In search of an audience

Usually when I write this weekly blog post I share it first with the various Palestinian teacher and teacher trainer groups that I belong to on Facebook, before sharing it elsewhere.  I do this because it is this kind of audience that this blog is intended for. I want this to be a space where teachers who work in contexts like these can get new ideas, where they can download resources, and where they can discuss and share ideas about what happens in their own classes.

This week I’m sharing it with everyone straight away though, and I’m doing this because I want to mark a change in the way the Hands Up Project is developing. When I started doing this more than six months ago it was really just about me telling stories to children through Zoom. I’m still doing this of course, more than ever, and there are new groups starting all the time. Just today for example, I’ve been asked by a group in Gaza to set up an online training course in storytelling techniques for teachers there.

But increasingly these days,  I’m finding that the Hands up Project is becoming more about the output of the learners and, at the same time, more about me and the rest of the outside world being an audience for their output. Yesterday I started working with a new group in Gaza and they began with two excellent performances in front of the webcam of things they’d been practising with their teacher, Ghada Matar; the first a chant I wrote, but performed by the kids in their own very creative way, and the second a very dramatic readers’ theatre performance of the story of ‘Nasreddin and the dinner party’ They were performing for the rest of the class of course as well as me (and it helped that the images of them as well as me were projected onto the big screen) but I could sense that they really got a kick out of showing their work to someone outside. For Gazans, living in an incredibly densely populated tiny area of land, and for the most part never having set foot outside, this is something very powerful that the internet can offer. Even the two short power cuts that we experienced during the session didn’t seem to curb their enthusiasm to perform.

And it’s not just through the online Zoom sessions that these performances are happening.  I’m also regularly being sent videos of brilliant adaptations of the Stories Alive material by some very creative teachers in Gaza. I particularly like the way that Sahar Salha gets the whole class involved so enthusiastically with this chant from the story of The Jackal and the Crow. Perhaps the fact that they know they are being videoed gives them that extra bit of push.


And every time I ask students to draw a picture in an online session there is always a sea of waving hands when I ask if anyone would like to come and show their drawing to me and talk about them. I still think that talking with a child about something they have drawn is one of the most empowering things we can do as teachers of young learners.

Picture drawn by a child in the Zaatari camp in Jordan after one of our online sessions.

Now thanks to blogs and social media sites like Facebook the audience can be wider ranging still. Since January most of the visitors to this blog have been from Palestine, but it’s also been visited by teachers from 74 other countries too. Hopefully this post and a small part of the work that teachers and students are producing  will be shared widely too, if only as a reminder of the fact that children are children pretty much wherever they are.


4 thoughts on “In search of an audience

  1. This is really great.. Evening Mr. Nick 🙂

    I’d like to thank you very very much as you exert so much efforts in order to help teachers from different parts of the world to get new ideas,resources, and materials for their own classes. I appreciate your work and your job that you did with us in Ramallah. For me I’ve got so many things that were really useful and now I do use them in my teaching strategy..

    I hope you achieve more and more success through your personal, academic and practical life..

    Really Truly thank you 🙂


    1. Thanks for your well wishes Sahar. I must say that I am blown away by the extent to which you and other teachers in Gaza have taken the ideas that we worked with in Ramallah and made them your own, in your own very creative ways. A case in point is what you posted in our Facebook group today: taking the chant which goes with the story of Tunjur and then holding a competition to see which group can come up with the best interpretation of it is an inspired idea! I love it and I wish I could have been there to see it. I also really appreciated the comments you made about how you would do things differently the next time you do the activity. As a teacher trainer these are things that can give an enormous sense of satisfaction. They can make you feel that your work is done.

      I wanted to write this post about audience because I think this is what my role is becoming more and more. It’s less about me telling stories and more about teachers telling stories, and actually more about kids telling stories. Here’s just one example, from so many of a learner in the other Sahar’s class in Jabalia, telling the story of ‘The Jackal and the Crow’ in her own words.

      Einstein reputedly said ‘If you want your children to be intelligent read them fairy stories. If you want them to be more intelligent read them more fairy tales’ Perhaps he forgot to add that if you want your children to embody their intelligence, enable them to tell stories themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OK, to enable them to tell stories, they need to be well – prepared. I totally agree that ‘students got a kick out of showing their work to someone outside’ or to show their work in front of a camera. It’s like bringing the whole world into the classroom. Being videoed could be a fun side of any class. But ,still, I believe that students could be truely involved and wonderfully motivated because of some other reasons. In Gada and Sahar’s videos, students know
    what they intend to say or do
    which is, in my opinion, an
    Yesterday my students had a Skype session with students from Japan. Of course they
    communicated in English. They talked about many things but they were prepared. They
    expected some questions or topics and they prepared some answers or ‘scripts’:). They didn’t follow what they prepared letter to letter but they needed to do that to feel safe, maybe. Simply they were mentally prepared and they did a great job.


    1. Hi Amal, Interesting comment. I agree that this stage that you’re referring to of preparation, planning, rehearsal or practice is so so important, and there’s a powerful link with the performance stage isn’t there? Students want to get things right and do them to the best of their ability when they are performing for an audience, (be it their teacher, their peers, or an online connection like your link up in Japan) and this pushes them to be well prepared. In a way this is far more natural than what we often do as teachers which is just make people practice things for the sake of it. I’m wondering whether the old lesson paradigm of PPP (presentation, practice, production) might be more usefully expressed as PRESENTATION, PREPARATION, PERFORMANCE.


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