“CUbeS: CUlture and Smiles in a Cube” An inspiring etwinning project 2018-19

My non European colleagues, often ask me what eTwinning is all about!

Well….

eTwinning is a free online community for schools in Europe which allows you to find partners and collaborate on projects within a secure network and platform.

Through participating in eTwinning, your school will be able to:

  • enrich learning and motivation of pupils (aged between 3 and 19) and staff
  • access high quality professional development and ready-made resources
  • raise standards across the whole school community
  • gain recognition for your commitment through eTwinning awards and the International School Award.
  • Search for an Erasmus+  partner to carry out projects with and apply for mobility funding.

9

There are, also,  special quality labels, for students, teachers and schools!

Quality labels

1.National quality label

A National Quality Label is awarded to teachers with excellent eTwinning projects and indicate that the project has reached a certain level of quality in their country.

2. European quality label

The European Quality Label is a second mark of success and indicates that the project has reached a certain European standard.

3. eTwinning School label

In order to recognise the eTwinning work done at school level, there is now, a new label  available – the eTwinning School Label.

10

The concept of recognition for work done in eTwinning has been in existence since the start with Quality Labels being available to teachers for their projects both at national and European level. However, these labels are applied only to the work of individual teachers in projects. In order to recognise the work done at school level, a new label is now available to apply for – the eTwinning School Label.

The principle behind this new label is that eTwinning wants to recognise and appraise the involvement, commitment, dedication not only of scattered eTwinners, but of teams of teachers and school leaders within the same school.

The concept of attaining the status of an eTwinning School is that of a developmental journey with components that can be objectively assessed. It is not a competition, but rather a progression from one level to the next.

7

A summary of our project, this year

twinspace page

Our project celebrates culture and happiness.

nov7

What the four partners ( Greece, UK, France and Poland)  propose is that, students produce a presentation or “Culture and Smiles in a Box” on their partner country in groups, both in class and on twinspace Forums. To be able to do this, students  gather information about their own country and life and send it to their partner schools, which are responsible for producing the presentation on their partner country’s cultural assets on twinspace Forums .

Students :

– Consider the definition of culture, and reflect on what this means to them

– Share relevant information about their lives with their European partners

– Create”Culture and Smiles in a Box” presentations

– Reflect on what they have learned about the other country and the differences and similarities between the two cultures

– Write reflective essays on what they have learned

 Objectives

1) To help pupils to identify, explore, and become aware of European values.

2) To raise pupils’ awareness of what makes them happy and share this happiness with their peers in Europe.

3) To assist pupils to identify European linguistic diversity and become aware of the importance of learning European languages.

4) To develop pupils’ insight into the similarities and differences among nations.

Our project in detail

This  #eTwForCulture project ,lasted the whole school year 2018-19. 

There were tasks to be completed to share SMILES in many ways such as passing a ‘messages and our CULTURE in a box’ from one country to the other.

This is a project on happiness; it is about helping students find happiness and sharing it with others. It focused on ourselves, well-being, friendships and relationships. Children have truly enjoyed communicating and participating in a variety of tasks and realising that they have many things in common with their e-pals. Pupils have learnt about the culture of their e-pals / friends (tangible and intangible). It was definitely a project celebrating internationalism and individualism.

Depending on the activity, children had the opportunity to work independently, with talk partners both in class- in 2s, in small mixed ability groups or in whole class situations and on twinspace, using ICT for research or to communicate and present their ideas in different ways.

nov5sos

b18

Pedagogical Innovation and Creativity

word cloud

The overall aim was to realize that, happiness comes from within us but can be spread and shared with others!

Children reflected on themselves as individuals, identifying positive things about themselves, valuing their abilities, qualities, strengths and achievements as well as their mistakes, sharing and comparing them with their European peers, at the same time!

Children recognized that their culture  affected themselves but also others; they thought of ways to make others smile, by means of intercultural projects !

Children considered their own and their partners’ feelings (empathy) and thought of appropriate strategies to cope with uncomfortable feelings as well as skills for solving problems and different ways of behaving to different types of intercultural relationships.

Children also focused on intercultural relationships and they explored the value of these relationships as well as their feelings within the context of important relationships, including family and friends of a different cultural background.

Children made each other smile through their dialogue, written work and through technology!

no19

 All in all:

Children felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner schools in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to fill their CUbeS with content.

The learning from the project was so significant that it will not be lost from children’s minds

Our  project, provided the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Happiness in learning, became a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

 Our work  provided in the shared learning environment were a meaningful pathway, towards understanding  the concept of feelings.

