“PuppeTs: Puppet Tourists”: an inspiring eTwinning project

My non European colleagues, often ask me what eTwinning is all about!

Well….

eTwinning is a free online community for schools in Europe which allows you to find partners and collaborate on projects within a secure network and platform.

Through participating in eTwinning, your school will be able to:

  • enrich learning and motivation of pupils (aged between 3 and 19) and staff
  • access high quality professional development and ready-made resources
  • raise standards across the whole school community
  • gain recognition for your commitment through eTwinning awards and the International School Award.
  • Search for an Erasmus+  partner to carry out projects with and apply for mobility funding.

There are, also,  special quality labels, for students, teachers and schools!

Quality labels

1.National quality label

A National Quality Label is awarded to teachers with excellent eTwinning projects and indicate that the project has reached a certain level of quality in their country.

2. European quality label

The European Quality Label is a second mark of success and indicates that the project has reached a certain European standard.

3. eTwinning School label

In order to recognise the eTwinning work done at school level, there is now, a new label  available – the eTwinning School Label.

The concept of recognition for work done in eTwinning has been in existence since the start with Quality Labels being available to teachers for their projects both at national and European level. However, these labels are applied only to the work of individual teachers in projects. In order to recognise the work done at school level, a new label is now available to apply for – the eTwinning School Label.

The principle behind this new label is that eTwinning wants to recognise and appraise the involvement, commitment, dedication not only of scattered eTwinners, but of teams of teachers and school leaders within the same school.

The concept of attaining the status of an eTwinning School is that of a developmental journey with components that can be objectively assessed. It is not a competition, but rather a progression from one level to the next.

About our project, this year

PuppeTs: Puppet Tourists

Our Flat Puppet Tourist Project, provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other European partner schools. Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest . Partners have to add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year in the host country .
Partners should also, upload photos,and/or videos, of their puppet tourist’s adventures on twinspace. Additionally, they exchange letters, postcards and souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s visits and experiences, by post .
All in all, children exchange ideas, photographs, questions and culture with students abroad, focusing on literacy and citizenship.

AIMS

Our Puppet Tourist project, provides the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Whether the class we connect with is in another local school or another country, it serves the same purpose. It gives our students a chance to see a world outside of their walls. Additionally, our aim is that, the concept of Europe will be understood and our students will become fully aware of the other European partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship should become a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

WORK PROCESS

Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” ,whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest , Partners have and add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year as well as their Summer, in the host country and have written about their Summer adventures in their Summer diaries .
Partners should also, upload photos/videos , of their puppet tourist adventures . Additionally, they exchange postcards and little souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s experiences, by post . The final product of the project ,could be a collaboratively written puppet play or short film script .
The project works on two levels: sharing on twinspace and letter and parcel exchanges, by post.

EXPECTED RESULTS

eTwinning helps us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures, enhance tolerance and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding”. So, regardless of the subject matter or the tools we use, the process is always constantly about learning to learn responsibly, actively and collaboratively. The pupils are expected to be inspired and motivated and have a great deal of fun working collaboratively on the many different projects.
Reading the personal responses of their European partners, may give students a greater insight into their partners’ context and worldview. The project can also bring the class together, as the pupils were working as a team. In these difficult times of financial crisis , our students will be able to “travel” abroad, as flat 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.

 

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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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!

 

My Interview to the amazing ,Vicky Loras

My Interview to the amazing ,Vicky Loras

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Vicky and me, a year ago…….first meeting in Athens.

Being a teacher means being there, giving everything I can, making sure I am as knowledgeable as I can be about my content and about my students’ lives; it means sacrifice for the sake of helping kids in need and it means caring about students unconditionally. I am not a teacher for me–I am a teacher for my students. When teaching becomes about me, I assure you, I will know it is time to stop teaching.  Being a teacher is exciting, enjoyable, and REWARDING!!!! I get no greater thrill than seeing my students achieve. I am constantly in awe of my students and their abilities.
Being a teacher is NEVER about counting down the last days of the year, but rather, to rue them, because I will lose yet another class to the high schools.
I am JUST  an ordinary teacher Vicky ! I just happen to love my job.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my work in a small Greek classroom with the world!

