“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hippo and 1st graders! The importance of a mascot in class

Class mascots can be “friends” that help the students on their learning journey.

Our own ,1st graders class mascot, is our cute Hippo!!

Hippo, plays various roles in our classroom. He sits and watches over our class to make sure they are doing the right thing or plays and sings with us  ! He is the reason, my little ones want to learn English- to be able to communicate with him, without my…help!

Having a class mascot adds a little fun and humour to the classroom, too. We often laugh about what Hippo has been up to on the weekend, and his ability to fall asleep at any moment, is an ongoing lesson!

The students have helped to develop Hippo’s personality and interests.

If you have never  used a class mascot before, here’s  how to get started:

Choose a particular stuffed animal or toy as your class mascot and have children decide upon a name for their new friend. Then brainstorm with children some background information about the mascot. Some ideas might be:

  • Where and when it was born
  • All about its family
  • What its personality is like
  • How it got its distinctive features
  • Its best friends
  • What it likes to do
  • Where it has already traveled

The children can not only learn from the mascot, but can also  teach the mascot what they have learned .

The mascot can award stickers or small rewards to students who have  positive behavior for the week! Maybe the mascot could bring in his/her favorite book  for a read aloud. I have done this with the book “Hippo and friends” and have shared my experience in this blog post!

Use your imagination and think of how to integrate the puppet into your daily routines and teaching. There are so many possibilities!

I find the mascot to be an endearing member of the class. The students love Hippo like a friend.  They respond to Hippo as a teacher and seem to really listen to what he has to say.

The way  students really respond to our mascot, is just fantastic – I wonder at what age that enthusiasm and imagination starts to fade….

I often have other mascots coming to visit us for a couple of weeks… Princess Elizabeth, Hippo’s cousin from London has become the kids’ favourite!

They have even  learned how to bow to Her Royal Highness ! When they heard that she is not married..yet and she’s still looking for her Prince, they started suggesting  their.. brothers, uncles or cousins, for her future husband!! That was hilarious!

There are also some of Hippo’s friends : Mr Owl, Mr Elephant , Miss Duck etc

Kids are looking forward to Hippo’s visit in our class ! They miss him so much!

They talk about him at home! They bring him their own animal friends, to help him  make new friends and feel less lonely  ! They ask him questions about his hometown and country! They want to know more about his family, back home! By the way, his family is a… pink Elephant family-Hippo is…. adopted !- but, they don’t seem to find that weird ,at all ! !

Young learners get attached to mascots very quickly, especially if you bring it to every class and let the students touch, hug and talk to it. My students love offering our puppet water and got very concerned when Hippo got ill and had to go to hospital! Or had to wear glasses ! They also feel the need to give him a hug , each time he misses his mother, who lives in London!

It’s true that, class mascots can quickly give your room a sense of character and responsibility. They’re also a lot of fun! Whether it’s a live rat, a guinea pig, or a plastic potato with a silly grin, your mascot can become an incredibly rich part of the students’ year.

I can’t wait to see what fun we’ll have with Hippo and his friends  ,next!

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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An amazing school year, in review !

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It was such  a wonderful school year!

I worked really hard with a bunch of amazing students! Among many other wonderful things we did , we took part in four European projects!

The British Council ” Life Skills” project, the “Teachers4Europe – Our European House” project and two awesome etwinning projects : ” PupPETs- Pen Pals ETwinned” and “Our European school newspaper” , together with more that 10 schools in Europe , as well as  Surinam, USA and  Taiwan!

I am really proud of both myself and my students! It has been a demanding school year! There was no financial support from school, therefore, I had to use money from our Christmas Bazaar to run our  projects!

Greece has been in a terrible debt crisis and everybody around me seemed to be  pessimistic about everything… Almost, depressed!

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I also had to fight the negativity among my colleagues and received  little  support from most of the parents ,who seemed to wonder ” when I actually teach” and  whether  my teaching methods have  anything to do with the way THEY had learned english at school!!  I made it my personal mission to fight off that negativity and go to work every day with nothing but positive thoughts.

I also had to work long hours every day, both at school and at home! I had to work on my laptop very late at night, when my  kids were in bed! I sometimes went to sleep later than 1 am ! It was exchausting!!