The true revelation has been that  people in Europe are essentially very similar with shared values, cultures and interests. Surely, this  helped us to overcome our prejudices and made us more open to intercultural cooperation. 

Curricular integration 

The work was mostly linked with the English, MFL, Topic and Computing objectives. To help partner schools to fulfill their statutory responsibility to support their cultural development and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life. To use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information.

 The theme was chosen deliberately to ensure that the project and its work was as cross-curricular as possible. The areas of ,EFL,  social studies, expressive arts, citizenship,and basic IT , have all been integrated into the sharing of our common project activities .

The main focus was to improve the learning of English.

This fitted well into the Curriculum and all the pupils benefited. 

OUR EUROPEAN COOKBOOKf12

We held a European Day of Languages to get the rest of the school know our European friends better. We also had etwinning school  days, when our students presented their etwinning projects to the rest of the school.

A second focus was citizenship. By exchanging information about each other’s towns, lives  and heritage, the pupils learned a great deal about each other’s environment, way of life and culture. Our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our Etwinning project theme! 

I  made sure that, ALL my 95  students, in different age and  language level, took part in our  etwinning project.

Communication and exchange between partner schools 

We used a variety of ways to communicate with each other and as a group: the teacher bulletin in twinspace, a messenger group,  email. Communication was regular and effective.

The tasks were mostly set by the coordinating schools in the United Kingdom and Greece  but we were open to suggestions and ideas of the fellow teachers. The activities and work produced was shared in pages of twinspace by all schools and the work process was communicated using the journal. I coordinated the work but also set responsibilities and supported teachers in using a variety of ICT tools so that they successfully participate in the project.

may16

From the beginning, there was a strong plan on twinspace Pages, which gave the teachers guidelines, responsibilities and timescale for each element of the project. 

Students were encouraged to interact with their partners,and share their  work on twinspace,both from the school ICT lab and from home. This all gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language.

Our students were able to share their feedback on our Twinspace “DiscussionsForums Threads” , on a regular basis . The pupils shared information and experiences, and thus learned from each other and strengthened their communication skills. 

Collaboration between partner schools.  

In collaboration ,we all decided on the range of topics that we would cover and the optimum time for posting/sending/receiving the correspondence items. 

We tried together  to do some pre-matching of pupils and classes , based on their known interests. 

By all means we  ‘recycled’ language that pupils have previously learnt in their English class . 

We created a teachers’  e-mail exchange, too and a frequent collaboration on the Teachers’ bulletin.

We created  our 6 CUbeS threads on Forums , which we often updated with the help of our students.

Teachers and children participated and collaborated in monthly activities  such as: they uploaded posts in padlets, liked and commented on other posts, worked together to produce web presentations to introduce the schools , towns and countries ( taking-drawing pictures, writing the scripts and deciding on the school areas/town sights/country favourite places to present) and to share customs and traditions on collaborative web tools, they participated in a drawing logo competition and explained their reasons  in a forum, expressed what they have learnt in forums, shared playtime games and healthy recipes, made, posted and received cards, little gifts and beautiful origami crafts , which made them smile, shared well being strategies. They have enjoyed their twinspace membership, participated in all the activities, emailed their e-pals and expressed their views in forums – and they even suggested their own questions to be added in the forums – and joined in live chats, supervised by teachers! Children have thoroughly enjoyed participating in the project and have majorly contributed to its success.

feb7

Use of technology

Children had the opportunity to use ICT to communicate and present findings in a variety of ways.

All children had Twinspace membership and emailed their epals; however, before using the email feature, we had lessons and discussions on the appropriate use of email, what information to include to be safe and respect each other while considering cultural differences. Children expressed their views in forums ,supervised by teachers!

The project linked with aims / objectives of the ICT / computing curriculum. Pupils were taught to select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design content that would accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information. They created work for a specific audience making sure that the content would be interesting but at the same time reliable. Children were also taught how to use technology safely.

poland thinglink

Specifically: I had small  groups of my students,to use Photoshop to enhance and crop photos and then put them into Movie Maker to produce our videos and also had them  create a Quiz on pages. We also used Movie Maker to make short videos, Padlet to work on collaboratively, and a Word Cloud Generator,for feedback. We also used other collaborative web tools such as:  GoConqr for our mindmaps, Google Tool Builder for our virtual travel guides ,Thinglink for our interactive photos , Artsteps and Classtools.net for our 3D exhibitions,Canva and Linoit for our posters, Issuu for our Cookbooks.

 Through eTwinning,my  pupils learned to use ICT tools in a pedagogically meaningful way. 

They wrote comments in the forums, chatted with real people, did interactive exercises, took and uploaded digital photos and videos, searched for information, etc. And all this took place in the pedagogical context of studying English communication.