The benefits of team work in the classroom

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

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

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

Learning Together

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

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The Class Environment

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

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

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PROJECTS in my english class

 

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One of the three notice boards in and outside our english classroom: news and photos of our partners abroad.

One of the three notice boards in and outside our english classroom: news and photos of our partners abroad.

My School! To be sent to our friends abroad! We send our partners , several group projects such as this one, in each parcel!

My School! To be sent to our friends abroad! We send our partners , several group projects such as this one, in each parcel!

This project was based on a Pablo Picasso's painting! This was my students inspiration to write a poem on PEACE!

This project was based on a Pablo Picasso’s painting! This was my students inspiration to write a poem on PEACE!

Two different projects from our partners in Taiwan: All about me and My country! Amazing work!

Two different projects from our partners in Taiwan: All about me and My country! Amazing work!

Detail of one group project sent to our friends abroad: My country!

Detail of one group project sent to our friends abroad: My country!

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Well, I have been working on projects since the beginning of my career as an english teacher. When I had to  to travel all around Greece to work! Even when I had to change the school I worked in every single year or I had to work in 3 different schools in  the same day!I had to walk  long distances carrying my heavy bag and  some years later, had to drive  to a different village school  during the…. break!!

Another awesome project from Taiwan: My life in headlines! Project work, goes like this: we send our partners a project on a topic we have both decided on. They reply , by sending us the same topic project ! How fascinating for our students to share and compare!

Another awesome project from Taiwan: My life in headlines! Project work, goes like this: we send our partners a project on a topic we have both decided on. They reply , by sending us the same topic project ! How fascinating for our students to share and compare!

Amazing  artwork!!

Amazing artwork!!

When I started working on pen pals projects , nobody thought I was doing anything exceptional, but my students! Most headmasters used to refer to my extra working hours on those projects as ” useless, worthless and a waste of time”! I used to beg for money to buy stamps and had to carry those parcels to the local post office on foot!

Our exotic partners in Tunisia! A project on customs, traditions and everyday life !

Our exotic partners in Tunisia! A project on customs, traditions and everyday life !

When I asked one of the headteachers in a Karditsa area village school, to support me financially for  our -handmade- class magazine ( which was photocopied and distributed to students)  he just refused ! He even said: “What’s the use of this? You don’t get any extra money for  all these extra hours you spend putting this  magazine together…that’s silly! You are a….κοροιδο”- as we say in greek!

Arts and craft, play an important role in all our projects!

Arts and craft, play an important role in all our projects!

Two pages of the 5th graders project: Our class english magazine! Handmade....no computers at school!!

Two pages of the 5th graders project: Our class english magazine! Handmade….no computers at school!!

One of our magazine covers...the picture was found in our old english books!our magazine is always sent to our pen pals abroad, as well!

One of our magazine covers…the picture was found in our old english books!our magazine is always sent to our pen pals abroad, as well!

Many years have passed since  then…but, nothing much has changed! I mean, I  keep working on  several projects with my classes, we continue exchanging our projects with more than 6  schools all over the globe every school year, I still do my best to have  at least one -handmade – magazine made  each school year , but still….. I work in schools with no computers or other facilities, I work extra hours ……earning…  nothing but my students love,  have had no chance to take part in a Comenius partnership yet (due to several reasons which have NOTHING  to do with my willing  to do so)

I have been struggling to raise money to run my projects, either by asking- begging for support  the parents associations and  the several publishing houses out there ( which, at least, have donated some  books to our english library) or by organising  school bazaars, just to be able to keep a small ammount of the money earned, for our english class needs ! It has been HARD work all these years, have to admit that!!

A very clever idea suggested by our partners in Taiwan: A self portrait plus info about each student, written at the back! My students loved it!

