“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.

 

Team work ,matters!

The ability to work together with others as part of a team is not simply a skill needed at school, it is a vital skill used in all areas of life. For me, school is, an excellent time to cultivate the teamwork skills, children will then draw from, throughout their life.

 

For a team to work together effectively, it takes all members of the team to respect each other’s abilities and opinions. Teamwork is a highly social activity and involves much interaction and exchanging of ideas and actions. We all understand that, being part of a team enables a child to move from more intrapersonal (individual) ways of thinking to interpersonal (communicating with others). It will help students in all areas of their learning, and help them to feel part of a community, too.

The biggest problem in my country’s educational system is that, teamwork is not encouraged at schools- at least, not as much as it should be….

Working as part of a team will strengthen students’ social and emotional skills, help develop their communication skills, and can improve confidence.

Team games, are also important…From experience, the best way to teach children English is to not only get them physically involved within the lesson, but also to create the illusion that they are simply playing games. And rather than focus on individual development, it is also a very good idea to promote class interaction as far as possible.

Even very young learners can become independent in their learning and guided early on they will be more likely to grow into autonomous and successful language learners.

Creative use of language makes communication possible even when students may not know the perfect grammar for what they are trying to say.Nothing is more true to life than that.

When students work in groups, they have to work together to accomplish a goal. Even when the use of grammar is weak in these collaborations, communication happens, and that will give your students an advantage, when they have to face communication in the English speaking world.

Encouragement in class,is crucial ! One way encouragement comes, is when lower level students see the accomplishments of higher level students.Less accomplished students will become better speakers just by talking to others more advanced than them, without help and without pressure….When they work in groups, I see that students help each other learn.

One of the most important things for me, as far as group work is concerned, is speaking!

Putting our students in groups, gets them speaking up and practicing the language that they are trying to learn. And, speaking, is not top priority in the Greek language class…. not even in the private Greek Language schools-“Frodisteria”…

Students who are kinesthetic learners, will benefit greatly from learning through games and group work,too. Students of varying English levels can work together to support each other, make decisions together and learning from one another. Games and group work can involve all of the aspects of language—listening, speaking, reading and writing.

 

In our class, children experience teamwork in many different forms. They may be asked to work in pairs, small groups, or larger groups on a variety of different things. They may be asked to work in teams for physical activities such as ball games or running games or more formal activities such as projects. Children also often form their own team activities during their play time.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato

I am sharing an interesting post about the benefits of Team Building, here

 

Benefits of Team Building

1.  Getting to know each other better
2.  Bonding
3.  Building team spirit
4.  Encouraging tolerance and understanding
5.  Creating a sense of belonging and connectivity
6.  Creating a climate of cooperation and collaborative problem-solving
7.  Improving motivation
8.  Improving communication within the group
9.  Team development – Building a community with a common purpose
10. Developing trust, care, compassion, kindness and creating empathy (Trusting each other AND yourselves)
11. Building self-esteem

12. Creating an understanding and awareness of individual differences, personality strengths and  weaknesses
13. Breaking down barriers
14. Creativity – Doing things differently! Out of the box!!
15. Higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment.And all the time … Having a huge amount of FUN

Life Skills-a British Council project: Activity 4: Who would you like to live with?

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This amazing 4th British Council ” Life Skills ” activity is about stereotypes, discrimination, racism, prejudice…

Definitions

Prejudice:

Attitudes or opinions about a person or group simply because the person belongs to a specific religion, race, nationality, or other group. Prejudices involve strong feelings that are difficult to change. Prejudice is pre-judging. A person who thinks, “I don’t want (name of group) living in my neighborhood,” is expressing a prejudice.

Discrimination:

When people act on the basis of their prejudices or stereotypes, they are discriminating. Discrimination may mean putting other people down, not allowing them to participate in activities, restricting their access to work or to live in certain neighborhoods, or denying them something they are entitled to by right and law.

Stereotype:

Oversimplified generalization about a group of people. When people say that all members of a specific nationality, religion, race or gender are “cheap,” “lazy,” “criminal” or “dumb,” they are expressing stereotypes. All groups have both cheap and generous individuals. All groups have individuals who commit crimes. To label an entire group based on the actions of some is to engage in stereotyping. Even when a stereotype is positive, such as when people in one racial group are thought to be superior athletes, the consequences of stereotyping are negative.

Scapegoating:

Blaming an individual or group when the fault actually lies elsewhere. Prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory acts can lead to scapegoating.

During this activity, I made sure that children understood  that prejudice and discrimination are unfair. I explained that, no person should be excluded or teased on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, accent, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or appearance.

To start with:

Print the list of tenants (one for each student)
• We tell the story of the Miller family:
“Mr and Mrs Miller live fairly happily in a big house
with their 20-year-old son David. Then, upon their retirement,
Mr and Mrs Miller decide to move to the country.
David lives alone in the family home now and enjoys
a satisfying bachelor’s life until one day he loses his job.
David is no longer able to live alone in the big house.
He uses his last money to split the house into 6 flats and puts
a “For Rent” ad in the newspaper”

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Now, imagine you are David and have to choose 5 tenants from a list of people who have answered your ad, in order to be able to keep the house.
• We ask each student to pick 5 tenants from the list
• We ask groups of 5 or 6 students to pick 5 tenants
that the whole group agrees on
• We discuss the following issues:
• Did the group agree on a list of 5 tenants?
Yes/No? Why (not)?

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• How did the group work collectively in order to agree on the list of 5 tenants? What did they find hard about it and what easy?
• We discuss the reasons for which
they chose these particular people
• We discuss any potential bias that each one of us may have.
We explain that it is almost impossible not to be biased; what is most important is to understand that it is only bias and that talking about differences and getting to know other people better can change people’s views
List of tenants (for older students)
Who would you share the same house with?

