“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










Using puppets in our English class

Puppets are a great resource to align creativity, inspiration, flexibility and humour in language teaching.  We don’t have to buy puppets. We  can create them with our students.



Cambridge ” Hippo” book series puppet: my most favourite puppet ever! I have been using it mainly in private tutoring, with huge success!


I believe everybody can use puppets with some practice.

Creating sketches with the raffling of characters, places, and situations is an effective way to mix creativity with language. Students are usually very proud of their memorable creations and watching their presentation is definitely a pleasure.

I personally use puppets , to practice grammar rules in a more lighthearted way, to review content with humor and to go back to challenging textbook points that are explained by the puppet or to the puppet.


Some of my favourite IKEA puppets.


The most important thing I do in class,  is to say: “Our puppet doesn’t know your language. He only understands and speaks English.” so that students will try to use English in class.

This tip is especially important for allowing an emotional connection with the puppet. I create a world for the puppet.  I mean, give some imaginary details about him, as if he had a family, and came from England. I talk about his likes/dislikes. Sometimes you can bring some other puppets to class so that you can show them as your puppet’s friends. For example, when I  use my Hippo puppet with my homeschooled students, I  tell them that Hippo comes  from London and his family is  still back there. He  travels  to see them every Christmas , Easter and Summer holidays .They can see his family  ” photos” in our flashcards and from time to time,they are able to meet some of  Hippo’s friends – other animal puppets- who  come and see him here in Greece, visiting our English class, too!


mosaic feelings new puppet

I use my puppets mainly ,  in storytelling! Especially with my 1st ,2nd to bring stories to life or even my 3rd graders, to present the stories in our coursebook! I memorize or familiarize myself with the dialogue and present this to the class afterwards , letting the puppets develop a personality.

I check for understanding by asking simple  questions . Depending on the age of the group, you can ask questions as the teacher or as the puppet.

I instantly become an actor in order to convey meaning for any new language being taught.  In order to communicate with beginning  level students, I use  clear gestures and realia were essential. These help create a context for the language so the students can grasp the meaning. As puppets act out the language, children become motivated to learn because the puppets bring animation and fun to the  English lesson.

Today’s children are so used to having visual cues that enhance their learning, as in TV and online classrooms, that they need lessons which combine visual with auditory learning. They are much more motivated and seem to engage more quickly when they can watch and listen to an actual demonstration of the new language they are learning. As a result,I have realized that,  having puppets and animated teaching as part of my lesson makes  the language come alive in our  English classroom.


Τeaching with puppets!

Presenting the 3rd graders’ book story of Lady Decay in class, using my favourite puppets!

What I usually do, is what I’m  suggesting  here that you should also do…..

Start telling your story first .It is important to use a different voice for the puppet if he is a talking puppet rather than your normal voice.  Put your characters on your fingers, and wiggle them as you tell the story. Speak in silly voices, make the characters move and play as you tell the story. Children love when you add effects. Throw in storm sounds, wind sounds, animal noises, sing silly songs and any thing else you can add to the atmosphere. Use whiteboard drawings scenery to allow the children to get more involved in the story. Make sure they know you are enjoying telling the story because they can tell if you don’t like what you are doing. If they see our  excitement, then they will enjoy it even more.

Another use of dramatic play I do , is to take a coursebook  story or fairy tale the class has read and turn it into a skit.

I  put students in groups of two to four and have them present their  short puppet skit ,with each person controlling one puppet.

They enjoy having their own puppets. To serve this purpose, in the beginning of the term I hand out the sheets of different finger puppets to my students. They cut and colour them. I also give envelopes for keeping paper finger puppets in. When we read stories, they act out their own version of the story using these puppets. They also create dialogues with the puppets. You can find paper puppets on the internet, too .

Needless to say that , first I allow class time for puppet creation or even  assign it as homework!
Finger puppets are an inexpensive and fun activity for my students!Also,  I  personally use many puppets I have  bought from IKEA which  instantly became favorite toys in class . The IKEA puppets are animals (they have many different kinds) and they also sell finger puppets – which are also cute but I find them difficult to play with.

My students are encouraged to create their own handmade finger puppets!

My students are encouraged to create their own handmade finger puppets!


There are so many different ideas for puppets you could use in your own class, too …some examples are:

Use a pattern for the most basic   hand puppets  to create many characters as you need them.I always do so with almost all the 3rd graders coursebook fairy tale characters.

Attach pie plates or paper plates to rulers or sticks for quick and easy stick puppets.

Use the cardboard rolls from paper towels to create “throwaway” puppets.

Paper bags make puppets with mouths – decorate with scraps of felt and yarn.

Simple marionette puppets can be made by drawing a large figure on stiff card. Cut off the head, arms and legs. Re-attach each piece with a brad fastener. Attach a separate string to each of the parts (you can attach the free ends to a coat hanger). Then pull each string individually to see the puppet move.


Peter Pan and Goldilocks, are bringing the book story into life, in our class ...Fairytale Forest!

Peter Pan and Goldilocks, are bringing the book story into life, in our class …Fairytale Forest!


I have brought in my class, one of my daughter’s puppet theatres! But, from time to time, I also use different other types of puppet theatres. Some examples are:

Box Puppet Theatre
There are a few ways to make your own puppet theatre. The simplest is to cover a
low table with a blanket or tablecloth and hide behind it.

Temporary Puppet Theatre
You can also make a temporary puppet theatre out of things you have
around the classroom or at home…. eg 2 sturdy chairs ,a broom handle or thick dowel ,string ,a sheet, blanket or tablecloth

Card  box Puppet Theatre
You can make your own shadow puppet theatre out of a cardboard box.


Students, usually work in pairs to present their stories ,using hand or finger puppets.

Students, usually work in pairs to present their stories ,using hand or finger puppets.

All in all, what we can  use a puppet for in class?

-for introducing new vocabulary and sentence structures
– for repeating and deepening knowledge
– for storytelling
– for singing songs
– for playing action games
– for creating rhymes
– for creating authentic situations through dialogues between teacher and puppet

Remember that puppeteering is an art and there isn’t a right way to do it. 

Puppets are very powerful. I have also discovered that children learn much better if they’re having fun, (it’s obvious really) and we all  learn best through games and fun activities!

This is our most favourite class handmade puppet! Meet Irene (Peace, in greek)! Our language ambassador which was sent to our partners in Taiwan along with our "Doves of Peace" letters to help them know more about Greece and the greek language!

This is our most favourite class handmade puppet! Meet Irene (Peace, in greek)! Our language ambassador which was sent to our partners in Taiwan along with our “Doves of Peace” letters to help them know more about Greece and the greek language!

DARE TO USE PUPPETS in your English lessons ! It’s so much worth the effort!

This post and my suggestions here about using puppets in class, have  been inspired by the  amazing blogger  and colleague Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe , and his really  inspiring Blog http://childrenlearningenglishaffectively.blogspot.com which is highly recommended  to follow !

I always try to apply interesting ideas I find online or know about in seminars,  in my class and see if they work for me, before I share them with my PLN! Juan’s ideas worked wonders in our English class and I have to thank him for that!

This is one of my most favourite resource books which has really helped me a lot on using  puppets in my class. It is therefore, highly recommended! https://elt.oup.com/catalogue/items/global/teacher_development/teaching_with_bear/?cc=global&selLanguage=en