‘Show and Tell’ has become one of the Hands Up project’s core online activities. It’s fun, communicative, and potentially very motivating for learners, especially if it involves interaction between young people who live in different contexts around the world. It can also be very effective as a means to promote language development. Here are some ways to maximise its learning potential.
- Encourage learners to prepare extensively for the experience. This could involve looking up key words that they’re going to need, asking their parents or teachers for help, or practising saying what they’re going to say until they feel comfortable with it.
- Encourage learners to prepare a slide with some key information on it. Writing things down can help to make new language stick. It can also make things clearer to learners of English in other contexts who may speak a different variety of English.
- Have a particular theme for the session. This could be food, my favourite place, my dream job etc. This may mean that areas of language get repeated and recycled throughout the session, and may also make the session feel more connected (and the learners more connected to each other)
- Ask the learners to tell everyone their topic beforehand and invite questions. This could be done by asking them to change their name on zoom to include their topic (Farah – my trophy, Samuel – my pet dog etc). Everyone then uses the chat on zoom to ask individual questions to the others (What did you win the trophy for? How did you feel when you won it? What is your pet dog like? How old is it? etc) The learners then try to answer the questions in the talks that they give.
- Ask everyone to do their talks first in pairs or small groups in breakout rooms. This can be very useful as a practice stage, they can discover how well they are getting their message across, and the listener’s questions can make their talks richer when they do them again. To really encourage everyone to listen to each other you could ask everyone to talk about their partners object instead of their own in round two.
- Encourage the learners to take the initiative about who goes next. They could end their talks by saying ‘Does anyone have a similar object? Or a similar experience? What sports do you do in your country? Again this can add to the feeling of connectedness in the session?
- Review the language used. Make a note of some useful pieces of language which are used by the learners in their talks, perhaps upgrading them to make them more accurate and or sophisticated. At the end of the session share these on a slide and ask everyone to try to remember who said what? For instance in the video below one of the 16 learners (Joudie, Samuel, Jossaline, Yara, Arial, Jonatan, Karina, Linda, Zaina, Emily, Noe, Rima, Hadeel, Vanessa, Nagham, Farah) said each of the following:-
1. It was given to my brother.
2. This was the first time I visited Jerusalem. We enjoyed it so much.
3. I wanted to go there because my mother wanted to go there when she was young.
4. It’s very dear to me. When I see it I just remember my dad.
5. My mum and dad were so proud of me.
6. He’s very loving and cute. He works taking care of the house.
7. I did it on my tablet.
8. It was the first time I smiled in a photo. I’ll show it to my children when I grow up.
9. They have a special meaning because they remind me that I need to follow my dream.
10. It took me two or three days to do it.
11. I love it so much because it reminds me of the beautiful cities in our country.
12. It was given to me by my school after we finished a project.
13. I got it from my older sister when she got married and moved away.
14. It has an important and special meaning for me.
15. Here are some pictures of the lives of the people.
16. She’s very playful and active.
You could also use this as a listening exercise with learners who didn’t take part, as a way to encourage them to focus on some useful language and take part in future sessions.
This week we have a post from my very good friend, our advisory board member in Gaza and UNRWA education specialist, Rida Thabet.
Long ago, when I was a child, I was given a plastic toy that looked like a camera. It was a gift from a pilgrim returning from Mecca. It was a common gift for children at that time. We were able to zoom in and out and scenes from around the world were displayed.
Last Monday, I had an experience that reminded me of those days. It was when I joined the Hands Up Project’s intercultural show and tell session. With nearly all corners of the world represented now in our work, with people from as far afield as China and Nepal in the east and Brazil and Argentina in the west it looks like the world has come together hanging in the air for one hour for joy and interaction.
Teachers and students from around the world met to talk about things that means to them. It was a deep and meaningful experience to listen to different people talking about their favourite photos, gifts, books, plants and talking about trophies and medals that represent their successful moments in life. We listened to stories behind pictures and we lived moments in the lives of people seen for the first time. They reminded us with similar objects we once had or still have and with similar feelings or moments life.
We were paired to take turns listening to each other before re-joining the others. Our task was to represent our partner and talk about the dear item he or she had chosen.
You not only need to repeat what your partner has said, but to live the story behind it and to experience the feeling he or she had experienced. It is a lesson to look at things from others’ perspectives, to feel empathy for others. Some objects that may seem meaningless to you might mean a lot to other people. It reminds us to listen with our ears but also with our hearts as well. If people listen with their hearts and learn how to tell the stories of others, the world would be a better place.