Results, impact and documentation

This project, enthused and motivated the children. Children fully enjoyed and participated in the project. It enabled the pupils to use new technologies, to learn about the culture of their European friends (tangible and intangible) and experience through their communication how English is not only a school subject but an indispensable means of communication. Most importantly it extended their cultural awareness and knowledge, it enabled them to learn about, respect and celebrate similarities and differences among them, celebrate individualism and internationalism through fun activities and tasks. Children were HAPPY, shared and received HAPPINESS AND SMILES!

Here’s the link to : OUR EUROPEAN COOKBOOK

Children need to understand the diverse world they live in, respect values, different languages and faiths by working together and this is achieved through enhancing pupils understanding of their place in a culturally diverse society and by giving them opportunities to experience such diversity.

Our project, helped us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures and feelings , enhance tolerance and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding”.

MIND MAP

All in all, we achieved   : 

  • to promote group activities  for tolerance and cultural understanding; 
  • to strengthen my students’ intercultural competences in order to be ready for responsible understanding of Europe’s identity and common values;
  • to develop the European dimension through arts education (origami crafts etc) and creativity with the aim to promote multiculturalism and tolerance between students; 
  • To develop “Out-of-the-box” activities that would encourage mutual support, team building and group cohesion ; 
  • Encourage personalized learning approaches by acquiring new artistic and pedagogical skills with the aim of developing new ideas and creativity of the students involved in the project.

 

 

feb19

jan29

ap2

no13

Origami crafts and ELT games

jan14

This school year, we decided to use ORIGAMI crafts, in our ” CUbeS: CUlture and Smiles in a CUbe”  etwinning project ! Origami, is such a creative form of Art!
Why is Origami good for our students?
Generally, Origami is good for our students, as it develops eye hand coordination, sequencing skills, spatial skills, memory, but also patience and attention skills.  Origami allows students to develop fine motor skills and mental concentration. All of this combined stimulates the brain – especially when BOTH hands are being used at the same time.
Add to these, the social aspects of Origami – learning about other cultures, working together, teaching each other and taking pride in your work –simply PERFECT for our etwinning project, this year!
f8
Young children will surprise us in the ability they show creating basic folds – start on origami patterns such as Fortune Tellers , Windmills and Paper Boats are a classic example of childhood origami projects! And you can quickly progress from there.
Oh.. and what childhood does NOT include a Paper Plane? Origami right there! I love this Origami Paper Plane video by this 7yr old. 
It is fantastic for cooperative learning – children learn to work together and support each other. It breaks down age barriers – a younger child may be able to help and older one. It is also a great way to learn about other cultures and communities. So the key aspects of Origami benefiting well being and social skills are:
  • Patience
  • Cooperative learning/ Working in together
  • Sense of achievement
  • Learning about other cultures
  • Community building (especially if working on an origami school project)
  • Sense of achievement & joy in the finished product
f9
A. The Origami Paper Airplane “You” game
This fun writing icebreaker or brainstorming activity, works well with all students.
To start, the students write three to five facts about themselves on a piece of paper. Remember to ask them to write their full name on one of the wings. Then they put their creativity to work by folding that paper into a paper airplane.
no6
On your count, everyone flies their planes toward the middle of the room. Then students pick up a plane that landed near them.
Students take turns reading the facts written on the plane and add one new fact about the person whose paper plane they have in their hands. Let the class help if individuals get stuck.
Repeat the procedure as many times as you wish
A class discussion may follow.
no19
Extra: another Paper Plane Game idea
Level: Any Level
Draw a target (with points – like a dart board) on the whiteboard or use a cardboard box in the middle of the room. Then, students make paper airplanes and launch them after they answer your question in the form of a sentence-in our case, about their etwinning partners.
I recommend formulating questions that lead to 1 or 2 types of answers. This allows for better memorization. For example, use CAN/WILL questions and write the beginning part of the answer on the board “I /My etwinning partner can/will…”.  I recommend giving a prize to make the target points mean something, thus peaking their interest
B.The Origami CHATTERBOX game
Chatterboxes (or fortune tellers or cootie catchers) are one of those classic toys that epitomise childhood…I remember lots of laughter playing with them with my cousins on summer holidays. This suggested game is a bit of a twist on the traditional chatterbox, perfect for our etwinning project, whilst also having a giggle.
f38
To make:
  • You will need a square of paper. Ours was the width of an A4 page – 21 centimetres.
  • Fold your chatterbox according to the instructions found here (or you could google up a Youtube video).
To play:
  1. Ask one student to read and choose a colour, from the outside of the chatterbox. Spell out its name as you open and close the chatterbox.
  2. Ask the student  to read and choose a number, on the inside of the chatterbox (you should only be able to see four choices). Spell out the chosen number, as you open and close the chatterbox.
  3. Ask your student to choose a number from the choices on the inside of the chatterbox that are open on the last letter spelt. Open the flap corresponding flap and read the name of one favourite sight, there.
  4. As far as our etwinning project is concerned: this is the sight, which that the student should visit on the relevant twinspace PAGE,to read and learn more about- and later write about what he/she has learned and his/her impressions, on the relevant twinspace FORUMS thread!
  5. Swap over and have fun letting your students be in charge this time, working in pairs…you might just have a hard time getting it back off them though!
 C. The Origami Paper Boat Game
nov7
This is a game where you practice words that have to do with any topic – in our case, words that have to do with the second “CUbeS’ Page about our Country-  and your memory!
Hand one paper boat to each student. Give them some time to read all the info on it.
Start like this: say to the first student “a boat comes loaded”. The student answers “with what” and you say “with sunny islands”. Then the student continues to say to the next one in the class “a boat comes loaded”…he/she answer “with what”…the student says “with sunny islands and the Acropolis” for example. And then it continues like that “forever”.
j3
The students have to remember what words have been said and they have to come up with a new word/phrase having to do with the topic.
If anyone fails to remember all the words that have been said or if he/she can´t come up with a new word, they are out of the game. The winner is the one that can continue “forever” without failing. (It can be a looong day!)
When I played it with my class (Greeks 12 year olds) they didn´t want to stop so they continued the game even after the lesson was finished and I had left the room!!
Have fun learning about Greece-or any other topic- with this origami paper boat game!
D. The Origami windmill  “Call My Bluff / Two Truths and A Lie” game
Call My Bluff is a fun game which is perfect at the start of term as a ‘getting to know you’ kind of game but, it can also work in our etwinning “CUbeS” project .
jan24
The game is excellent for practicing speaking skills, though make sure you save a time for after the game to comment on any mistakes students may have made during the game. (I generally like to reserve this for after the game, so you don’t disrupt their fluency by correcting them as they speak).
With older groups you can have some real fun and you might be surprised what you’ll learn about any given topic, when playing this particular EFL game.
How to play:
First, hand your students a paper windmill each. Allow some time to play with it and read all the info written on it.

