first-century Narrative Perspectives of Early Modern Italy. Professor Calabritto (Hunter College and The Graduate Center CUNY) described her course on the historical novel, in which students enjoy an active role as both creators and interpreters, while the instructor is a facilitator of the learning process. Kelly Paciaroni, a PhD student at The Graduate Center and High School Italian teacher at Baldwin High School in New Hyde Park, NY, presented: Ancient Symbols, Magic Beans, and a Secret Pigeon in Renaissance Rome: A ‘Case’ for Sustained-Content Teaching and Learning in the World Language ClassroomShe focused on the example of a high school project in which students assume the characters of the protagonists of historical trials in Renaissance Rome. Sarah Schubert (Herricks High School) teaches social science and global history, but she dreams of a multidisciplinary classroom that includes world languages as well.  Her presentation was entitled: Doing History: Teaching the Renaissance, Protestant Reformation, and Scientific Revolution through Art, Music, Culture, and Research Skills. In her class, she creates an immersive learning environment in which students learn about the Renaissance through role play that culminates in a staged dinner party.

The Teachers on Teaching workshop welcomed several keynote speakers.  Historians Elizabeth and Thomas Cohen (University of Toronto), Clare Carroll (Renaissance Society of America, The Graduate Center and Queens College, CUNY), and Dennis Looney (Modern Language Association) generously shared their insights regarding the current state of the Humanities and foreign language studies in secondary education. Clare Carroll gave an inspiring speech beginning and ending her presentation quoting Faulkner: “The past is not the past; it’s not even dead.”  Addressing university Deans in particular, she emphasized the importance of evaluating the quality of teaching as equally if not more important than publications when determining eligibility for tenure.  Dennis Looney reported some national trends about language departments, focusing on positive signs from departments that have made an effort to create interdisciplinary tracks for students majoring in a foreign language.  Finally, Thomas Cohen reflected on inhabited pedagogy in both the history and the language classrooms. “There is more than just words in languages,” he said.

One of the breakout sessions that concluded the day included a workshop led by Elizabeth and Thomas Cohen. Entitled Making Renaissance Families, it was geared toward teachers of college courses and required that the participants “inhabit and interpret” the roles of various figures in several families. Simultaneously there was a presentation for middle and high school teachers of world languages and social sciences that included role modeling of how to utilize the activities in your classes immediately. Reshaping the Baroque in the Americas was led by Kelly Paciaroni and Sarah Schubert.


For a more detailed description of the presentations click here.

Stefania Porcelli and Katherine Volkmer

Department Romance Languages

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