If you want to be part of this and want to live the experience, just zoom in with the Hands up Project one Monday or many Mondays.
This week we have a post from Hands Up Project volunteer and professional storyteller, Michael Loader. Over to you Michael…..
I’ve been volunteering with the Hands Up Project since 2018 after meeting Nick in Bristol where he was giving a talk at the Palestine Museum. This coincided with my ‘recent interest’ and ‘lengthy ignorance’ of the situation in Palestine and the Middle East.
I had been asked by a Bristol friend to get involved with a new music, song and word project in 2017 that was going to mark the 100th year since the Balfour Declaration, organised by a Quaker who has a knack of exposing the darker sides of British history that lie concealed under the veneer of decades.
With his expertise and persistence he managed to get an Arts Council grant that brought our group together to create, rehearse and tour the show called ‘Longing and Belonging: Balfour’ around the UK. The following year we were granted funding by the British Council to take the show to Palestine and Israel, which was to become my first visit.
You can find more about the trip at…
As for everyone, these last few months have been difficult for lots of reasons and for many of us work has disappeared for the foreseeable future – how long for no one knows. So when I was contacted about offering a 1:1 storytelling session with a teacher in Italy last week I was delighted to accept the offer.
She chose to work on reading and telling the story of the Gruffalo, which she uses with young children learning English as a second language. She first told it using voice, actions, characterisation, sound effects, physicality and the book, all skills that she has a good command of.
I then asked her to re-read/ retell it without physicality and the book, concentrating on the words, letting them be her guide… “How do you feel about that?” She said “Er okay” showing signs of uncertainty. After she had retold it we discussed the differences… Post session I ruminated… rumi rumi rumi…
It reminded me of the essential component of storytelling – that is the storyteller creates WORDS and the listener creates PICTURES… taking away the book created stronger images in my mind as the listener/ watcher, and focussed my attention on the pictures she was creating with her facial expression and voice.
Her vocal skills were also sharpened ‘painting’ more vibrant tones without having to concentrate on the skills of physicality and the book, thereby bringing the telling down to the essentials.
In essence the exchange is between the teller and the listener and as both parties draw from their imaginations, an alchemical magic occurs when a single imagination appears. If we are not careful the introduction of a book or something outside of this ‘private and personal’ communication can sever this bond and break the spell that has been already established. Seeing the pictures on a page, however beautiful they are does not have the same effect as the listener creating the pictures in their own imagination. When the listener starts translating words into ‘seeing pictures’, this is when the true magic happens.
I was glad to be taught and reminded of this invaluable lesson… teacher becomes learner
‘When people are aligned to their purpose, when the gap between values and behaviours closes, what people experience is a stream of ease’ (Lewin 2000)
I first heard this Roger Lewin quote about 10 years ago. It was in a workshop for teachers about leadership in ELT and it was led by my friend and colleague Adrian Underhill. It really struck a chord with me – so much so that the very next day I quit my job at a UK University and decided I would try to do something which was more aligned to my purpose.
At the time I was teaching English as a foreign language to students who were being pushed through courses to get them ready to do a degree in the UK. The materials imposed on us were very dull and dry, the students didn’t seem to want to be there (and neither did the teachers!) and the whole process of language teaching just felt like a series of hoops to jump through – no creativity, no fun, no flow..
For me what Lewin is saying here is that when people really believe in what they’re doing, everything just seems to flow and they are capable of achieving almost anything. It doesn’t feel like work – it just feels like ‘a stream of ease’.
When I started doing online sessions under the Hands Up umbrella that was the feeling I had and I think it’s the feeling that so many of our volunteers have when they connect to young people in Palestine for their own online sessions for the Hands Up Project. It’s also the feeling I still have when I do sessions these days. Much has been written about the importance of motivating learners but I think teacher motivation is also something we need to emphasise, to nurture and to celebrate. And if the teacher’s experiencing flow because they are fully committed to what they’re doing then I think there’s a very good chance that the learners are too.
Schools in Palestine have been closed since March but this hasn’t stopped us from enjoying ourselves doing Facebook live sessions and zoom sessions for kids at home. And we’re really pleased to announce that after our two week break everything will be starting again from Monday.
Now, I got a real kick out of the performance aspects of the session below – playing the role of the Kamishibai storyteller with a bicycle and trying to speak Japanese, as well as playing back the stories of the participants as they came in. What motivates you as a volunteer with HUP, or as a teacher in any other context, may be entirely different of course. So when do you experience flow as a teacher? Please write a comment below.