ma6

  • Write 3 statements about any given topic – or about the Greek school in our case- two of which should be lies and one which should be true.
  • Allow your students to ask you questions about each statement and then guess which one is the truth. You might want to practice your poker face before starting this game!
  • If they guess correctly then they win.
  • Extension: Give students time to write their own two truths and one lie.
  • Pair them up and have them play again, this time with their list, with their new partner. If you want to really extend the game and give students even more time to practice their speaking/listening skills, rotate partners every five minutes.
  • Bring the whole class back together and have students announce one new thing they learned about the given topic- or about the Greek school, in our case- as a recap.
E1. Easter Bunny-Flower corner bookmark craft
1.The bunny bookmark design, really is a very easy one:
Step 1: Begin my making your very basic Origami Corner Bookmark. There are step by step photos and worded instructions for you on this Origami Bookmark post – you can print these off too!
corner bookmark5

ma11

Step 2: using any paper cut offs – cut out two large bunny ears. Add a little pink and glue to inside of your basic origami bookmark.
Step 3: add facial details.
That is it… you have made an adorable Paper Bunny Bookmark using printer paper!
Here’s a video link to help you create your own origami paper bunny corner bookmarks.
https://www.redtedart.com/easy-paper-bunny-bookmark/?jwsource=cl
2.You could also try to make the Flower corner bookmark.
ma10

 

