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

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Working with Flat Puppet-Ambassadors

Maria, our flat puppet-ambassador in Spain

Maria, our flat puppet-ambassador in Spain

We have been working on a new etwinning project this year, called ” PupPETs- Pen Pals E-Twinned” , for which we had to create three  flat puppets ,  one for each  of our three European partners on the project. The puppets had to be flat and light to be enclosed in our parcels and be sent abroad! My students came up with several ideas but, when I inroduced them to the Flat Stanley idea, we all thought that… that was it!! That would be  the best idea for our etwinning project, too!

Athina, our flat puppet-ambassador in France!

Athina, our flat puppet-ambassador in France!

Athina's message to our pen pals, inside...

Athina’s message to our pen pals, inside…

In case you’ve never heard the story, Flat Stanley had a bulletin board fall on him.  He wasn’t hurt at all, but ended up quite flat.  Luckily for us, he was flat enough to put himself in an envelope and send himself anywhere he wants!

Children can make their own Flat Stanley, and send him to various places around the globe.  I’ve seen pictures of Flat Stanley near a variety of landmarks and with a variety of famous people.  In fact, I’ve even seen Flat Stanley with the US President and on the top of Eiffel Tower!

Ifegenia, our flat puppet-ambassador in Poland.

Ifegenia, our flat puppet-ambassador in Poland.

Our flat etwinned puppets , is indeed a great project.

First, we made a flat puppet in class, representing our country and later, sent it to our pen pals abroad along with our first  letters.

Students ,write little messages on their flat puppets.

Students ,write little messages on their flat puppets.

We chose names for them ,before we  sent them out. They are due back at school,  by June 1st, so we have  started sharing stories on twinspace , on our twinspace platform ” PupPETs-Pen Pals ETwinned”.
It has been  a great project, so far …. We’ve  got  pictures and notes from our puppet- ambassadors abroad, from a variety of places. They have  been fishing in a river in Poland,  playing in a school yeard in Spain, touring France , even exploring new European  towns !  We haven’t seen all the responses yet, as the project is still on  and I suspect there are a few more coming in.  (Rumor has it our flat puppets are have been having such fun that they are  running late for our June 1st deadline!)

Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!

Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!

I’ll be sure to post pictures of our project and twinspace  when all the Flat puppets adventures have been revealed.  (I seriously can’t wait to see the rest, there were some FAT packages!)

 Being the reflective person that I am, I’ve been wondering how I can make the project better for next year.
A student, telling  Orangito   about our hometown!

A student, reading Orangito some project work about our hometown!

I have been thinking about our next etwinning flat puppet-ambassadors project, already: I am going to ask my kids to create their OWN flat puppet each, with their face photo attached on its head and send it to their pen pal to keep till the end of the school year!

Students like to think that the flat puppets are..alive! They even  take them to their desks, to help them with group work!!

Students like to think that the flat puppets are..alive! They even take them to their desks, to help them with group work!!

 

Then, pen pals will have the chance to host their flat friends both in class and at home, take photos of their adventures in a new country, and both  upload them on twinspace  and send them to their pen friends by snail mail inside each class parcel. It will be loads of fun, I guess! Especially because, my students will be able to “travel” abroad , have adventures in a new country where it’s impossible for them to travel , especially under the financial circumstances in Greece!

Bolek, Lolek and Pingu, the 3 puppets from Poland, taking part in our Carnival games!

Bolek, Lolek and Pingu, the 3 puppets from Poland, taking part in our Carnival games!

Be sure to visit this website to learn more about what you can do with Flat Stanley!  You can even download your own Flat Stanley from it !

My 6th graders, talk to Orangito about our country!

My 6th graders, talk to Orangito about our country!

A touching Skype meeting with a school in Turkey

To start with, that  Skype meeting, is an example of how languages promote Peace and Friendship !

mos15skype10Teachers do not need to find notable people to benefit from using Skype. Simply connecting with another classroom provides an educational experience that cannot be found in a traditional classroom setting!
Skype meetings have been  the most powerful experiences for my  students , as Skype enables students to connect, collaborate, and communicate with other students across the globe.It creates an opportunity for students to learn from each other, to have authentic audiences for their work, and to meet others who can further their learning.

