“PuppETs-European Travelers”: an amazing ETwinning project!

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 Arts and crafts and a new tool: twinspace!

The project lasted  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 ,create our pen pals as PUPPETS , reading their appearance descriptions and looking at their self-portraits ! We lived in 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 and collaboratively wrote and put on stage, a puppet play about their experience! 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.

Pedagogical Innovation and Creativity 

This was a new and innovative partnership for my school; It was the first time the students participated in such an innovative 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:

1.The willingness of the teachers involved to communicate easily – via phone, email, sms

2.All partner  schools being inclusive of each other, working as one unit on each common project

3.That the children felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner school in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to create their puppet pals and write/stage their puppet plays.

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

5.The student-Puppet-Ambassadors, created by and for the students ,served as a  meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our friends.

6.Our student-Puppets project, provided the opportunity to break down classroom walls. It gave our students a chance, to see a world outside of their walls.Students,  became fully aware of the other European partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship became a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

7.Our ETwinning project, encouraged cooperation between teachers and unified learning. It also offered us the chance to collaborate with the local Puppet Theatre and museum,which was highly beneficial for all of us.

The scope of learning widened from English skills to several other subjects. The idea of being   partners in a European project, encouraged the pupils to find out more about different European countries, their nature, art, food and ways  of living. In the context of European partnerships,our work  provided in the shared learning environment were not only learning material, but were a meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our partners.

  1. In this sense, the true revelation has been that apart from climate and language, people in Europe are essentially very similar with shared values and interests. Surely, this  helped us to overcome our prejudices and made us more open to intercultural cooperation.

Curricular integration 

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 my  pupils  benefited.  Our  project involved MFL, language, social studies, expressive arts and basic technology.

We held a European Day of Languages to get the rest of the school know our European friends better. We also had “Puppet Theatre” days, when our student-puppet-guests, presented their projects about their country and way of life, to us! It was exciting to lend them our voices and have them “talk” to us-we could also ask them questions! We later,uploaded all the photos  on our Twinspace “Puppet Diaries”, where everyone could make comments or just read, share and compare ideas, thoughts and feelings.Finally, we were invited to take part in a local Puppet Theatre Festival, where we had the chance to present our play to the local community!

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. 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!

I  made sure that, ALL my 85  students, in different age and  language level, took part in our  Etwinning project, a fact  that  proved to be a real challenge!

Finally, our student-puppet-guests, are going to spend their Summer holidays  in our partner countries, write a Summer Diary entry about their Summer adventures and come back home in Autumn, to share it with us.

Communication and exchange between partner schools 

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

What we practically did  ,was  that, we sent our pen friends all our group projects, on a topic we had already worked on in class and we asked them to reply ,by sending us the same topic based project! The projects we sent, were  in the form of posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, PP presentations, albums , videos, etc….In class, we talked about the similarities and differences of cultures and ways of life !

The students’ very first project was their self-portraits and appearance descriptions, which were used to help their  pals create their puppet-selves!

Arts and craft played an important role in n our project work !

If the kids felt  the need to personalize their work  even more, they were  free to include little gifts having to do with themselves or the project topic, … I always printed  lots of pictures and displayed  them on our school  notice boards.Students were also encouraged to interact on  twinspace ,both at the school ICT lab and from home. This all gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language.

In these difficult times of financial crisis , our students were able to live abroad, as 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.

The most important tool of the project , was our Twinspace Forums Puppet Diaries: by visiting the Puppet Diaries on a regular basis,  the children via their puppets, became ambassadors of our school and country! The pupils shared information and experiences, and thus learned from each other and strengthened their communication skills. They were also encouraged to interact on twinspace Discussion Forums, where they had to answer simple questions about themselves and our projects, as well as to read and make comments on their partners’ replies.

Collaboration between partner schools. 

In collaboration the teachers in all countries, decided on the range of topics that we would cover and the optimum time for 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 all had to make our partner’s Puppet-Self! In other words, create a puppet-pal ,with similar characteristics with our pen pal, to host in our class and country,for the whole school year!

Our puppets, would travel, play and learn, with their pen pals, in another country and class,experiencing a different way of life.

We created  our Puppet-Ambassadors Diaries on Forums , which we often updated, with the help of our puppets.

