Escola Secundária de Pinheiro e Rosa

Author(s): European Schoolnet
Institution/Organisation: Escola Secundária de Pinheiro e Rosa (PT)

1.    Profile of school

1.1 Main characteristics

The Escola Secundária de Pinheiro e Rosa is a large mixed upper secondary school with a pupil population of 940. It is state funded and located in an urban setting in Faro, Portugal. It offers a broad curriculum as well as a wide base of extra curricular activities.

1.2    Language teaching in the schools

The language of tuition in the school is Portuguese, which is the mother tongue of the pupils. The taught foreign languages in the schools are English, French, German and Spanish. German and Spanish is taught for beginners while English and French is taught to upper intermediate level. All pupils study at least one language and some of them study two foreign languages, depending on the courses they are studying.

There are no language assistants employed in the school, but all classrooms are equipped with computers and projectors, which are extensively used in language lessons. There are exchange programmes for teachers only, mainly with Spanish schools, but also some with Italian and Polish schools.

2.    PROFILE OF THE LAGUAFE INITIATIVE

2.1    General description of the eTwinning action

The eTwinning action is one of the activities that make up the Comenius programme, the school education section of the Lifelong Learning Programme. It currently has 60,000 registered users. Schools and teachers often opt for eTwinning, as it is an easy and non-bureaucratic means of starting a European project. It is unique among the Comenius actions, insofar as it has a dedicated communication space for teachers equipped with a wide range of online communication tools designed for use in the project implementation. Unlike the Comenius school partnership programme, there is no funding for schools involved in eTwinning, and many teachers use eTwinning to begin their Comenius projects while they are waiting for approval, or else to continue the project after the funded period is finished.
The importance of language learning is central to the work of all Comenius actions, and eTwinning is no exception. Within eTwinning, it is impossible to carry out a project without touching in some way on language. This language can be the mother tongue of the project schools, or, as is more often the case, a common third language used as the medium of communication.

2.2 Description of the language initiative

The eTwinning project described here was a tripartite one, carried out between the Portuguese school, a Spanish school and a French school. It was a runner-up in its category in the 2008 European eTwinning prize and has been awarded quality labels at both national (all 3 countries) and European level. It was carried out with 10th – 12th form pupils, aged around 16. It was based on the school language curriculum requirement and was carried out during class time with classes of approximately 28 pupils.

The name of the Project “Comunicação à trois bandas” tries to express in a brief manner the spirit: a word in Portuguese, one in French and another in Spanish, three countries; three different realities; three different cultures! All the assignments had two main purposes: getting to know and understand all those realities from a European citizenship perspective and the consolidation of their foreign language skills. The Spanish language was the language used to communicate. For the French and Portuguese pupils, the Spanish language was part of their curriculum, which demands a command of both the written and spoken language. These pupils worked on the writing of texts audio recordings, chatting on MSN Messenger (always in Spanish). For the Spanish pupils, it integrated part of the curriculum subject “Means of Communication” which includes the study of communication, language and media.
All the assignments focus on practicing the basic vocabulary required by the Portuguese and French curriculum at this level: Personal descriptions, hobbies, likes and dislikes, home and families, local customs and traditions, physical area such as  cities... They also compared some urban aspects and surroundings (e.g. post-offices, city councils, banks, gardens, sign marks, etc), outdoor games (traditional and modern), gastronomy and exchanging recipes most commonly used in each country.

A blog managed by the teachers was created in order to establish links to the students’ blogs. Each of the sixteen student-blogs was managed by a group of three students, a French one, a Spanish one and a Portuguese one. In the main blog they published news and some selected works from each topic. They also used digital cameras, video cameras, recording equipment, computers and Internet. The entire project was carried out using the Internet as a means of communication.

3.    EVALUATION

3.1 Success Factors

The main factor of the success of language teaching in the school is the policy at school management level to encourage pupils to study at least one foreign language, with two foreign languages being compulsory in certain streams. The school offers a range of languages to choose from and pupils do not consider it strange to be exposed to other languages and culture.

Because of this official support at management level, the teacher is encouraged to experiment and to find new ways to implement language learning. Another factor of success is the enthusiasm and dedication of the teacher who provides very creative pedagogic approaches to encourage her pupils to learn. She is a technology expert as well as a language expert and brings highly original approaches to her teaching of language,

Another factor was the careful planning the teachers carried out  to ensure compatibility between the different school schedules from the different participating countries, in order to  facilitate and coordinate the communication. They also worked hard to clearly defined at the outset the tasks to be completed and  this type of  effective coordination is necessary in order to avoid false expectations among participants.

3.2 Success Indicators

One of the main indicators of success for the French and Portuguese pupils was the relevance of the project because all the work was directly connected to the Spanish Language program. As a result there was a great development language for these pupils. Their vocabulary expanded considerably and their confidence grew in both their written expression and their oral and aural skills.

What is interesting here, and it is noted in several eTwinning projects, is that the mother-tongue pupils, in this case the Spanish pupils, become a type of linguistic mentor for their partner, assisting them to perfect vocabulary and pronunciation. An interview between the Portuguese teacher and the Spanish teacher may be seen here: http://etwinning.isftic.mepsyd.es/noticias/jornadas.php

Through this project, the pupils were able to broaden their knowledge of other realities and other national cultures. Another indicator of success was that due to using this public method of reporting etc, there was greater accountability for their work and increased interest in the classes of the subjects involved. Finally, In utilising this type of projects (the schools have 2 years experience of working with eTwinning projects), the school has developed a local and regional recognition for its work. This has had the knock-on effect in the community of teachers from other schools seeking to develop this approach or methodology to language teaching with their pupils. Surely imitation is always a sure indication of success.