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Students Teaching Students

By Christine Foster Meloni, April 2014

Snakker du norsk?

As a linguist and a foreign language teacher, I am truly intrigued with the lodge’s advanced Norwegian class. You might be interested in hearing what goes on in class. I think it is quite unique.

The class has been meeting for two hours every Wednesday evening for several years. We have a teacher, lodge member Nina Brambani-Smith, but she only teaches one hour of the class. She also is frequently away on travel. What happens when she is not present? The students teach themselves!

Admittedly, teaching ourselves is not easy, and it was especially difficult at the beginning when we knew little Norwegian. But the process has been fine-tuned and we now find our student-led classes very productive. The able coordinator of these student classes is Bill Greer, who works tirelessly to make sure that, for each class, we have activities that are both pedagogically useful and entertaining. All students participate in contributing activities. The key is to work as much as possible with correct, authentic Norwegian.

Bill Greer

Bill Greer, Student Coordinator

Let me give you an example of how a recent two-hour class was led by the students.

The First Hour

You are most likely familiar with Sissel, the very popular Norwegian singer with the magnificent voice. One of the students, Don Fry, planned an activity based on one of her early CD’s, Sissel. He chose several songs from this CD and printed out the texts for distribution in class. 

Don Fry

Don hands out song lyrics

We studied the lyrics, making sure we understood all of the words. We then listened to the songs as we read the lyrics. We commented on any pronunciations that we wondered about. This exercise helped us increase our vocabulary and improve our pronunciation. We also learned some beautiful Norwegian songs — «Kjærlighet,» «Det skal lyse en sol,» «Tenn et lys for dem,» and «Å Vestland, Vestland!»

Sissel CD

Sissel album cover

Next, Christine Meloni presented an activity based on Kings of Norway. This book contains short biographies, in both Norwegian and English, of the 58 kings and 1 queen of Norway. It also has CDs with recordings of the Norwegian and English texts. 

Christine Meloni

Christine displays Kings of Norway book

Christine first played the Norwegian-language biography of King Frederik II twice. The students listened, took notes, and then discussed the content in English. She then distributed copies of the written text and played the CD two more times as everyone listened and followed along, paying special attention to the speaker’s pronunciation. With this activity the students were able to listen to authentic Norwegian and evaluate their own listening comprehension. They also learned some important Norwegian history. 

King Frederik II

King Frederik II

The Second Hour

The second hour was dedicated to the reading of Varsleren (The Caller), a novel by Norway’s Queen of Crime, Karin Fossum. Language learners need to do extensive reading in order to develop their reading fluency and increase their vocabulary. Reading a novel provides this kind of reading. And I don’t think there is anything more satisfying for a language learner than being able to read an entire novel in the target language! 

We chose a Fossum novel because her language is quite straightforward and not overly complex. Also her novels are not unduly long as Nordic crime novels tend to be. Student Bill Greer kindly picked up copies of this novel for us on a recent visit to Norway.

We took turns reading passages aloud and discussing them. Here we encounter, of course, a drawback of students teaching students. Ideally, we should have a native speaker evaluating our pronunciation but we manage fairly well as some of the students have lived for extended periods in Norway. 

Why Not Join Us?

In addition to the satisfaction of learning Norwegian, we enjoy the class because of the camaraderie that has developed among the students. Although we are a varied lot of individuals in many ways, we are all very serious about learning Norwegian and we enjoy being together. We are a remarkably cohesive group.

And — one last positive note. When students go to Norway, they always remember their classmates back home and very generously bring back Norwegian goodies, frequently delicious chocolate. (Many thanks to Bill, George, and Alfred!)

Alfred Dennis

Alfred Dennis shares Norwegian cheese and Firkløver chocolate with hazelnuts.

If you are not already in one of the three classes (beginning, intermediate, or advanced), why not consider joining one? All classes are both teacher- and student-taught. You’ll enjoy yourself! Snakker du Norsk? Ja da!