We uploaded   videos about our area ,as well as videos about our schools and puppet plays.

We also agreed on the letters and projects which would be implemented by our pupils and agreed on  wall display of correspondence received from partner schools .

We made  questionnaires, and quizzes about our common projects to see how much we had learned, about each other.

We finally, decided to have our students host our guest Puppets during the summer and write on the Puppets’ Summer Diaries which would later be sent , along with the puppets, back home!

We all agreed that, all  students’  final products -our projects,  would be achieved through group work ! No group  project was sent abroad, before it was presented in class ,with the help of our student-puppet-friends and was later displayed on the classroom walls and ,finally, uploaded on Twinspace Pages.

Use of technology 

Some of the partner schools ,had not  used most of the  web tools we had to use for this project,  before .

I had small  groups of my students, use Photoshop to enhance and crop photos and then put them into Movie Maker to produce a school video  to be posted on Twinspace for other schools to view and had them to create  a Quiz about our town. We also used Kizoa to make short videos, padlet to work on our Puppet play script, collaboratively, and a Word Cloud Generator,for feedback.

I have consulted and collaborated with partner teachers using Skype and a webcam. Outcomes and project work were saved on Twinspace ,allowing uploaded materials and presentations to be compared and contrasted easily across all partner  countries.My students, were asked to interact with their pen friends on twinspace ,using their home computers, too !   Video-conferencing, using new webcams, were all new experiences for us .Our project brought a new and exciting dimension to our work.

Actually, the ability to use ICT is becoming more and more vital in today’s modern information society. However, ICT skills are still acquired mainly outside public educational institutes, in my country.

Actually, communicating with real people from other countries appeared to motivate the learners in a very special way, also in the use of basic ICT tools, mainly with our ICT teacher’s guidance.

Through ETwinning pupils learn to use ICT tools in a pedagogically meaningful way.

They wrote letters in the forums, chatted, 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

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.

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 and last, but not least, create their own puppets and write their own Puppet play!

The group  work of my students was collected, and ultimately, shared with our partners. Writing and illustrating personal responses gave students the opportunity to boost their art and creative writing skills. Reading the personal responses of their European  partners, gave students greater insight into their partners’ context and worldview.

The project also brought the class together, as the pupils were working as a team. Through these activities the children also became ambassadors for the school and country .

The pupils  learnt from each other and strengthened  their communication skills.

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 (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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project work in our English class

 

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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”!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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….

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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.

 

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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!

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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!

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Teachers4Europe project, 2014/2015

The books we used during the project

The books we used during the project

A few months ago, I decided to take part in an amazing European project called ” Teachers4Europe”. That project, was the best follow-up of the British Council project ” Life Skills” , which I had finished just a week before.

One of the activities , was actually about tolerance , acceptance and respect which  proved valuable when we decided to start working on this  new european project.

Τhe project idea,  presupposes the acceptance of certain values without which Europe cannot exist. These core values are Respect for Human Dignity, Equality and Respect for Human Rights, which, along with Democracy, Freedom and the Rule of Law, are the founding values of the European Union. The main goal of our  project was to help students enrich their knowledge about Europe in general and especially about the basic principles that permeate the family of countries which constitute the European Union. Another aim was to sensitize them to the notions of collaboration and supporting one another through group work, as these notions are also part of the essential European ideals that lie in the core of the Union itself. The project methodology was based on cross-curricular, experiential, cooperative, communicative and learning-through-playing approaches. By the end of the project the students had acquired a significant amount of knowledge as to how the European Union works. They developed an understanding of the basic values that bound the European countries together and the significant role they play in our lives. They understood the importance of notions such as “acceptance”, “collaboration”, “respect” and “equal opportunities for everyone”.

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For more information about Teachers4Europe:

http://www.teachers4europe.gr/newsite/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=9 )

( teachers4Europe” http://www.teachers4europe.gr/newsite/ )

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The project lasted about two months .

I decided to name it ” Our European House” . Actually, that was the name of one of the project activities, as well.

I wanted to emphasize the fact that, all Europeans live under the same ” roof” ! We are  European citizens , a characteristic which unites us all !