I am used to hard work since I was 20 when I got my first part time job as a “Frodisterio” teacher! But, I have to admit that, the last school year was one of the most productive years in my career ,so far!

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It’s almost mid-July, and I am still at home trying to get tasks done , such as work on  my blog posts ( too busy to find the  time to write on my blog during the last few months), put my notes together and create a Prezi presentation for next year’s Tesol conventions and local professional development seminars, in which I am willing to take part as a speaker, find some  time for my three children and my family in general  ,now that I am supposed to be more relaxed and “carefree”, and finally, find some free (?) time for me to  do…nothing else  but read my favourite detective stories,by the sea!! Truth is, it’s rather impossible to do this last thing in my summer-to-do list, mainly because I can’t afford to go on holidays , due to the terrible Greek debt crisis which has affected us all! But, I still believe that I might finally make it to have  some well deserved rest , in order to recharge my batteries and go back to class, with renewed enthusiasm, in September!…

My advice to younger colleagues is this:

Have fun but have fun with purpose. Be intentional about everything. Make memories. These are hard times but they are sweet times.

Live it. Be it. Be noble. We’re in an important profession. Teach on till the last day. Let’s rock!

 

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Here’s the link to this school year’s  photo review! Enjoy!

 

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!

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.

 

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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 skitches 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 personaly 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.

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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 homneschooled 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 story telling! Especially with 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 fairytale 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 all of you to follow ! I always try to apply interesting ideas I find on line 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

Drama in our english class

" Interviewing the ...greek Prime Minister":I use improvisation activities a lot. My role is to provide the context and the students act out their roles spontaneously without any planning.

” Interviewing the …greek Prime Minister”:I use improvisation activities a lot. My role is to provide the context and the students act out their roles spontaneously without any planning.

Language teachers have to face two difficulties in their classrooms. On the one hand they need to change the naturally exuberant imaginative energy of the children into activity which is not merely enjoyable but which also has a language pay-off. On the other, they need to develop a repertoire of concrete activities which appeal to children to do as well to avoid chaos and boredom.

" Interviewing....Virgin Mary":The classroom game of pretending to interact in English is a rehearsal for future interactions in English.

” Interviewing….Virgin Mary”:The classroom game of
pretending to interact in English is a rehearsal
for future interactions in English.

Just a few drama activities can bring an EFL/ESL classroom to life. The trends in English Language Teaching (ELT) lean heavily toward communicative and authentic language use. Drama provides lots of immediate resources and is fun for teacher and students alike.

I mainly use Drama in class Projects presentations !Also, I love staging mini-musicals at the end of each school year!

School Musicals

Enthusiastic audience!!

Enthusiastic audience!!

School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions. It has many benefits for children like development of right self-esteem, instilling interest for music and drama and more. School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

Taking part in a school musical production has many benefits for children – increased self-esteem, the development of their dramatic and musical talents, and the opportunity to learn about working together as part of a team.

I find ideas in our library English Readers or in different  books or sites such as

http://www.childrenstheatreplays.com/schoolplays.htm

The main points concerning drama, which  I have in mind ,when I ask my students to get involved in such  activities ,are:

"The Wizard of Oz":School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions

“The Wizard of Oz”:School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions

Suspension of disbelief
When we watch a film or a play on television
or in the theatre, we ignore the fact that the
actors are not actually, detectives, doctors or
murderers. We engage in the drama because
we are able to suspend our disbelief, we are
able to pretend that the actors are the
characters they portray that the locations are
not stage sets or studios and the words spoken
by the actors are a prepared script, not the
spontaneous thoughts of the characters.

" Alice in Wonderland":School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

” Alice in Wonderland”:School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

" The Wizard of Oz": A School musical, has many benefits for children like development of right self-esteem, instilling interest for music and drama and more.

” The Wizard of Oz”: A School musical, has many benefits for children like development of right self-esteem, instilling interest for music and drama and more.

Our sixth graders musical every year, is a huge success! Both the kids and their parents are looking so much forward to it!

Our sixth graders musical every year, is a huge success! Both the kids and their parents are looking so much forward to it!