  1. Begin by making your basic Origami Bookmark in green – like leaves or the grass.
  2. Once you have your green bookmark base, it is time  to make your flowers.
  3. Decide on your colour combination of your flower bookmark, as well as the types of petals you would like. We made two different ones – the blue flower and the white daisy bookmark.
  4. For the blue flower bookmark, you will need 5 blue petals – oval shaped and one yellow one.
  5. For the daisy bookmark, I cut out 12 long thin white petals and one yellow oval for the centre of the daisy.
  6. Glue all your petals onto your bookmark, but take care not to stick them onto the lower part of your bookmark.
  7. Add your centre. Decorate with with your pens and rosy cheeks.
  8. Finally, you can make a little red ladybird or bee and as it as a cute detail.
Here’s the video link to help you create your own bookmarks.
https://youtu.be/jnzVYG09RYA
E2.-The origami Easter paper corner Board Race
First, hand each student one corner bookmark and give them enough time to read all the Easter customs and traditions vocabulary written on them.
Later, have them play the game below, in teams.
corner bookmark4
There isn’t an EFL teacher I know who doesn’t use this game in the classroom. Board Race is a fun game that is used for revising vocabulary.
It is a great way of testing what your students already know about the subject you’re about to teach- in our case: a great way to teach/revise Easter vocabulary and learn more about Easter traditions in our  etwinning partners’ countries.
How to play:
First, watch this helpful video of real teachers using this game in the classroom by BridgeTEFL:
Here’s a step by step explanation:
  • Split the class into two teams and give each team a colored marker.
  • If you have a very large class, it may be better to split the students into teams of 3 or 4.
  • Draw a line down the middle of the board and write a topic- ie Easter in Greece- at the top.
  • The students must then write as many words as you require related to the topic in the form of a relay race.
  • Each team wins one point for each correct word. Any words that are unreadable or misspelled are not counted.
F1. Origami mini books craft
Here’s a picture which will help you make your own origami mini book.
And here’s a short video tutorial.
F2. The Origami Mini Book HANGMAN game
This classic game is a favorite for all students. It works no matter how many students are in the class.
j22
How to play:
As usual, hand each student one mini book-In our case, it’s a Greek Recipe mini Book .
Ask the students, to read them.
Then, play have them play this game.
In case you’ve never played, here’s a quick rundown.
  • Think of a -Greek recipe- word/name and write the number of letters on the board using dashes to show many letters there are.
  • Ask students to suggest a letter. If it appears in the word, write it in all of the correct spaces. If the letter does not appear in the word, write it off to the side and begin drawing the image of a hanging man.
  • Continue until the students guess the word correctly (they win) or you complete the diagram (you win).
  • They win an extra point, if they can tell you anything about that recipe, in correct English.

origami mini book

corner bookmark6sos

“PuppeTs: Puppet Tourists”: an inspiring eTwinning project

My non European colleagues, often ask me what eTwinning is all about!

Well….

eTwinning is a free online community for schools in Europe which allows you to find partners and collaborate on projects within a secure network and platform.

Through participating in eTwinning, your school will be able to:

  • enrich learning and motivation of pupils (aged between 3 and 19) and staff
  • access high quality professional development and ready-made resources
  • raise standards across the whole school community
  • gain recognition for your commitment through eTwinning awards and the International School Award.
  • Search for an Erasmus+  partner to carry out projects with and apply for mobility funding.

There are, also,  special quality labels, for students, teachers and schools!

Quality labels

1.National quality label

A National Quality Label is awarded to teachers with excellent eTwinning projects and indicate that the project has reached a certain level of quality in their country.

2. European quality label

The European Quality Label is a second mark of success and indicates that the project has reached a certain European standard.

3. eTwinning School label

In order to recognise the eTwinning work done at school level, there is now, a new label  available – the eTwinning School Label.

The concept of recognition for work done in eTwinning has been in existence since the start with Quality Labels being available to teachers for their projects both at national and European level. However, these labels are applied only to the work of individual teachers in projects. In order to recognise the work done at school level, a new label is now available to apply for – the eTwinning School Label.

The principle behind this new label is that eTwinning wants to recognise and appraise the involvement, commitment, dedication not only of scattered eTwinners, but of teams of teachers and school leaders within the same school.

The concept of attaining the status of an eTwinning School is that of a developmental journey with components that can be objectively assessed. It is not a competition, but rather a progression from one level to the next.

About our project, this year

PuppeTs: Puppet Tourists

Our Flat Puppet Tourist Project, provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other European partner schools. Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest . Partners have to add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year in the host country .
Partners should also, upload photos,and/or videos, of their puppet tourist’s adventures on twinspace. Additionally, they exchange letters, postcards and souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s visits and experiences, by post .
All in all, children exchange ideas, photographs, questions and culture with students abroad, focusing on literacy and citizenship.

AIMS

Our Puppet Tourist project, provides the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Whether the class we connect with is in another local school or another country, it serves the same purpose. It gives our students a chance to see a world outside of their walls. Additionally, our aim is that, the concept of Europe will be understood and our students will become fully aware of the other European partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship should become a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

WORK PROCESS

Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” ,whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest , Partners have and add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year as well as their Summer, in the host country and have written about their Summer adventures in their Summer diaries .
Partners should also, upload photos/videos , of their puppet tourist adventures . Additionally, they exchange postcards and little souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s experiences, by post . The final product of the project ,could be a collaboratively written puppet play or short film script .
The project works on two levels: sharing on twinspace and letter and parcel exchanges, by post.

