Hässelbygårdsskolan Sweden/Siegerland Grundschule Germany

Author(s): European Schoolnet
Institution/Organisation: Hässelbygårdsskolan Sweden/Siegerland Grundschule Germany (SE/DE)

1. Profile of the language initiative

1.1 Background

The eTwinning action is part of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission. It is placed in the Comenius strand, but unlike Comenius partnerships, eTwinning projects are not directly funded. The aim is to enhance school collaboration via the use of ICT, the action is thus organised on a virtual platform, the eTwinning website. Annually the best collaborative school projects are awarded the European eTwinning Prizes.

The ‘Wooden Doll Project’ was awarded last year’s etwinning prize. It is a collaborative project in which pupils of primary and lower secondary schools communicate in English as a common foreign language. All pupils that participated in this project have a migrant background and do not have Swedish or German as their native language.

1.2 Relevance

The pupils’ catchment area of both participating groups is mainly of foreign background - mainly Arabic, Turkish and Russian. In Sweden the local catchment area is socially and economically particularly demanding. Parents are often low skilled and have no academic background.

By the use of imaginary pupils, the two wooden dolls, starting a new life in Germany and Sweden, it is easy for the pupils to exchange their own experiences and knowledge focusing on leaving their native countries, friends and family for a new life in Europe. The English language is the tool to communicate with each other.

1.3 Transferability

The concept of imaginary pupils in form of wooden dolls can easily be transferred to either similar learning environments, but can also be adapted to any situation in which it is easier for pupils to identify with a kind of symbolic figure. The idea to focus on dolls instead of the students themselves when sharing experiences and expressing feelings on different themes is motivating as it makes it easier for students to be open about thoughts, ideas and their own experiences, not having to reveal too much of their own lives. The dolls represent a visual way of expressing oneself and enhance the written messages.  It is motivating in other circumstances as well as students do not act as themselves in a foreign language and are more open and frank to communicate and contribute.

1.4 Sustainability

In terms of sustainability, it depends very much on each learning conditions and concrete circumstances of each group. Nevertheless, even when this concept may not be sustained in one group, it is an ice-breaking initiative that is stimulating to open up to new language experiences in any group. The methodology is creative and based on simulation. The play factor and thus the fun factor are both high. As said, the language is the tool – it is not in the main focus of this activity. Communication comes first and correctness second. In this way students easily acquire and improve their language competence by doing. 

1.5 Practical realisation

The students have described different situations and aspects in the wooden dolls’/students’ lives in slide presentations.
Texts and responses written on different themes and photos taken of the wooden doll, the school, exterior life in the neighbourhood and in the cities of Stockholm and Berlin.
Text work, photos and responses documented in PowerPoint presentations, presented and evaluated in class, emailed to the partner school and finally published on the homepages of our schools and the eTwinning homepage.
TwinSpace used for messages, dates etc (Calendar and Mailbox) and for publishing PowerPoint presentations and photos (Photo Gallery).
Teachers e-mailed each other frequently and exchanged visits for planning and collaboration (Berlin, May and October 2007 and Stockholm, September 2007).
The storyline method has been used with a third part, the two wooden dolls, representing a visual way of expressing oneself. The students - with all their different experiences and backgrounds - starting a new life in Germany and Sweden, using the dolls as ‘a safe way’ of sharing their lives with others in a similar situation without having to reveal themselves.
Keywords: active learning, reflection and the building on the students’ own experiences and knowledge. Goals from the national curriculum are included in a natural way.
Easy tools to handle. Main focus has been on the communication:

The presentations have been shown on a big screen in the computer lab. Project work has been carried out individually or in groups on a trial and error basis. The more advanced pupils helped the less advanced

1.6 Strategic goals of the Initiative


2. Evaluation of the initiative

2.1 Success indicators

ICT and  English skills improved: the computer served as a tool for communication, not for private chatting or playing games.

Communication. The chosen language for communication, English, was used and needed ’for real’ communication frequently.

Sharing experiences and memories in a safe environment without having to reveal themselves in doing so.

Age groups: younger and older pupils side by side - an opportunity to get to know pupils that you normally don’t mix with at school. Differences in age no problem rather the opposite – made it more interesting.

Attention: Being part of something positive and getting attention for it.

2.2 Success factors

A clearly growing self confidence for pupils; they are personally stimulated by their own work as well as their peers; showed signs of togetherness.

The pupils have been proud when gathering in front of a big screen/SMART board, having accomplished the slide shows and being the owners of the presentations. Nothing has been published without their consent, which has contributed to their feelings of pride.

They have been part of an implicit learning situation with improvement of ICT and language skills as a result without the pupils regarding it as a learning situation.

Use of innovative teaching methods.

Partnerships with foreign pupils in a safe virtual environment.

An established and successful European and national support system for teachers involved in the eTwinning action.

2 .3 Lessons to be learned

At  an institutional level

“We‘ve learnt many words as we‘ve all the time written in English to the other class. We have also learnt to type better and quicker”  (Dean from Germany).

“I wish that I could be in a project like this again. I have learned English words and about PowerPoint, too, and it was fun doing it” (Simret from Sweden).

“I am proud that we did our best.” (Luna from Sweden).