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Classroom-to-classroom Skype conferences have also proven useful in teaching english. Students are afforded the chance to practice speaking the language with other ELT  speakers.

We didn’t  have a laptop and wifi access at school, until two years ago!…We have taken part in several Skype meeting with partners abroad, since then.

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Generally, the one-on-one Skype video chats provided my students  with not only valuable grammar and pronunciation practice, but also improved the conversational skills, such as negotiating meaning, that are essential to excelling in a foreign language.

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A few months ago, me and my facebook friend and PLN member Nese Alkan, decided to have our students work on a language exchange project. We actually thought that, if we proved to our students ,how many words our languages share , they would realise how much we share as people, too. Politicians, never seemed to promote peace and friendship among our people, in both countries ! We are educators, and have a different role, of course!

My most favourite moments during our recent Skype meeting, with a private primary school in Instabul:

1. When we exchanged words in the Greek language of Turkish origin and Greek words in Turkish!It was touching when my students shouted the Greek equivalent – translation , each time the Turkish students read one of their Turkish words to us! Our students realised then that we have so much in common! That, language brings us closer! That actually, our languages prove how much we have in common and there is so much we share!

2.The moment when we sang them a Greek song about friendship and Peace and they danced to our music!

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3. The moment when they started singing an English song to us and we suddenly joined in singing all together and dancing at the same time!

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4. When we decided to add the words ” We are friends” on the map of both our countries . The sign was placed in the Aegean Sea, the sea which unites us and at the same time, seperates us!

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5. When students in both schools, used their hands and fingers to send LOVE to their friends across the screen!

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6. When the meeting ended and my students said ” Miss, they look just like us! They seem to be ….ordinary people!” Stereotypes were there at the beginning of our Skype meeting but seemed to vanish by the time it was over!

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An amazing language exchange project, with Taiwan

Spelling in Greek! How cool is that?? Language ambassadors in action...

Spelling in Greek! How cool is that?? Language ambassadors in action…

 

Alexiana , holding her flashcards!

My daughter Alexiana , holding her flashcards!

When an English speaker doesn’t understand something, he would say “It’s all Greek to me.” But have you ever wondered about the origin of that phrase? Why Greek? Why not, say, Urdu or Aramaic?

I have looked it up in  a dictionary and found out that, it comes from the latin phrase Graecum est, non legitur or Graecum est, non potest legi (It is Greek; it cannot be read). Medieval Latin scribes in monasteries would write that phrase if they had trouble translatin

The Alphabet flashcards

The Alphabet flashcards

 

The phrase probably entered modern English usage when William Shakespeare used it in his 1599 play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Here it is in Act 1 Scene 2:

Cassius: Did Cicero say any thing?
Casca: Ay, he spoke Greek.
Cassius: To what effect?
Casca: Nay, an I tell you that, I’ll ne’er look you i’ the face again: but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me. I could tell you more news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs off Caesar’s images, are put to silence. Fare you well. There was more foolery yet, if I could remember it.

Beautiful artwork!

Beautiful artwork!

In this context, an educated and wealthy aristocrat in the Roman Republic should be able to read and speak Greek. Casca, who speaks fluent Greek, is probably just playing dumb because he doesn’t want to repeat a remark that is unflattering to Caesar.

Obviously, when a Greek doesn’t understand something, he doesn’t say “It’s all Greek to Me.” Rather, he says, Αυτά μου φαίνονται κινέζικα, or “This strikes me as Chinese.”

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Chinese is rated as one of the most difficult languages to learn.The Kangxi dictionary contains 47,035 characters!!!

Well, this language exchange  was Annie’s idea ,with which I agreed at once !   Annie and me thought that, we could both try to….help  solve this misunderstanding!! Or just, try to help our students get more familiar with another alphabet or characters which might have seemed weird to them till then…therefore, promote multilingualism and multiculturalism! mosaic taiwan greek4

 

To start with, Annie came up with the idea of using  flashcards, for our language exchange project! I asked my  students to produce the flash cards for me. I gave each one an item to draw. I also asked them to make a second flashcard with the one letter of the Greek Alphabet and a third one with the word of the item they had drawn on their first card, in greek !They were all  later mounted on card to make the set. There were  3 different piles: one with the alphabet , 24 letters, one with the words only and a third one with the words in picture cards, both in Greek and English.

