“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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 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…

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!