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Italian workshop with Year 2: Martina Tomassini

Title: Translating an Italian children’s book in a Cambodian international school
To build on the key literacy objectives of writing, reading and speaking while introducing children to translation; promoting creativity; and facilitating a reflection on the meaning of diversity in today’s multicultural classrooms
Age group:
Year 2 (age 6–7)
Participants: 20
2 hours 30 minutes

What we did

The book, La Cosa Più Importante (“The Most Important Thing”), was chosen for its big illustrations, bright colours and engaging story, and focuses on the idea of “diversity”: animals compete with each other, claiming that the “most important thing to have” is their respective unique feature (eg a bird says “wings”, an elephant says “trunk”, etc). In the end, they realise that all of these features are equally important and that each animal has something unique to offer. The main message of the workshop was “celebrating diversity” while also inviting children to use their imagination to interpret the book. Creativity was given central stage through story-telling based on a wordless version of the book; vocabulary building with a drawing-based game; and an interpretation of diversity in a short final performance. After a warm-up game of “Simon Says” in English and Italian, pupils were split into three groups and asked to write and share their own stories based on wordless colour printouts of the book. To keep the children alert and active, we then changed gears and played a game: pupils were asked to draw key body parts that come up in the story and use those drawings in a speed-based vocabulary-building game, with an imaginary bomb that explodes if you don’t find an adjective for that body part quickly enough. This introductory phase was followed by the actual book translation, which was done in groups with the help of glossaries. Finally, the children were asked to reflect on what diversity meant to them and interpret the story in a little performance, transferring the conversation from the animal kingdom to real life, with each of them highlighting their own unique feature and why they thought it was important.

What we got out of it

The teachers and director of this international school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia were delighted with the workshop and grateful for the introduction of such an innovative activity in their school, which contains over 30 nationalities. This was the first time that a Translators in Schools workshop had been implemented outside the UK. There was particular appreciation of the moral message of the workshop, as well as the variety of engaging activities. The children were asked for feedback too. While bilingual “Simon Says” and the “Pass the Bomb” vocabulary/drawing games were at the top of their list, the children also enjoyed the performance, creative story-telling and translation activities. It was inspiring to see them come up with what they thought made them unique and share that in a performance in front of the class. They also wrote their “most important thing” down on colourful sheets of paper and made a collage, which they hung up outside their classroom.