The class project activities ,were the following:

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Warming-up activities

 

We spent about a week, playing team games , in order to get to know Europe better! We used the books ” Let’s discover Europe” and ” The European passport” as well as a map of Europe , to find information since, we don’t have a computer lab at school!

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We played a guessing game about European monuments and  did a quiz on European flags and capital cities.

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ACTIVITY 1

 

“ The story of a 50 Euros banknote”

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Creative writing: a 50 E banknote travels from hand to hand and from country to country , around Europe

  1. Work on the myth: “ Europe’s kidnapping by Zeus”

Description of the tool

We work in 4 teams, 4-6 students each.

Two teams work on the first topic while the other two work on the second one.

The first two teams, write their own story using creative writing tools. The other two teams , receive a worksheet with the myth of  “ Europe’s kidnapping by Zeus”  and are asked to write their own short play about it!

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Alternatively,  a representative of each team, picks up a card

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with a word having to do with one form  of Art on it ( theatre, music, dancing, literature-poetry) and the team is asked to  compose a unique work of art either on the story of a 50 E note or on the myth of Europe and Zeus .

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God Eros! lol!

God Eros! lol!

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Later, they have to present their work , in class. There are four teams working on four different works of Art.

We give plenty of time both for the writing  and for the rehearsals.

A discussion follows about the whole experience, in class.

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ACTIVITY 2

What is Europe for me? Our European house.

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Getting to know one another and coming close to the topic of Europe

Description of the tool.

Preparation

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A topic is presented to the group through a question and/or a heading e.g.: “My house of Europe – what is Europe for me?”.

(Further variations: “My picture of Europe”, “I find this exciting about Europe?”, “I would like a Europe like this….” … )

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What is Europe for you? A brainstorming group activity.

Procedure

Small groups of 4-7 participants are divided between several rooms so as not to disturb each other. Each group gets a large sheet of paper and draws on it their outline of ‘A European House’ with foundations, a roof and as many rooms as there are participants in the small group. They can decide on the architecture of the house. In this way their drawing of the house (crooked or futuristic, strong etc) can also represent their ideas on Europe. Additional ‘extensions to the house’, as well as the environment the house stands in or the ‘surrounding weather conditions’ (sunny, stormy etc) can with other associations be integrated into the picture.

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In one of the rooms the participants write down their personal associations and answers to the question ‘What is Europe for me?’ and then exchange opinions on these statements. The second stage is the group filtering out things they have in common. These things form the foundations. The roof is filled with the group’s shared visions for the future of Europe. The game leaders should make it clear that the small group must reach a consensus concerning the foundations and the visions for the future (30 – 45 mins).

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Evaluation

The small groups present their ‘European House’ to the larger group and hang up their poster in the group room (30 mins). To conclude common factors and differences between the group posters should be discussed (15 mins).

The participants should recognise that the European Union grew out of a long line of ‘events’ and that this process has not finished; important events in this process should be found out and their chronological order.

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Orangito, a flat puppet ambassador from our pen pals in Spain, took part in the project, as well!

 

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We decided to build a 3D European house in class, as well!! We loved every minute doing so!

 

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ACTIVITY 3

Story on a long line.

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Description of the tool.

Preparation and procedure: select event and picture cards (possibly, look for picture cards at http://europa.eu.int/comm/mediatheque/photo). Form small groups of max. 6 people. The small groups each receive a set of event and picture cards as well as the corresponding dates, additional washing line and pegs and possibly glue.

The small groups should match the dates with the event and picture cards and then put them in the correct order attaching them to their washing line or prepared pinboards.

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The washing lines or pinboards stay in the classroom.

Evaluation: The ‘story on a long line’ (time line) is designed as an introductory unit. The correct chronology is discussed and the results of the small groups’ work then correspondingly altered. The results will then subsequently be discussed and the participants’ questions addressed

Variations: The method can serve as a targeted introduction to a specific topic. The selection of event and picture cards should correspond accordingly

Event and date cards examples :

The beginning of the strike at the Lenin docks in Danzig

Greece joins the EC

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Spain and Portugal join the EC

Turkey applies to join the EC

The fall of the Berlin Wall

The treaty of Maastricht comes into force

Austria, Sweden, and Finland join the EU

The treaty of Amsterdam comes into force

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The EU and Morocco sign an association agreement

The beginning of economic and monetary union

Turkey gains the status of a pre-accession candidate

The Charta of basic rights is accepted

The treaty of Nice is agreed

The € is introduced as cash in 12 countries

The European Convention begins with its conferences

The draft constitution is presented

 

ACTIVITY 4

Name that european tradition.