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We also, decided to send our partners in Taiwan ,one of the books teachers use to teach Greek  language to the first graders in all Greek schools..she was asked to  show it to her  students and tell them it was  our first graders greek language book!

Word flashcards

Word flashcards

My partner teacher in Taiwan, Annie Tsai did something similar: She asked her students to make flashcards of some basic/interesting Chinese characters and they ‘ve recorded a few simple greeting language video clips. They also created beautiful and very artistic picture  flashcards , and a sepearate pile of word flashcards for each one of the picture flashcards!The words on them, were written both in mandarin and english!

The activities we did in my class using the mandarin flashcards, were the following:

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Memory Activities

Memory Tester

I placed a selection of  word flash cards on the floor in a circle.

Students had five  minutes to memorise the cards.

In groups, they had two minutes to write as many of the names  they could  remember as possible , on the board.Too hard to do  for most of my students…but, working in teams, made it easier!

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Matching Game ( old time classic) 

I spreaded  all the cards ( both picture and word cards ) on the floor .  Students took  turns flipping two cards and calling out the cards that they flipped ( in english) .  If  it was  a pair then they kept  it and got  a point.  If they didn’t  call out the card then they couldn’t  keep it.

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TPR activities

Point or race to the flash cards

I stack  picture  flash cards around the class.

I showed  their word flashcard match    and students pointed  or raced  to the right picture card.

Again, we played this game, in teams.

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Bring me 

I placed a selection of  picture cards and word on the floor  at the far end of the class. Students stood  behind a line at the other end. I shouted, ‘Bring me a shirt- one of the  flashcards words, which was both written in English and in Mandarin!’ The first student who handed  in both the word and the picture shirt flashcards,  won  the cards.

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Search Game

I gave all students a word card. Then, I hid  the picture cards around the classroom, on things, under things, and in things.  I had the students look around the room for one or two minutes to find the word card that matched their picture card! I awarded stickers to all students who finally managed to do so. I made sure, the fastest students got bigger stickers…

This is what our friends sent us as their language delegates! Cute!

This is what our friends sent us as their language delegates! Cute!

Spelling activities

Spelling Game

That was the last activity we did, on day two. I asked the students to take one pair of flashcards ( word card and its matching picture card ) at home.

They had to try to learn the mandarin spelling of that word and recall it, the very next day we had a lesson. In turns, students had to come to the board and try to write that word in mandarin without looking at their flashcards!

That was a team game , too! They got so excited that they asked me to play it , again and again…! Teams , were awared points and both winners and…not winners,  special stickers!

Amazing delegates! My students, took them home! They were so excited!

Amazing delegates! My students, took them home! They were so excited!

Checking spelling...

Checking spelling…

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The Search Game

The Matching Game..

The Matching Game..

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The Matching Game..

 

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The Matching Game..

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The Point or race to the flash cards game

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The Point or race to the flash cards game

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Spelling Game

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Spelling Game

Happy his spelling was right!

Happy his spelling was right!

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Spelling Game

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The Matching Game

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The Bring me game

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Spelling Game

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The Memory Tester game

 

Now, I’d like you to have a look at some of the photos from Annie’s class which show   similar activities she did with her students, using our own  flashcards!   These photos say it all…I’ll ask Annie to comment on them later….

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Our flashcards in Annie’s class! Soime of them are placed upside down!! They were as familiar with our alphabet as we were with their mandarin characters!..

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Our partners’ first effort to put our letters flashcards in alphabetical order!

They sent us these photos to help them solve the...mystery concerning these particular letters which seemed confusing to them!

They sent us these photos to help them solve the…mystery concerning these particular letters which seemed confusing to them!

Their effort to spell in Greek! This is touching, isn't it?

Their effort to spell in Greek! This is touching, isn’t it?

One more photo where they seem to say " It's all greek to us"!! haha

One more photo where they seem to say ” It’s all greek to us”!! haha

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Our Greek Language book, in Taiwan!

One of Annie's students flashcard! Amazing !