A very clever idea suggested by our partners in Taiwan: A self portrait plus info about each student, written at the back! My students loved it!

I will be able , to share all the details about how I work on projects in a future post….for the time being, I am uploading some photos with  just a PART of our recent project work!

It's just amazing for my students, to see their project work in another classroom, so far away from home! Due to the fact that, we have no computers at school, I always print lots of pictures and display them on our notice boards, for all the students to be able to see...

It’s just amazing for my students, to see their project work in another classroom, so far away from home! Due to the fact that, we have no computers at school, I always print lots of pictures and display them on our notice boards, for all the students to be able to see…

My town. We sent our partners in Hungary , similar info about our hometown plus a DVD!

My town. We sent our partners in Hungary , similar info about our hometown plus a DVD!

All projects are put up on each class projects notice board until a new project , takes their place and they are sent to our partners abroad!

All projects are put up on each class projects notice board until a new project , takes their place and they are sent to our partners abroad!

All projects are put up on each class projects notice board until a new project , takes their place and they are sent to our partners abroad!

Some projects come in the form of a magazine or a booklet

Some projects come in the form of a magazine or a booklet

Snail mailed projects , are more fascinating for students than emailed ones cause, it's real stuff! You can touch them, hold them, smell them, take them home, display them on the classroom walls, share them with your friends, attach little presents to them!

Snail mailed projects , are more fascinating for students than emailed ones cause, it’s real stuff! You can touch them, hold them, smell them, take them home, display them on the classroom walls, share them with your friends, attach little presents to them!

Unfortunately, there is no Arts teacher in my school! I am the only one who can help my kids with the artistic part of the projects,too!

Unfortunately, there is no Arts teacher in my school! I am the only one who can help my kids with the artistic part of the projects,too!

Kids are so very proud to presend our country to our foreign friends! The projects are always presented in class before they are sent abroad! It's team work therefore, the teams decide how they wish to present their project....it can be a poster presentation, a class board game, a teams game, a quiz, a skit and so many more! I ask them to use their imagination , when it comes to presenting their projects in front of the audience!

Kids are so very proud to presend our country to our foreign friends! The projects are always presented in class before they are sent abroad! It’s team work therefore, the teams decide how they wish to present their project….it can be a poster presentation, a class board game, a teams game, a quiz, a skit and so many more! I ask them to use their imagination , when it comes to presenting their projects in front of the audience!

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An amazing project : Painters and poets! Great fun during the presentations!

 

 

In this project, students worked in pairs. One had to be the poet, the other one had to be the painter! They both had decided what they wished their presentation to be about first. Then, the painter worked on the picture while the poet, had to come up with a poem to go with it! Later, in class, they were asked to describe their painting, and recite the poem! That was fun!

In this project, students worked in pairs. One had to be the poet, the other one had to be the painter! They both had decided what they wished their presentation to be about first. Then, the painter worked on the picture while the poet, had to come up with a poem to go with it! Later, in class, they were asked to describe their painting, and recite the poem! That was fun!

" Hercules is strong and he's never wrong..." Poetic inspiration through project work!

” Hercules is strong and he’s never wrong…” Poetic inspiration through project work!

My favourite hero-3rd graders....they presented their heroes in class, with real confidence, telling us what they can or can't do!

My favourite hero-3rd graders….they presented their heroes in class, with real confidence, telling us what they can or can’t do!

A 4th graders project: a tourist travel brochure, about their most favourite place in Greece! I found this old shoe box, the perfect container for these brochures! You can pick one and read...

A 4th graders project: a tourist travel brochure, about their most favourite place in Greece! I found this old shoe box, the perfect container for these brochures! You can pick one and read…

Handmade props which we use in skitses, during our lessons or projects ! Our bookcase is full of them!

Handmade props which we use in skitses, during our lessons or projects ! Our bookcase is full of them!

