Diana Linford, French teacher at Eastburn Junior and Infant School and Steeton Primary School, not only gained a national Quality Label but scooped the ‘Creative Language Learning’ prize at the 2013 eTwinning Conference in the UK.
Her eTwinning project used Skype in the primary classroom to enable effective communications between pupils at Eastburn (near Keighley, Yorkshire) and l’Ecole de Vouillers (Champagne-Ardennes, France).
Diana Linford gives us her account of how she created such an innovative project with Magali Grapton from her French partner school.
Magali and I planned and held a number of Skype video-calls over a two-year period. The children prepared in advance for all the activities. As well as using Skype, we also exchanged photographs and blogs on our project 'TwinSpace' (a free, password protected shared web space provided by eTwinning).
Our first call was a 'Who am I?' game. Having exchanged information about themselves in advance of the call, the children played a game, asking questions to find out who was being interviewed. This enabled the children to practise a lot of the vocabulary they had been learning. This included topics such as what colour is your hair, do you have any pets and where do you live.
Another call took the form of an 'Animal snap' game. A set of animal pictures was exchanged in advance. By asking and answering questions, the other class had to guess which animal was being described. We also played 'Simon says' or 'Jacques a dit' in English and French, with pupils in both classes taking part in the game together.
In one particularly memorable call, we taught each other a song. We taught the traditional song 'London's burning' to our French friends; and they taught us a song from 'Les Misérables'. Neither teacher knew the other song, so this was a great example of peer teaching and learning!
The project had the obvious benefit of enabling the children to hear native speakers, 'live,' therefore, greatly improving their confidence in speaking and listening. We had a lot of fun and felt that we were in an international classroom, linked by the Skype call. We all gained experience in using video-calling effectively.
I also now use video-conferencing in many of my eTwinning projects, including cross-curricular projects, with multi-partner video-calls. Seeing, and talking with, pupils and teachers from the other schools in a project makes the links 'real' for the students and helps to break down barriers and prejudices.
Taking part in eTwinning has been a very positive experience for me as a teacher. I regularly learn new IT tools for my pupils to use in the classroom. I very much enjoy being a part of a European network of enthusiastic teachers and it is a privilege to work on joint projects with international colleagues. I'm sure that my pupils share my enthusiasm for our eTwinning links. As an eTwinning Ambassador, I enjoy sharing my experience with other teachers and encouraging them to try eTwinning for themselves.
This project really ignited the children's motivation and enthusiasm for language learning by making it real, relevant and fun. One child wrote in his feedback on the project: 'Everything was good. I couldn't possibly think of a way to improve it.'
Below I have provided some tips to help others with using video-conferencing in the classroom:
• find a date and time which is convenient for both classes (check the time zones!)
• practice in advance, to check the equipment works and the call is not blocked by the firewall
• have a clear plan for the call, so that each party knows what will happen
• exchange vocabulary in advance
• practice with your pupils in advance of the call
• give your pupils something to do if the call drops, or they are not involved all the time!
Are you in the final phase or recently completed your eTwinning project? Would you like to gain recognition and be in with a chance of winning a prize? If so, please apply for a Quality Label by Monday 19 May. Visit our website to learn more about the quick and easy application process: http://www.britishcouncil.org/etwinning-quality-label.htm