Students in an ELT classroom also need to
suspend disbelief, otherwise they would be
endlessly frustrated by the fact that the
teacher does not speak in the mother tongue
she shares with her students.
Drama and Games
‘Pretend games’ are a central part of a child’s
education. When they dress up as a princess,
they become a princess. Their toys are not
painted pieces of metal, wood or plastic, they
are cars, guns, space rockets. Their toys get
sick, recover, get angry and feel emotions.
The ELT classroom is a ‘pretend game’ in
exactly the same way.
Preparation for real life
Few of our students will become princesses
or astronauts, but all of them will become
English language users. The classroom game of
pretending to interact in English is a rehearsal
for future interactions in English.

"The Wizard of Oz": At the beginning students will be hesitant and shy to participate in the activities, but after a few sessions they will become more enthusiastic and there will be a phenomenal improvement in their confidence level.

“The Wizard of Oz”: At the beginning students will be hesitant and shy to participate in the activities, but after a few sessions they will become more enthusiastic and there will be a phenomenal improvement in their confidence level.

Most actors would agree that rehearsals are a
time for hard work, careful listening and
intense performance but they are also an
enjoyable experience. They are a time for
experimenting and having fun before the real
audience arrives.

Students and teachers need to adopt the same
attitude to their language classes.

Drama or dramatic activities I use in my classes

Mime

Drama encourages adaptability, fluency, and communicative competence .

Drama encourages adaptability, fluency, and communicative competence .

Mime helps develop students’ power of imagination and observation and can also be quite simply ” a source of great enjoyment” with students tending “to be very enthusiastic about this aspect of drama”, (Hayes, 1984)

"The Wizard of Oz": The main benefit of role play from the point of view of language teaching is that it enables a flow of language to be produced that might be otherwise difficult or impossible to create

“The Wizard of Oz”: The main benefit of role play from the point of view of language
teaching is that it enables a flow of language to be produced that might be otherwise difficult or impossible to create

Its strength lies in that although no language is used during
the mime, the mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

Role Play

In role play the participants are assigned roles which they act out in a given scenario.

"Your face sounds familiar- A concert": Music, is an essential part in musical performances! It helps my students reveal their inner talents!

“Your face sounds familiar- A concert”: Music, is an essential part in musical performances! It helps my students reveal their inner talents!

The main benefit of role play from the point of view of language
teaching is that it enables a flow of language to be produced that might be otherwise difficult or impossible to create. Role play can also help recreate the language students used in different situation, the sort of language students are likely to need outside the classroom

Simulation

" Your face sounds familiar-A concert": The FUN element of ELT music shows, is is obvious in this photo!!

” Your face sounds familiar-A concert”: The FUN element of ELT music shows, is is obvious in this photo!!

My students have roles, functions, duties ,
and responsibilities within a structured situation involving problem solving.
Simulations are generally held to be a structured set of circumstances’ that mirror real life and in which participants act as instructed.

A simulation activity is one where the students  discuss a problem within a defined setting, In simulation activities, the students are either playing themselves or someone else.

" A Eurovision song contest parody": Here's an Improvisation end-of-the-school year concert which we all just LOVED! In the photo, Agathonas Iakovides and Coza Mostra in...Eurovision 2013!!

” A Eurovision song contest parody”: Here’s an Improvisation end-of-the-school year concert which we all just LOVED! In the photo, Agathonas Iakovides and Coza Mostra in…Eurovision 2013!!

A simulation activity provides a specific situation within which students can practice various communication skills like asserting oneself, expressing opinions, convincing others, arguing eliciting opinions, group-problems-solving, analyzing situations and so on…

Improvisation

Improvisation is an excellent technique to use in the FL/L2 classroom as it motivates the learners to be active participants in authentic situations thereby reducing their self consciousness. At the beginning students will be hesitant and shy to participate in the activities, but after a few sessions they will become more enthusiastic and there will be a phenomenal improvement in their confidence level.

Christmas sketses , are a good chance for my youngest learners, to use their english for the first time, in front of a real audience!

Christmas sketses , are a good chance for my youngest learners, to use their english for the first time, in front of a real audience!

I use it a great deal in my lessons!

"Alice and Peter Pan ": Using puppets in my ELT class, has been really beneficial for my youngest students! Even the most shy ones, want to take part!

“Alice and Peter Pan “: Using puppets in my ELT class, has been really beneficial for my youngest students! Even the most shy ones, want to take part!