One of Annie’s students flashcard! Amazing !

A gift spinner- which I later used in my class to teach feelings- and some of the delegates which Annie sent to my students!

A gift spinner- which I later used in my class to teach feelings- and some of the delegates which Annie sent to my students!

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A recipe book project

 

Our Greek Recipe Book cover page

Our Greek Recipe Book cover page

This amazing project, was one of the projects we did in collaboration with our French partners last school year, on etwinning.  ( http://desktop.etwinning.net/index.cfm )

The project background

Students research the recipes of typical food dishes in their countries as well as the origin of the ingredients and recipes

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Teacher Goals

  • To promote cultural development/respect among the students
  • To tie in the Social Studies curriculum
  • To promote appreciation of the students ethnic backgrounds
  • To have a cultural celebration

Students Goals

  • To appreciate their own background
  • To learn other cultural backgrounds .To learn the historic perspective of their cultures
  • To develop a Cultural Recipe Book
One of the recipes- handwritten

One of the recipes- handwritten

Class motivation

It was very easy for me to motivate my students for this project. I told them that I would like to have them  create a class Cultural Recipe Book in order  to be sent to France.At the end of the project our partners  would have a  greek food celebration or a picnic. Unfortunately, our school closed early and we didn’t have the chance to do the same!

Most of the recipes were handwritten because, we don't have a computer lab at school!!

Most of the recipes were handwritten because, we don’t have a computer lab at school!!

Background knowledge

  • Students used family members at home as primary resources of information.
  • Students were asked to browse the internet for information.

Preparation

First,  I introduced the project. I needed to know if that  class ( 6th graders)  would be willing to cooperate with me. They were excited and ready to start working.

A parent letter was generated and sent home informing them that their child is participating in this class project. The letter asked for their support with student online help, recipe ingredients  etc.

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Greek Easter Cookies

I also asked volunteers to create our Recipe Book Cover page and had a competition in class for the best cover! Students, had to vote for their favourite Recipe Book Cover.

Students were  responsible for gathering information on their own time.

After they had received their partners’ recipe book some time later,  a discussion followed in class about the  culturally similarity we share. Although they or their family is from different countries  we all have something in common.

On of the candidate Book Covers

On of the candidate Book Covers

 

How to we tie it into curriculum standards?

This project ties in with the English Language Standards. Students are reading, writing, listening and speaking for information. Understanding, writing ,  and social interaction are also involved.

This project lends itself  into the Social Studies curriculum, geographical and historic aspects, too.

How do we get students interested in the topic?

I  think this project is self motivating.  When it comes to talking about yourself and where you are from and then combining it with peoples all time favorite-food, it just works! The students are naturally interested and enthused about the project.

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The lack of Tech at school , is not a problem at all for my students since, when there is a will , there is a way!

Basic skills before starting the project

The students need to know how to access the internet. (Most of them  do know how.)
The students  need to know how to write-up a recipe including the ingredients and step-by-step directions.( I have to teach them basic vocabulary and expressions )

How are the students organized

The students work and present information individually. Everyone is equally responsible for collecting and gathering their information. As long as the students participate in this assignment, I accept what they hand in.

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The final stage

I  asked   the students to creatively and attractively create their own recipe page for the book. (I  binded all of the pages together once each one had handed in his/her page.)  I finally, uploaded all their work on twinspace using http://issuu.com/

Students in both countries, commented and discussed each other’s work. Both me and my partner teacher Carolyn, wanted  students to share what they’ve learned about each other’s culture.

Our class “Cultural Recipe Book” is  kept on display in our english class bookcase, as well!

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Three of the candidate Covers on display…

Some thoughts about our first school Skype meeting ever….

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4 different teachers ,in 4 different schools and countries with a total of more than 350 students , took part in our Skype meeting!

Skype gives students and teachers the ability to connect with the outside world without leaving the classroom, allowing them to meet face-to-face with the subjects of their learning or with students from other cultures. Simply connecting with another classroom provides an educational experience !

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Our Olympic sports project, on the…other side!

“This has to be one of the most powerful experiences for students as Skype enables students to connect, collaborate, and communicate with other students across the globe,” writes education expert Angela Maiers. “It creates an opportunity for students to learn from each other, to have authentic audiences for their work, and to meet others who can further their learning.”