 

Exercise that allows participants to reflect on European traditions in a fun way.

Aims of the tool

Reflect on which traditions/people we identify as “European”

Description of the tool.

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The player has one minute to take a paper and explain to his partners what is on the paper without saying the word.

Participants take 3 slips of paper. On each paper they write a name of a person (historical or present) or something that they perceive as typical European. All things written down should be known by most European people.

  1. All papers are put in a hat.
  2. Participants are divided in pairs and sit in a circle whereby the members of the pair sit opposite of each other.
  3. The game has 3 rounds

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  1. FIRST ROUND: The hat starts with one person. This person has one minute to take a paper and explain to his partner what is on the paper without saying the word. If his partner finds the correct answer the first person of the pair can take a new paper. S/he can continue until the minute is over. Then the person on the left has the chance. We continue until there are no more papers. In the end of the round the points are counted (1 point per guessed answer)
The hat

The hat

  1. SECOND ROUND: same as round 1 but you cannot speak only mimic the issues. The points of this round are added to the first round
  2. THIRD ROUND: same as round 1 but you can use only 1 word to describe it. The points of this round are counted to the other rounds

 

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After the exercise the facilitators make a small debriefing:

– Why did you pick the following issues related to Europe

– What determines why something is European

– Where do you make the border of Europe

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ACTIVITY 5

THE STORYBOOK

First, we read the book " The Stars of Europe"

First, we read the book ” The Stars of Europe”

 

Description of the tool.

Creative writing: The students are given a several pictures that come from the book “ The Stars of Europe” – “Τ’ Αστέρια της Ευρώπης” .

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They first read the book story and later decide about how they can adapt it or completely change it using any of the pictures given in any order they wish, to write their own stories about Europe.

Students work in groups of 4-5 .

Highly engaged teams of students, working on their comic strips stories!

Highly engaged teams of students, working on their comic strips stories!

 

Their story pages are put together and form their own creative writing storybook. They decide about the cover and about how to colour or decorate it inside.

Finally, all the storybooks are read by all different teams of students, in turns. The teams decide about which story liked best and why. A discussion about both stories and Europe follows.

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A few days later, the Eurobooks were almost ready! My students amazed me, by asking me to let them work on their stories ,during all the breaks!! They were so excited and enganged!

I am really  thankful for the chance I have been given ,  to be a “Teacher4Europe” !

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Looking forward to more such creative and engaging projects, in the near future!

 

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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…

Working on picture books

Collaboration in writing

Collaboration in writing

Most teachers tend to think that, writing is better done for  homework individually…I don’t!

When writing is done in class,  as a collaborative activity, it can have many of the same benefits of a group speaking activity:

Discussing the writing process obviously provides more opportunities for learners to interact in English, a benefit in itself.

Collaborative writing can also be a lot of fun! Especially, when it is related to pictures!

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To start with, have students draw their own pictures or bring in photos. Or, you can provide pictures for them from books,  magazines, the internet and other sources.

Jigsaw writing   is a way of structuring collaborative writing, so that the process is clearly defined. This works well with picture stories or cartoon strips. I put students into small groups and read them a book story showing them the pictures at the same time….Then, I hand each group, photocopies of the book story and ask them  to write a paragraph- or simple sentences, for my junior students- describing what is happening or happened in their picture(s).

Putting the pictures in the right order to create their story book

Putting the pictures in the right order to create their story book

Then, I  regroup the students into larger groups so that there is someone in each group who has written about each of the pictures, and ask them to decide on the correct order of the pictures and make any changes necessary to turn their paragraphs- sentences, into a coherent whole. Students can then read and compare the different versions of the story!

An artistic touch...

An artistic touch…

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Each student, makes his book look unique!

Another idea is, to throw all the book  pictures or any other pictures available…. up  in the air(!) , and when all the pictures land on the floor, ask the groups of  students to collect any pictures they like more, decide on the order they wish the pictures to be and finally, collaboratively write sentences for each one of the pictures and make a new story!