Improvisation exercises could involve an entire class of learners or smaller groups.
Once the context has been provided the learners will participate spontaneously in the exercise.

A whole class improvisation exercise could eg  involve the students at a market where some are the buyers and others the sellers. My role is to provide the context and the participants act out their roles spontaneously without any planning.

Puppet theatre

At the mini market: sketses can prove to be valuable in TEFL! Great fun!

At the mini market: sketses can prove to be valuable in TEFL! Great fun!

I often use finger play activities, chants and actions songs to help make transitions in the junior class more effective, settling everyone down so that I’ve got all of the children’s attention and also, help them learn in the most enjoyable way!

Puppets can be used in an English class:

  • to teach greetings
  • to teach prepositions
  • to teach comparatives and superlatives
  • to dramatize dialogues
  • in word games
  • to present facts about nutrition
  • in rhythm studies
  • in biographies
  • in sketches
In role play the participants are assigned roles which they act out in a given scenario.

In role play the participants are assigned roles which they act out in a given scenario.

Puppetry is of special benefit to shy and nervous children and also gives the feeling of involvement and participation to the entire class. Our puppet shows give a sense of relief from the tension of classroom teaching and add variety to the lesson.

Role play can also help recreate the language students used in different situation, the sort of language students are likely to need outside the classroom

Role play can also help recreate the language students used in different situation, the sort of language students are likely to need outside the classroom

Therefore, a puppet theatre can be an excellent piece of equipment in a second language classroom….trust me!

In general, Drama  activities facilitate the type of language behaviour that should lead to fluency, and if it is accepted that the learners want to learn a language in order to make themselves understood in the target language, then drama does indeed further this end.

” Why use drama in the EFL classroom?” We can create desirable conditions for learning and teaching in our EFL classes using drama activities and it is very enjoyable for both students and teachers!

” Why use drama in the EFL classroom?” We can create desirable conditions for learning and teaching in our EFL classes using drama activities and it is very enjoyable for both students and teachers!

" Interviewing....Barbie": ‘Pretend games’ are a central part of a child’seducation. When they dress up as a princess,they become a princess.

” Interviewing….Barbie”: ‘Pretend games’ are a central part of a child’seducation.
When they dress up as a princess,they become a princess.

The advantages to be gained from the use of drama is that students become more confident in their use of English by experiencing the language in operation. Drama in the English language classroom is ultimately indispensable because it gives learners the chance to use their own personalities. It draws upon students’ natural abilities to imitate and express themselves, and if well-handled should arouse interest and imagination. Drama encourages adaptability, fluency, and communicative competence . It puts language into context, and by giving learners experience of success in real-life situations it should arm them with confidence for tackling the world outside the classroom.

To summarise…

I want to stress that, children learn languages actively seeking to interpret meaning from context ,making creative use of language they know, using an instinct for talking and interacting and indirect learning e.g. through games and songs.a capacity to find fun ,an ability to use fantasy and imagination.

And also it is very important to keep in mind that learning and teaching is a very complicated process.

mosaic skets triti 2

“…we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child. “ Dr. Maria Montessori

" Interviewing ....Hurem, Suleiman's Sultana": Children learn languages actively seeking to interpret meaning from context ,making creative use of language they know, using an instinct for talking and interacting and indirect learning e.g. through games and songs.a capacity to find fun ,an ability to use fantasy and imagination.

” Interviewing ….Hurem, Suleiman’s Sultana”: Children learn languages actively seeking to interpret meaning from context ,making creative use of language they know, using an instinct for talking and interacting and indirect learning e.g. through games and songs.a capacity to find fun ,an ability to use fantasy and imagination.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

And so: ” Why use drama in the EFL classroom?” We can create desirable conditions for learning and teaching in our EFL classes using drama activities and it is very enjoyable for both students and teachers!

Useful Bibliography

Charlyn Wessel , 1987, Drama ,Oxford; OUP, Resource Books for Teachers.

Jill Hadfield , 1992, Classroom Dynamics , Oxford; OUP Resource Books for Teachers.

Sarah Phillips, 2003,Drama with Chidren, Oxford; OUP, Resource Books for Teachers.

S. Halliwell, 1995, Teaching English in the Primary Classroom ,Oxford; OUP, Resource Books for Teachers.

mosaic skets sheak 13

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