EXPECTED RESULTS

eTwinning helps us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures, enhance tolerance and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding”. So, regardless of the subject matter or the tools we use, the process is always constantly about learning to learn responsibly, actively and collaboratively. The pupils are expected to be inspired and motivated and have a great deal of fun working collaboratively on the many different projects.
Reading the personal responses of their European partners, may give students a greater insight into their partners’ context and worldview. The project can also bring the class together, as the pupils were working as a team. In these difficult times of financial crisis , our students will be able to “travel” abroad, as flat puppets and experience life in a different country and class for a whole school year sharing and comparing our ways of life and making new friends.

 

Project work in our English class

 

blogprojectsSOSARA

Well, I have been teaching  through projects , since the beginning of my career as an English teacher,  in Greece! Even  when I had to work in a different school ,every single year or I had to work in 3 different schools on the same day, either by walking long distances carrying my heavy bag, or some years later, by driving to a different village school, during each break!!

When I started working on pen pals projects- via snail mail , nobody thought I was doing anything exceptional: only my students! Most headmasters used to refer to my extra working hours on those projects as ” useless, worthless and a waste of time”!

mos15lifeskillsact2finalposter

A few years later, we were able to start working on collaborative projects , with our ETwinning partners!  A precious experience , for all of us! An opportunity, I am really thankful for! What an adventure for my students!

It has been HARD work all these years, but highly rewarding, at the same time-for both me and my students !

Arts and craft, play an important role in all our projects!

Arts and craft, play an important role in all our projects!

Few thoughts

I have come to the conclusion that, one way to get children doing what they like while still learning is through projects.  Children enjoy using their imagination – making up characters, stories; being creative – making things, drawing, colouring, cutting and gluing, using multimedia; finding out about interesting stuff; sharing, chatting, working together; talking about themselves, their friends and family, their interests; making choices, deciding for themselves, trying new things out; showing off!

I love it when my students become creative through project work! Their talents and interests, are revealed! Creativity is enhanced, too!

I love it when my students become creative through project work! Their talents and interests, are revealed! Creativity is enhanced, too!

What is a project?

In the primary school classroom, a project is usually the work leading to the production of a poster, letter, birthday card, booklet, magazine, play, sketch, puppet show, radio recording, video etc. It may be the work of one pupil, but more frequently is the collaborative work of a number of pupils working together in class.

One key element of all projects is the ‘theme’ – the basic idea. Whether the pupils are working individually or in groups they are all concerned with the same basic theme. This theme should be open enough to encourage creativity and provide a focus, but not so open as to confuse your pupils.

Some projects come in the form of a magazine or a booklet

Some projects come in the form of a magazine or a booklet

The characteristic of a project is that the learning comes from the ‘process’ – the work which leads to the result rather than the results itself. Most frequently the pupils will use a wide range of language, a variety of language skills and often knowledge which may have come from different parts of the curriculum.

Because the pupils are combining so many different skills and areas of knowledge, it is sometimes difficult to say exactly what the pupils are learning.

A flock of doves! Getting to know other children, by means of English!!

A flock of doves! Getting to know other children, by means of English!!

In any project they may be learning many different things at any one time:

• How to work with other people. • How to share work. • How to delegate work. • How to appreciate the work of others. • How to work alone. • How to take responsibility for a task.

Project-based learning prepares students for the real world.

Another english notice board in class.Here, we pin our class projects! Students are proud to show their parents and friends their work!

Another English notice board, in our classroom.We pin our class projects, on it ! Students are proud to show their work, to their parents and friends!

These are all social skills, but they may also be learning practical skills such as how to use scissors, to design a neat page, to speak clearly or how to operate a piece of simple machinery.

I do not ‘control’ every stage of the process in a project. I  suggest the original idea, assist in the planning process, and may provide advice or guidance in the actual work, but the project is essentially the work of the children – encouraging children to interact and develop independently of the teachers direct interference.

blogprojects27

Why I personally believe in project work…

It is all said in this article on EDUTOPIA:

“The old-school model of passively learning facts and reciting them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare students to survive in today’s world. Solving highly complex problems requires that students have both fundamental skills (reading, writing, and math) and 21st century skills (teamwork, problem solving, research gathering, time management, information synthesizing, utilizing high tech tools). With this combination of skills, students become directors and managers of their learning process, guided and mentored by a skilled teacher.

DSCN8853

These 21st century skills include

  • personal and social responsibility
  • planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity
  • strong communication skills, both for interpersonal and presentation needs
  • cross-cultural understanding
  • visualizing and decision making
  • knowing how and when to use technology and choosing the most appropriate tool for the task.