The same project idea, can be adapted to different levels and ages...For this one,my 4rd graders first listened to Vivaldi " Four seasons" and were asked to brainstorm vocabulary which had to do with each season. Then , we talked about the topic in class, and they were asked to decide ,which their two most favourite seasons were....At home, they had to work on their posters and think and write reasons why they like their chosen seasons! During the next lesson, a poster presentation and whole class discussion followed .....

The same project idea, can be adapted to different levels and ages…For this one,my 4rd graders first listened to Vivaldi ” Four seasons” and were asked to brainstorm vocabulary which had to do with each season. Then , we talked about the topic in class, and they were asked to decide ,which their two most favourite seasons were….At home, they had to work on their posters and think and write reasons why they like their chosen seasons! During the next lesson, a poster presentation and whole class discussion followed …..

An amazing project : Painters and poets! Great fun during the presentations!

An amazing project : Painters and poets! Great fun during the presentations!

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4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class....TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country....it was lots of fun!

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class….TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country….it was lots of fun!

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The same project idea, can be adapted to different levels and ages…For this one,my 4rd graders first listened to Vivaldi ” Four seasons” and were asked to brainstorm vocabulary which had to do with each season. Then , we talked about the topic in class, and they were asked to decide ,which their two most favourite seasons were….At home, they had to work on their posters and think and write reasons why they like their chosen seasons! During the next lesson, a poster presentation and whole class discussion followed …..

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!

One of my favourite projects: I am special because.....-self esteem is important

One of my favourite projects: I am special because…..-self esteem is important

Another favourite project:lapbooks!

Another favourite project:lapbooks!

When there is a will, there is a way! This is a project called "Our english newspaper". A thematic project with our partners in Taiwan. We have no computers in school therefore, I had to come up with this idea in order to present my students work looking like a newpaper!

When there is a will, there is a way! This is a project called “Our english newspaper”. A thematic project with our partners in Taiwan. We have no computers in school therefore, I had to come up with this idea in order to present my students work looking like a newpaper!

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 class.Here, we pin our class projects! Students are proud to show their parents and friends their work!

A classroom theatre project for my 6th graders : Midsummer night's dream by William Shakespeare- an adaptation! Drama, plays a very important role on projects presentation!

A classroom theatre project for my 6th graders : Midsummer night’s dream by William Shakespeare- an adaptation! Drama, plays a very important role on projects presentation!

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Improvisation is encouraged in all skitses and projects presentations ! I ask my students to use their imagination as often as possible!! In this skit, the reporter has decided to interview,,,,Virgin Mary about her son's Jesus childhood! Hilarious!!!

Improvisation is encouraged in all skitses and projects presentations ! I ask my students to use their imagination as often as possible!! In this skit, the reporter has decided to interview,,,,Virgin Mary about her son’s Jesus childhood! Hilarious!!!

Interviewing ...the Minnions!!

Interviewing …the Minnions!!

Interviewing ...an alien!!

Interviewing …an alien!!

A 4th graders project: The Olympic Games in ancient Greece- The Olympic Games today! Teams were asked to decide about which of the two options, they would like to present! They were proud to tell our friends abroad that, Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games!

A 4th graders project: The Olympic Games in ancient Greece- The Olympic Games today! Teams were asked to decide about which of the two options, they would like to present! They were proud to tell our friends abroad that, Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games!

Project presentations are more interesting for all ,when drama activities are involved! kids, really have lots of fun!

Project presentations are more interesting for all ,when drama activities are involved! kids, really have lots of fun!

9 All about me: this is another favourite project of mine! We spend at least two lessons on it.First , I start by asking them to play the guessing game "Me in a bag": I take out of a bag several objects which have to do with my life and interests and ask the class to guess how they are related to me! I ask them to do the same during our next lesson for themselves and challenge their classmates to guess about them! Finally, they are assigned to write everything they consider important about themselves on this paper figure which is displayed on the classroom walls!

