Left to right, insp. Rodica Mighiu (ISJ Botosani), Tiliuta Catrinel, Popa Loredana, Asiminicesei Andreea, Dodita Rodica Elena (School nr.17 Botosani)
A few days ago, namely on the 18th of September, two amazing students of mine, 7th graders now, my head mistress, my inspector for European cooperation and I walked into the imposing edifice that is the representative of the European Commission in Bucharest, Romania.
We had been invited there to be awarded the European Language Label for our eTwinning project “Let’s write a story”. We were eager and definitely not nervous since we were there to share with the audience our voyages aboard our creative and innovative project. It was about what we had done, about the essence of the project itself, about what made it stand out. Granted, it is not the best eTwinning project, I will give you that, and what I hope to accomplish by writing this article is to convince more eTwinners to apply for this certificate.
This was my 4th or 5th attempt with an eTwinning project, sometimes being the first one or the second one who did not get the certificate, but I kept applying anyway, if nothing else, for the sake of making our project known. And it worked. So, dear eTwinners, I know it might feel daunting to apply for ELL, but I know a lot of amazing projects that would certainly have a clear shot at this. Next year I hope to be reading about another eTwinning project which made it so far.
But onto the project at hand and I will be brief since nobody likes reading pages and pages. The basic idea behind our project was that students are not motivated to write in English or any other language they might study at school. It is not that the teachers are not great and all that, it is just that they do not get real feedback, feedback that would matter to a kid or a teenager. They care about their peers’ opinion, especially if those peers come from other countries. They will choose their words, work on their phrasing and illustrations, await the comments and be eager to write back as well.
And then there is the inevitable fear of making mistakes. Some students get over it really quickly, others not so much. That is why we worked in groups, so they felt their team had their back and it was inspiring for them. They were shy in front of the camera, trying to find the right words, making a lot of mistakes. As time went by, they started correcting their own mistakes, being more spontaneous, wanting to take interviews and pretending to be reporters.
Our team was an international team, from Europe and beyond it, 23 partner schools working together to facilitate language learning through story writing. Each month every school sent a list of 20 words (10 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs) and used as many lists as possible from the partner schools to create stories, illustrate them, bring them to life.
Some of the lists and stories were really simple, so as to give everyone a chance to work, some of the lists were intriguing, complex and made you wonder what stories could possibly emerge from them. Children’s imagination is a force to be reckoned with, they are relentless in their pursuit of transforming their ideas into alternate worlds. Education should enable them to use those wings of creativity, to help nurture it, to enhance their self-esteem, but most of all, to become aware of the need to integrate everyone.
Our teams were mixed ability teams, and yes, sometimes they argued and complained, sometimes they were not happy with some team members, but they adapted and used everyone’s strengths to create great stories.
The students involved in the project were very young in some of the schools (7-8 years old); ours were 12-14, from 4 different classes, some worked harder, some did not, just like in any project. Some improved more than others, but at the end of the day, everyone’s language skills were better than before and that proved that our idea had worked.
We did not want to limit ourselves to the TwinSpace, so we created ebooks and a website as well, where anyone could read the stories, tweet, like, comment or share, see the stories they wrote about the origins of eTwinning or the Google tour they created. We are looking forward to celebrating EDL together with chain videoconferences and writing stories on the spot. It will be the highlight of the project and we will definitely have a lot of fun improvising stories in a matter of minutes.
ELL was an unexpected recognition of our work on this project and my only regret is not being able to share the moment with all my students.
Loredana Popa, Romanian eTwinning ambassador