 

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So happy to be able to see our pen pals abroad for the first time!

My most favourite moments during our Skype meetings with 4 partner schools  in Europe: 1.When we greeted our french pen pals in french, and they replied in…greek!! 2. When we sang to all our pen friends beautiful greek songs by the famous greek music composer Mikis Theodorakis – lyrics by George Seferis, one of the most important greek poets and a Nobel laureate! 3. Every time, we all danced or sang together to the same music!

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Pen friends , interviewed each other asking all different kinds of questions!!

4. When we saw our letters and projects, on the…other side, in our pen pals’  hands!! And we showed them theirs… 5. The fact that, we had the chance, in each new meeting ,to share a lesson with another class – about 100 students each time TOGETHER !! PRECIOUS! By the way, it is now that I realise, how important our new laptop has been for my school! A school , with practically no prior access to the internet for its students(!!) , until this school year, thanks to our school bazaar money!

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We sang traditional greek songs to our friends!

Another favourite moment during the two days Skype meeting with 4 different teachers ,in 4 different schools and countries with a total of more than 350 students involved (!!!) : when one of our pen pals in Poland, asked to talk to her friend in Greece but, she soon realised that…her pen pal had gone to Germany with her family to settle and find jobs due to the terrible greek financial crisis!! It was a sad moment for me because , I hate it when my students HAVE to live abroad, leaving friends and family behind, bacause of unemployment!….This country, deserves better!

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Marta, our partner teacher in Burgos , Spain.

 

So, what would be advantages of using skype in class with students:
– use English in real time
– culture sharing
– engagament in the learning process
– self confidence – enthusiasm
– introduction of webtools-not really in my school, where there is not a computers lab.
– understand timezones (correlation with other subjects)

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Our pen pals in Poland, dancing to our greek music!

Are there any disadvantages, well YES:
– difference in timezones
– problems with technology

But, if there is a will there is a way, right?

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Singing all together!

 

Class Letter Box

Writing , is really important in my classes! Writing for a purpose and addressing real people, writing for a reason, has always been crucial in my teaching!

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In my classroom, there is always a letter box, where,  students ,during the week, can drop a letter to me or their classmates. They are asked to write in english only, and everybody who receives a letter should reply ! We open the letter box and deliver mail, every last lesson of the week !

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They look  so much forward to it!

I always make sure, I have a glance at each letter before I hand it to the recipient, just to make sure it’s written in english and/or doesn’t contain any …bad language or insulting comments!

The letter box is what  I also use the very first day in class,to drop my students my first letter , writing about how excited I am to be with them , my expectations, hopes, wishes and comments!

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The students, are asked to reply , writing about  their goals , asking  me about anything they want to know, or just share their feelings! They are told that, every letter will be answered and no letter will be read in public- of course..! I want them to be free to share anything that troubles or excites  them!

It’s surprising that, most of them, feel the need to share even personal stuff, fears, anxieties and  even ask for advice about problems and concerns they might face!

My reply letters are  short, encouraging and really positively inspired!

They are always so excited when the post box opens!

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This is where they find their foreign pen friends  letters, too! The one above, comes from Taiwan !

They  even use the letter box , to drop the special  note they are asked to  complete at the end of each lesson , on a volunteer basis,about what they have  learned, a question they still have or something that is still not clear to them after the lesson and needs to be explained  ..

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This is great feedback for me! I always answer  all  notes  I receive!

Build your students'self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Build your students’self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Pen pals

Here's a third graders' introductory letter to our partners in Taiwan: Our Doves of Peace!

Here’s a third graders’ introductory letter to our partners in Taiwan: Our Doves of Peace!

It has been more than 20 years now that I make sure ,  all my students have pen friends! I have practically collaborated with schools and colleagues all over the world!!

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The only continent we haven’t had a partner from yet, is Australia! ….One of the main reasons, I have been working with snail mail is of course….THE LACK of Tech in my school!! Believe it or not, there is only ONE PC in our school inside the headmaster’s office…

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The second reason though, is the fact that, …old-fashioned letter and projects exchanges , have  always seemed fascinating to me!