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All about me: this is another favourite project of mine! We spend at least two lessons on it.First , I start by asking them to play the guessing game “Me in a bag”: I take out of a bag several objects which have to do with my life and interests and ask the class to guess how they are related to me! I ask them to do the same during our next lesson for themselves and challenge their classmates to guess about them! Finally, they are assigned to write everything they consider important about themselves on this paper figure which is displayed on the classroom walls!

"All about me" in a bag.

“All about me” in a bag.

Each class, has its own projects corner in our english classroom! It is very important for the teams, to see their work displayed in the classroom before it is sent abroad! They feel proud! They show it to their friends and parents!

Each class, has its own projects corner in our english classroom! It is very important for the teams, to see their work displayed in the classroom before it is sent abroad! They feel proud! They show it to their friends and parents!

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I always give instructions , ideas and advice about how the team members can work on the project , in class...It is crucial to learn how to work out a task working together with others! The team members are free to choose what they want to do for the project individually and have to be able talk about it, during the class presentation! They have a whole week to put it together! Most of them, work on the details, during the breaks, too.

I always give instructions , ideas and advice about how the team members can work on the project , in class…It is crucial to learn how to work out a task working together with others! The team members are free to choose what they want to do for the project individually and have to be able talk about it, during the class presentation! They have a whole week to put it together! Most of them, work on the details, during the breaks, too.

I always encourage my students to use short plays, skitses or other drama activities to present their projects in class. That's always on a volunteer basis but, MOST of my kids are eager to take part in them!! Here,..... Hurem, Sultan Suleiman's wife is being interviewed about her life in the harem !! Improvisation works miracles! Kids, decide about their costumes and they write their own lines.....

I always encourage my students to use short plays, skitses or other drama activities to present their projects in class. That’s always on a volunteer basis but, MOST of my kids are eager to take part in them!! Here,….. Hurem, Sultan Suleiman’s wife is being interviewed about her life in the harem !! Improvisation works miracles! Kids, decide about their costumes and they write their own lines…..

A project about racism:  It's unbelievable, what amazing work our students can bring in class, once inspired!! Especially the talented, gifted, creative students!...

A project about racism: It’s unbelievable, what amazing work our students can bring in class, once inspired!! Especially the talented, gifted, creative students!…

The topic of this project was " My country Greece". Many teams prefered to present their work, by playing a board game with the whole class -instead of making a poster! This one is, a questions and multiple choice answers, board game! I motivate my students to use their imagination and creativity when they presend their projects!

The topic of this project was ” My country Greece”. Many teams prefered to present their work, by playing a board game with the whole class -instead of making a poster! This one is, a questions and multiple choice answers, board game! I motivate my students to use their imagination and creativity when they presend their projects!

It is very important, to have all those projects displayed in the classroom , for all the students to be able to see, before they are sent to our friends abroad! I have a different " projects corner" for each class, inside our classroom! It's so inspiring for students, to see other teams projects! It also makes the classroom more colorful and beautiful! The kids, feel proud to show them to friends or parents on the school "Open to parents Day", too....

It is very important, to have all those projects displayed in the classroom , for all the students to be able to see, before they are sent to our friends abroad! I have a different ” projects corner” for each class, inside our classroom! It’s so inspiring for students, to see other teams projects! It also makes the classroom more colorful and beautiful! The kids, feel proud to show them to friends or parents on the school “Open to parents Day”, too….

 

a simply amazing language exchange project we did together with our partners in Taiwan: we taught them greek and they taught them their language! We loved the challenge!

a simply amazing language exchange project we did together with our partners in Taiwan: we taught them greek and they taught them their language! We loved the challenge!

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This is a project we did together with our partners in France: a recipe book! Sharing local recipes was fun!

This is a project we did together with our partners in France: a recipe book! Sharing local recipes was fun!

our english class photo album is a project we aften do and send to our partners abroad!

our english class photo album is a project we aften do and send to our partners abroad!

 

I have to add that, there’s nothing more rewarding for a teacher than to 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! Last but not least: I always send a letter to parents at the beginning of the school year, informing them about the way we work  on projects in class.

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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!