DSCN9383

PBL is not just a way of learning; it’s a way of working together. If students learn to take responsibility for their own learning, they will form the basis for the way they will work with others in their adult lives.”

“One of the major advantages of project work is that it makes school more like real life. It’s an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children’s attention and effort.”-EDUCATION RESEARCHER SYLVIA CHARD

DSCN8809

What kind of end products can the children produce?

There are lots of ideas. Here are just a few I have used in my class.

a wall display e.g. posters or collages. Children all contribute a part to making a whole class end product.

a report or presentation e.g. on a survey conducted by the children, or research conducted via the Internet.

an invention  (depending on the target vocabulary)

a booklet or guide e.g. to their town or to an imaginary place

a model e.g. of an imaginary island

a photo story or video e.g. of a story made up by the children, or about a subject  researched by them

a magazine or newspaper

an event e.g. a show/pantomime, a fashion show, a party, an art exhibition –

the possibilities are endless.

DSCN9884

 

BUT

According to Scholastic, one of the biggest barriers to broad implementation of project-based learning, is fear. Some teachers and administrators are reluctant to scrap a teaching style they know to start over, especially when it means stepping into a new role as a facilitator rather than an expert in the classroom.

As Jane Krauss, coauthor of Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, put it, “It’s hard to teach in a way we were never taught.”

Unfortunately, it’s the same with some parents, too: hard to accept as effective teaching ,a way of teaching they were never taught!

DSCN4733

In my school, I always make sure that,  almost all our project activities are connected  to each of our English coursebook units. Luckily, our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our  project themes ! Also, they are based on both creative  project work and group  collaboration which  was  highly helpful in my teaching with projects!

Some project ideas, for you to get started, can be found here….

DSCN9374

In good projects children benefit from the ‘process’ of preparing them, and they become a stimulus for better speaking and writing. They are also a record of individual work for display in class or at home. Children have a strong emotional investment in the best projects. They are personally interested in the topic and proud of what they have achieved.

 

DSCN9822

Apart from all the obstacles , there is  nothing more rewarding for a teacher than see how happy , engaged and enthusiastic her  students become when they work on something that makes sense and connects the class with the world! It’s priceless! Believe me! It’s worth any effort! It brings the class together, it helps the teacher connect with the students more and the students connect with their peers all over the globe ,by means of an international code of communication: English!

DSCN8984

All in all, PBL taps ones imagination, conception, subject knowledge, application of subject and generalized knowledge, creativity, dexterity, planning, doing, and completing, and when the project is completed, one will have learned much one will never forget!

DSCN9642

Our ETwinning “Puppets” project: promoting peace and understanding!

 

I’ve always loved working with puppets, in our  English class!

mosa15taiwan2 (1024x768) (1024x768)

I strongly believe that, puppets play an important part in various aspects of a child’s development. The puppet provides the child with a kind of cover or disguise to hide behind: a timid child finds the courage to speak, to express his/her own emotions and to open his/her secrets to the puppet and through it to the audience. Thus the puppet helps the child to communicate much more spontaneously, avoiding stressed relations, especially with adults. The puppet is an authority selected by the child himself.

Through my experience in working with puppets, I believe in the magical power of the puppet in all kinds of communication with children, enlightening their talents and different forms of their creativity.

DSCN7003 (1024x768)

In our ETwinning project,this year, we decided to work with FLAT puppets, because, they were easy and cheap to travel in an envelope!

I also thought  that, flat puppets would be important in improving visual sensitivity and orientation in space , especially for my younger students (a translation of a drawing into movement in relation to another animated form).

The use of our ETwinning puppets, actually  resulted in a considerable contribution to a more humane and less stressed teaching environment and the socialization process, with our European peers. Moreover, puppets aroused my students’ imagination and creativity – the best dowry to a child for further development.

mos15puppetsguestsn3

Promoting Peace and understanding among kids living in different countries and experiencing different cultural backgrounds ,was also one of my main targets, this year!

Actually, promoting peace was a large part of Dr. Montessori’s career – one of her most famous quotes is “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education.” She thought it was extremely important in her day; today it may be more important than ever…in both Europe and the World!

mos79

 

To me, Peace doesn’t mean the absence of conflict. That would be an idealized world in which none of us live. Rather, it’s learning how to deal with conflict in a way that doesn’t put the rights, wants, or needs of one person over the other. It’s learning conflict resolution skills that stress respect for the individual and the group, in our class  and in today’s World.