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I had my first pen friend , when I was 10!! We have been friends since then!! Her name is Julie Barbee! She lives in North Carolina with her wonderful family! She has become a primary school teacher and we  had our students exchange letters some years ago, too!!

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When she got married, I sent her a card and a present , when I gave birth to my babies, she cared to send me a little present , we exchange Christmas cards every year and we have become  friends on Facebook ,too!!

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I wanted my students to have the same experience and I managed to do so, even when I used to work in remote villages, I didn’t have a car and had to carry the parcels to the post office, on foot!

Today, it’s not just letters…it’s PROJECTS exchange! And we enjoy it all the same!

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Parcels, ready to be sent…

 

What we practically do is that, we send our pen friends all our group projects, on a topic we have already worked on in class and we ask them to reply by sending us the same topic based project! The first topic with my 4th graders this year is going to be “My country” and we are sending it to their new friends in Brasil!The projects we send, can be in the form of posters, flyers, magazines, newspapers, albums etc….Arts and craft work is really important on our project work ! The kids feel the need to personilize them even more and they ask the permission to include little gifts having to do with themselves or the project topic, too….I put all our partners projects and photos up  on our classroom walls! They are so proud to show everybody at school, who their new pen pal is….

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Part  of the work which has been sent to us so far, has been simply amazing and some of the colleagues I have collaborated with are just awesome! An example is Annie Tsai from Taiwan who is a very talented teacher and  a member of my PLN! I feel really blessed to be working with her…!

I wish I had Skype, too…I might be able to bring my own laptop and have a Skype session this year in class…I might also , take part in an etwinning.com project ! ( note: a year later, 2014 and our etwinning project ” Pen Pals etwinned” has been the most precious experience my students have had so far and I am thankful for that!)

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To be honest with you, I have been thinking about the fact that, for almost 20 years, I have been actually…..etwinning but not OFFICIALLY with countries all over the GLOBE!

Excitement is the key word here…As they enter the room, I wave the big envelope in the air. They know what it is, and the room comes alive !They can barely wait until I open the envelope and pass out the contents. Their pen pal letters have arrived!

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There is nothing like a letter. No form of technology-based communication produces the excitement on my students’ faces like the arrival of a letter from their pen pal.

A Skype meeting, is the best way to get to know our pen pals better!

A Skype meeting, is the best way to get to know our pen pals better!

Pen pal letters provide the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Whether the class you connect with is in another greek school or another country, it serves the same purpose. It gives your students a chance to see a world outside of their walls. My classes have connected with other classes as close as Turkey and Italy  and as far away as Taiwan!

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My students know that not only is someone actually going to read their letter, but also respond to it. This encourages students to write with meaning, to write with a sense of purpose. As the year progresses, there is always a vast improvement in their writing.

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I always require my students to begin with a first letter of introduction. They write at least two paragraphs, one talking about themselves, and the other asking any questions they may have for their pen pal.

It’s always a good idea to read the letters that are sent to your students. My students are made aware of the type of conversations they are allowed to have, and I always read their letters. They do not write their last name and may not disclose personal information.

Pen pal letters provide the opportunity to break down classroom walls.

Pen pal letters provide the opportunity to break down classroom walls.

They are so proud to show everybody at school, who their new pen pal is....

They are so proud to show everybody at school, who their new pen pal is….

Today, it's not just letters...it's PROJECTS exchange! And we enjoy it all the same!

Today, it’s not just letters…it’s PROJECTS exchange! And we enjoy it all the same!

Excitement is the key word here.

Excitement is the key word here.

They can barely wait until I open the envelope and pass out the contents.

They can barely wait until I open the envelope and pass out the contents.

This encourages students to write with meaning, to write with a sense of purpose

This encourages students to write with meaning, to write with a sense of purpose

Pen pal letters may be a thing of the past to many people, but they will continue to be a part of my classroom’s future!

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!!

Meet IRENE- PEACE in greek-...our handmade puppet ! She travelled all the way from Greece to Taiwan to help our pen friends know us better and help us find out more about them!

Meet IRENE- PEACE in greek-…our handmade puppet ! She travelled all the way from Greece to Taiwan to help our pen friends know us better and help us find out more about them!