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1. An unmarried mother with a 3-year-old child, whose father
is from Tunisia. He occasionally visits his son and sometimes brings around some friends.
2. A family of refugee workers from Pakistan with 5 children
aged 1 to 12. Their father works in a steel mill and their mother will take up the position of concierge at the house.
3. A family with a 17-year-old daughter in the final grade of Secondary School. The father is a bank accountant
and the mother a teacher.

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4. A single 70-year-old woman, living on a minimum pension.
5. A group of 7 refugees from Iraq who all work
in the kitchen of a large restaurant.
6. A group of 5 young people who live an alternative lifestyle,
by recycling and only consuming what they need to survive.
7. Three Palestinian students who are political activists,
and often demonstrate for their rights.

Orangito, our guest flat puppet from Spain, took part in all the group discussions!

Orangito, our guest flat puppet from Spain, took part in all the group discussions!

8. A Roma family with 5 members. The father only works occasionally and is otherwise unemployed. The family belongs
to a broader family which is very close and likes to have parties.
9. An American couple with no children. The wife works for the International Atomic Energy Authority
and the husband looks after the house and their 3 poodles.
10. Two artists, around 40, who lead an unconventional life
and have many artists as friends.

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11. A girl who studies the piano and singing at a conservatory,
and has to frequently practice in the evenings.
12. An African American with his Austrian partner.
He is trying to get a permit to work as an engineer.
13. A religious Muslim family which strictly follows the Quran.
The mother will only leave the house wearing a headscarf.
14. A young man in a wheelchair who lives
with his 76-year-old mother.
15. A blind girl living with her dog.
List of tenants (for younger students)
Who would you share the same house with?
1. An unmarried mother with a 3-year-old child.
2. A family of refugee workers from Pakistan
with 5 children aged 1 to 12. Their father
works in a steel mill
and their mother will take up the position of
concierge at the house.
3. A family with a 17-year-old daughter in the final grade of Secondary School. The father is a bank accountant
and the mother a teacher.
4. A single 70-year-old woman, living on a minimum pension.
5. A group of 7 refugees from Iraq who all work
in the kitchen of a large restaurant.
6. Three Palestinian students who are political activists,
and often demonstrate for their rights.
7. A Roma family with 5 members. The father only works occasionally and is otherwise unemployed. The family belongs
to a broader family which is very close and likes to have parties.
8. An American couple with no children. The wife works for the International Atomic Energy Authority and the husband looks after the house and 3 dogs.
9. Two artists, around 40, who have many artists as friends.
10. A girl who studies the piano and singing at a conservatory, and has to frequently practice in the evenings.
11. An African American with his Austrian partner.
He is trying to get a permit to work as an engineer.
12. A religious Muslim family which strictly follows the Quran.
The mother will only leave the house wearing a headscarf.
13. A young man in a wheelchair
who lives with his 76-year-old mother.
14. A blind girl living with her dog.

Our variation was: I asked them to play a game ,when we finished our project : they had to stand up when I read them a sentence with which they agreed or keep sitted when I read them a sentence with which they disagreed! eg. ” All Greeks are lazy”, ” All Roma are thieves” , ” All muslims are terrorists”…It was really interesting to see what there was in their minds  …Stereotypes were there…We have to work hard to get rid of them!

We finally  all agreed that, we should  come closer to  understand other people better !

According to recent studies, encouraging children’s critical thinking ability may be the best antidote to prejudice.

Of course,  all children notice differences. This is developmentally appropriate and, by itself, not a problem; but when negative values are attached to those differences, problems occur.

The students were asked to play a game: they had to stand up when they agreed with what was said or sit down if they disagreed!

The students were asked to play a game: they had to stand up when they agreed with what was said or sit down when they disagreed!

Our School Bazaar

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Our Christmas Bazaar every year,  marks  the end of an action-packed week!

 

The school  is transformed into a fall festival on the two days our Bazaar lasts!
Little Kids, Big Kids, Parents, Teachers, Neighbors, and Grandparents –all welcome!
I tell my kids to grab their friends and plan to shop ’til you drop and have some good old-fashioned school fun!

With roots going back thousands of years, the sprawling bazaars of South Asia and the Middle East are icons of flourishing commerce.

Our  own school Christmas bazaar ,has already become  a favorite tradition. Through planning, we  make it more fun than shopping at the mall.

It all began about 3 years ago, when the financial crisis in Greece started….

I had to find a way to sponsor my english class pen pals projects with more than 5 countries abroad  and a way to be able to expand our english library, books collection!

My motto is: ” If there is a will, there is a way”!

I wanted to teach my students that, in any  time of crisis, they should not remain passive but take action instead!!

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Therefore, I decided to host a second -hand books and toys Bazaar in our English classroom!

I wrote a letter to the parents explaining everything and focusing on the benefits of teaching our students to Reuse and Share , especially in this   time of crisis!

The only thing I actually did was, to offer them my “magic” stickers – which work wonders…- for every book , or toy they offered for the bazaar, as a way to thank them for their contribution to it!( Stickers are indeed ,  a great motivation for kids, in all cases ) !

Every year, the books that are not  finally sold, are offered to  our  school Greek Library, for all  students to be able to read and the toys, are  donated to  local charity communities !

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You can have a look at how much fun a  School Bazaar can be for students, at the photos below!

Students, feel responsible for it, feel proud for  the outcome, learn how to collaborate, set goals, acheive, and work as volunteers!

Their hidden talents , and special skills are revealed, too!

It’s a precious, unforgettable experience for them!

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The benefits of team work in the classroom

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

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

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

Learning Together

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

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The Class Environment

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

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

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