Let me share some facts…:The European continent is culturally, economically and linguistically very varied and a survey carried out by the Council of Europe revealed an important diversity in the provision for the arts in schools throughout Europe.

mosa15puppetsmef18 (1024x768)

In the same study, it was found that arts education provision in these countries, in many cases, also shows an inconsistency with national policy statements. They strongly emphasize the importance of a cultural dimension in education and encourage artistic and aesthetic development in young people, while in reality the status of and provision for arts education appear less prominent. Moreover,  the emphasis on academic and technical education has a tendency to place the arts in the periphery of the curricula encouraging polarities between the arts and the sciences .

It was after I had read those facts when I thought..:Puppetry, is one such form of Art. I should use it to achieve my teaching goals in a fun and meaningful way.

DSCN9404

Peace education can vary by age; older Primary School children will naturally be able to get into the history of peace, understanding others  and conflict by studying different countries and cultures. In our project case, they could participate at a higher level by researching and writing about their lives, different cultures,sharing and comparing with their their European friends with the help of  their Puppets.

During our Puppets project, we emphasized respect for the diversity of traditions and customs found around the world and in our European house!

mosa2

Through the creation of several stories for the puppets theatre in class, students developed their artistic potential as a tool to explore the idea of tolerance and understanding of others.

After all, puppetry has been found to be an excellent tool for the teaching of multiculturalism to children.

First, I had to teach my young students, basic techniques used in creating live puppet theatre to be later able to  use puppetry to incorporate multiculturalism into practice.

mos77f

A few months later, as my little ones grew in understanding the feelings and needs of themselves and their European peers, their compassionate nature blossomed,too.

More, about this project:

The main goals of the project were  :
• to promote group activities  for tolerance and cultural understanding;
• to strengthen my students’ intercultural competences in order to be ready for responsible understanding of Europe’s identity and common values;
• to develop the European dimension through arts education (puppets) and creativity with the aim to promote multiculturalism and tolerance between students;
• To develop “Out-of-the-box” activities that would encourage mutual support, team building and group cohesion ;
• Encourage personalized learning approaches by acquiring new artistic and pedagogical skills with the aim of developing new ideas and creativity of the students involved in the project.

DSCN5716

This old time classic pen pals project, gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language and helped the students experience education in a different country through European citizenship ,using a new tool: twinspace! The project lasted for about a school year and we had to complete many individual items . We had to create common projects about: ourselves, our school, our country , our town ,our favourite sports and hobbies, our customs and special traditions, our most favourite place in our countries , our daily routine and habits and also ,exchange OURSELVES as… PUPPETS ! We “traveled” to another country as our school and country ambassadors, and experienced life in another class, far away from home, for one school year! Puppet-students, wrote on their twinspace diaries about their adventures. Our projects and letters were both sent to our friends by snail mail and uploaded on twinspace, to share and compare in a different class.

DSCN5391

This was a new and innovative partnership for my  school; It was the first time that we had participated in such an innovative an ETwinning project.Both group work and independent research was used  by pupils.

The innovation and creativity of the project is based on the following factors:

  • All partner  schools being inclusive of each other, working as one unit on each common project
  • That the children felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner school in mind and dare to share and compare
  • That the learning from the project was so significant that it will not be lost from children’s minds
  • The Puppet-Ambassadors, created by and for the students ,served as a  meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our partners.

DSCN5387

Before we started, the concept of Europe was not understood by most of the children, but now they are fully aware of the other  European  partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship has become a practical rather than theoretical part of the curriculum.

 The pupils were inspired and motivated. They had a great deal of fun working collaboratively .

Students had an opportunity to develop a sense of pride and respect toward other traditions. Our Puppet-Ambassadors, made Europe a more real concept, especially for those students who have never traveled abroad.

DSCN5724

The organisation and commitment of the students has been very impressive.

The children showed a great interest in exploring another country and its way of life, as well as demonstrating increased motivation in learning a foreign language. They were always eager to participate, found information themselves, drew pictures, made posters, presented the project to other classes.

mos73

As far as my school is concerned, I made sure that almost all our project activities were connected  to each of our English coursebook units. Luckily, our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our Etwinning project theme! Also, they are based on both creative  project work and group  collaboration which  was  highly helpful in our ETwinning project!

DSCN9516

I teach English to  ALL classes in my school! I therefore  made sure that, ALL my 135 students, in all ages and  language levels, took part in our  ETwinning project, something that  proved to be a real challenge!

All in all, a  puppet can be their friend or their classmate, their ETwinning  friend in our case… but at the same time is the child who moves the puppet. This is going to be the key thing while practicing another language and, if we use them correctly, they are one of the best resources that teachers can find and use in their foreign language classes.Not only to teach English but most importantly, LIFE AND SOCIAL SKILLS!

DSCN9514