Finally, they can be  asked  to share their stories with the other groups of story writers and make comments.

We can use pictures from books

We can use pictures from books

In the next lesson, they can then put the pictures  together to make their own small book. Ask them to colour it, and give it a name, too …. This is a great motivator for the students. They will enjoy reading their books and will be looking  forward to writing more. You could also let them take their books home to share their stories, and new writing skills, with their families.

One of our picture books covers

One of our picture books covers

 

With older students, one really fun  activity is  the following:  give students a short amount of time to draw an abstract picture (this works better if you have some crayons or markers ready to go). Tape all the pictures to the wall. Students then have to write a short paragraph giving the picture a title and describing what they think is happening in the picture. The fun comes after all of the paragraphs have been written. Students then try and link up which paragraph matches which picture. This usually results in a lot of mismatches and quite a bit of laughter. If there’s time left, it can also lead into a good conversation about modern art in general. I usually, ask the groups of students, to take their  pictures back   and write a  ….science fiction story book ,using all of their pictures in any order they prefer and share with the class

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I like having a group of different level students composing a story together. It can be so useful, efficient and rewarding. Useful for everyone: weaker students have their peers helping them in a non threatening environment. They have time, they dare to ask for more explanation, they won’t shy away when something’s not clear. The stronger students can only solidify their knowledge! It’s efficient because instead of one teacher dragging along 15 students, then correcting 15 different stories, what we get is a cluster of groups working on their own and producing one hopefully well-polished writing in the end!

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Younger students, are asked to write only one or two sentences for each picture.

And it’s rewarding – classroom time has been used efficiently and there is an end product everyone has contributed to.

I think collaborative writing using pictures, can be a really good way of getting students to write ‘by stealth’ but you do have to be careful that it doesn’t just end up with the stronger writers doing all the work…

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There are many more  activities that can be used which give children a realistic reason to write. Whatever activity we choose to use should be one that is motivating and that taps into your students’ interests.

P.S. 
I have recently been introduced to Storybird. It looks fantastic, although I haven’t had much chance to explore it yet. It has beautiful artwork that you can use to make stories. If anyone has used it in class I would love to hear of your experience!

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Valentine’s day class games

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During my 20-year teaching career, I have learned that when you work hard to create a community of learners, behavior problems go down and the level of student engagement goes up. Teamwork is a large part of the academic and professional world.  So learning to communicate and befriend others is an important skill for children to learn.

I spend a large amount of time at the beginning of the school year incorporating community-building activities and strategies into my class.

I continue to revisit and build upon activities and strategies that strengthen student relationships in the classroom.

Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate friendships and to revisit the importance of working together in the classroom. Take a look at some of the activities I incorporate into my classroom on this day of love and friendship.

What makes a friend?

I  have my  students brainstorm what they think makes a good friend.  After this  discussion, I  present them with several different scenarios and have them identify which is an act of a friend and which is not.

Friendship From the Heart

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This activity should be completed after you have discussed the characteristics of a friend. Give each of your students a small heart with the name of a classmate on it.  Have each student write one adjective that describes that classmate on the heart.  Glue each student’s small heart to the large heart in the classroom.  Hang it in the classroom so students can remember the qualities of a good friend.

Who’s Your Friend?

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By this time in the school year, your students are well aware of the names of their classmates. But can they recognize their voices?  This fun game tests that ability. To play this game, select one student to be “it.” This child should sit with his eyes closed in front of the other students. Select a student to walk up behind him and say, “I’m your friend,” in a regular voice. After the second student returns to his seat, the student who is “it” must guess who it was.

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I do this activity with my younger students but it’s fun to do with all !

Can You Mend My Broken Heart?

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Cooperative learning activities promote friendship and teamwork in the classroom.  Divide your class into small groups of four to five students.  Give each group the pieces of a broken heart (made from  paper).  Each group must work together to mend their broken heart before time runs out. The first group to repair their heart wins the game!

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Class Buddies

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Give each of your students one half of a broken heart cut in different ways. Instruct the students to move around until they find the classmate with the matching heart.  Once all the students have found their partners, explain that for the day, they will work and play with their partner.  Encourage students to learn at least two new things about their partner and share it during closing circle.

