M. Maiocchi1, L. Camerini2

1Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
2Università Cattolica - Milano (ITALY)
Teaching in primary schools is often characterised by the presentation of contents step by step, with local rules and local examples, postponing abstraction as a successive presentation, possibly not explicitly declared. In fact, such an inductive teaching approach can take advantages by parallel deductive methods, not only from the point of view of learning, but also in the acquired attitude to use models and “formal description”, in understanding the role of rules, in starting to cope with responsibility in choices while writing.
The paper presents an experience carried on with four classrooms (about ninety pupils) of the third level of an Italian primary school. A lesson-event has been organised, lasting a couple of hours, in which:
- the tool of formal grammars (in the version of the syntactic charts) has been introduced as a formal tool to represent the structure of the language;
- such a tool has been experienced, with direct involvement of the children, in creating, strictly following the formalised rules, sentences and proverbs (in order to emphasize the rule, the difference between grammatical correctness and meaning acceptability, both sentences and proverbs have been partially generated using combinatorial rules, with playing cards or dice);
- after that, the structure of a fairy tale (according to the works of Vladimir Propp, in a simplified version) has been presented, and, still with a direct involvement of pupils and the use of a dice, different tale structures have been generated, and further transformed in linguistically richer versions.
Final remarks about the followed process concluded the lesson, but children had (on a voluntary base, but in fact with a global acceptance) as a home work (within one month) to build their own tale structure, transform it into a well written tale, and possibly to illustrate it with drawings: the reward, in case of good results, was the publishing of all the work done in a book, “a real book you can by in bookshops”.
The enthusiastic acceptance and the good results allowed the publishing.
The home work shown really interesting elements, among which the complete understanding of the role of the formalisation, the capability of distinguishing with responsibility their freedom degrees (in choosing names, details, in using dialogs instead of narrative forms, etc.), in accepting deadlines, in considering constraints as a way for stimulating freedom and creativity.
The paper will present with details the experience, showing the used formalisms and structures, and it will present some of the final results, and discuss the pedagogical and educational aspects of the experience, together with their repeatability.