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 Valentine Guess-who 

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Each child makes a panel for this write-and-read valentine banner. Make  aclass set of a heart  banner template as shown in the photos . Give each child a secret valentine. Have children write the name of their secret valentine at the top of the banner pattern. Have them fill in a clue about themselves.  Guide children in following  directions.

Cut the secret flap door on the dotted lines and fold it back.Glue a piece of light-colored construction paper on the back of the heart so that it covers the opening of the door.Draw a picture of yourself and write your name on the construction paper.Close the door and decorate it with bits of paper, ribbon, doilies, foil, and othercraft materials.Cut out the heart. Glue it to a sheet of construction paper and decorate.

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Have children put their completed panels together to make a banner by taping them side to side. Display on a wall or in the hallway. Let children find their names on the banner, then use the clues to guess their secret valentines…I have them play a guessing game, by reading the clues myself  to the class….real fun!

What I Like About You

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What I Like About You is an esteem-boosting game which can be played in the family or classroom. Great for Valentine’s Day.Variation 1: Give each person a stack of paper and a pencil. Call out the name of one child in the class and ask everyone to write that name on the top of the paper. Now write down something you love (or like) about that person. Fold in half, and throw the papers into a hat. Continue until you have written something about everyone. Now pass the hat around and take turns pulling out a paper and reading what is on it out aloud.
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Variation 2: Put all the pieces of  paper on the classroom walls and ask the students to walk around the classroom and write what they love about each person on the paper .They continue until they have written something about everyone.

It’s amazing how happy  students become when they take the pieces of paper down and read all the positive comments their classmates have written! They feel loved!

A love chant

This is popular among my third graders..We make bird finger puppets, like the ones in the photo and chant it all together moving the birds  according to the chant which  goes like this:

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” Two little birds, sitting on a wall

One called Mary, one called Paul

Fly away Mary, fly away Paul,

Come back Mary, come back Paul

I love you Mary, I love you Paul

Tweet-tweet!”

Hope, you enjoy this special holiday with your students every year ! I do!

 

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The benefits of team work in the classroom

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My classroom and any classroom, dosen’t have to be a solo learning adventure…..it can also be a collaborative learning environment!

I always include many teamwork exercises in my weekly curriculum, to mix my lesson plan up a bit!
These group activities can be beneficial on a personal, group and class-wide level.
Our  PROJECTS depend a lot on teamwork, too! Teamwork,
 has been neglected in greek schools, where individualism prevails!
These are what I think, teamwork benefits are:
On Social Skills
When students form a group, social skills kick into action. A team of students must actively listen to each other, articulate ideas and use genuinely constructive criticism to be effective. Kids must learn to work together and cooperate. This is an opportunity to make friends and talk with others — networking can start in the classroom. This is a chance for the kids to expand their vocabulary, work on patience and learn how to take turns. Conflict resolution may also become part of the learning equation.
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On a Personal Level

Each student can benefit on a personal level from teamwork. She can feel like a valued part of the group as she contributes to the project and shares her ideas, which can build confidence and self-esteem. The student will be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking, which can expand her personal view on the subject. Teamwork activities can be the time for each student to shine and show others her skills and talents.

Learning Together

As you watch the teams work toward their goal, the educational benefits of teamwork becomes clear. As the team works, they can all offer ideas and come to conclusions together. Students not only learn by working through the team project, they also learn by explaining their thought processes and reasoning to others. Teamwork also helps foster problem-solving skills, reasoning skills and group brainstorming. The students will learn to use critical thinking and evaluation skills as a group. An effective team will evenly distribute the responsibilities, blast through the material and cover more ground than if they did the homework or project individually.

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The Class Environment

Days can get long and dull when you have a group of kids that are disconnected and staring at the walls. Group work is a welcomed change in the normal routine and gets the kids out of their seats. Schoolwork becomes more enjoyable and rewarding when you incorporate teamwork exercises. Just make sure that you define some teamwork boundaries before you let the kids loose. The kids need to know what they should be achieving, how to tell when they have accomplished their task and how long they have for this activity, otherwise you’ll just have clusters of talking students not staying on task.

Last but not least: I always have a teams seating  arrangement in the classroom.Students ,sit and work in groups !

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