Lewin, R (2000) Complexity; Life at the edge of Chaos ; University of Chicago Press
Last week we published the names of the 18 winning plays of this year’s remote theatre competition. This week we’re publishing this very moving piece by Ana Begovic, one of the 70 judges who had the unenviable task of having to choose her favourite plays.
Two years ago, I was invited to be one of the judges for the Hands Up Project remote theatre competition, and I feel I should share some thoughts on this amazing project. This charity provides English through drama and online sessions to children in Palestine living in refugee and displacement camps across the country, mainly in Gaza. I readily accepted and since then I’ve enjoyed the experience and privilege with each return of the remote theatre competition.
I wouldn’t like to make this post political, as it would be beneath me. I’ve got friends of all faiths and backgrounds and generally avoid crying against one or the other side in any conflict. The reason is quite simple: I was a child in a war-torn country. I shared my room with my refugee grandfather when I was 7. I experienced bombing of my city when I was 13. I remember food and supply shortages, power and water cuts, sitting my first tests in my jacket and gloves as school had no heating at -15 degrees Celsius. I remember holding my mother to comfort her at 3 o’clock in the morning as she screamed watching a report from her home town in Bosnia and Herzegovina on TV: Mostar’s landmark bridge was being blown up, and she had no idea whether her family, still in the town at that point, were alive. The next day I had an important test at school and the only thing I wanted was to get an A to cheer my mum up.
With such experiences in life people mature before their time.
And that is what I see in the eyes of young Palestinian performers each year. That specific sadness and depth may be beyond those who don’t share the pain of growing up in a country forsaken by gods and men alike but commented on heavily by both. After the war, we say in my country, everyone is a general.
These children don’t complain in their sketches – on the contrary. They discuss issues common to all children: parent-child relationships, local culture, school, hopes and dreams for life, health…but unlike their peers from the more privileged countries, you feel that they care. They truly care. Keeping fit or having friends to rely on becomes more pressing an issue when one’s dancing so close to the edge of a precipice. I never felt that children acted, they more likely lived their short plays, thus doing what’s often beyond many involved in professional theatre: to satisfy the original purpose of the dramatic art. Drama was sacred to its inventors, the Ancient Greeks, and its aim was to purge spectators’ souls of feelings and thoughts widely frowned upon. Nowadays we turn to professionals to stir such emotions in us; alas, the best of them tend to keep a dark secret: their best performances are memorable precisely because of their full identification, a merger if you will, with the character – and that transcends the boundaries of their trade. Much like a child’s character development which involves experimenting with many ‘selves’ over time.
Well done to all young performers, and my gratitude to Hands Up Project for another year of supporting children in need of a semblance of a regular childhood. I hope one day they do better with the world they have inherited from us.
When I wrote the post above, the world still hadn’t gone into lockdown over COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many have now experienced the daily life of children in Palestine with restrictions on movement, closure of schools and financial insecurity of families. Those of us with similar previous experiences have sadly got used to the world’s divisions and injustice. Lockdown anxieties came as nothing, or hardly anything new. People can adjust quite quickly if thrown in at the deep end – even when they have deemed it impossible. Take it from the seasoned survivors. Still, if you look right into our eyes, they might give a rebellious “See what it’s like?” – not out of spite, but out of wish to share in balance for once. We are one fragile branch of the Earth’s core tree that cannot survive without the trunk, nor without other cells. Perhaps it’s poetic justice that we are to learn this lesson with our hearts pounding with the sight of empty streets of our cities. But shall we emerge from this temptation ready for what one of my favourites, William Blake, called the “Brotherhood of Man”? Quite intentionally and well before his time he shared a prophetic idea that the world needed healing through realisation that we all are mere cells of a giant organism. Our task is therefore not to fight, but to grow, learn, support and love – in unison. From my isolation, I pray it finally dawns on those who hold the power of decision-making. Or that we hold them responsible with more zeal. Either way, a change of ways and hearts is not only welcome but necessary.
After much deliberation and extremely difficult decisions by the panel of over 70 judges from around the world, we are very proud to announce the 18 winners (listed alphabetically) of the 2020 Hands Up Project remote theatre competition. We would like to offer our huge congratulations to them all.
A bird without wings was created and performed by Omar Abo Shmala (10), Yousif Ashour (10), Abd Allh Abu Libda(10), and Fajer Abu Shamala (10) from Al-Bureij Elem. Boys’ B’ UNRWA school, with support from their teacher Asma Falah Zaqout.
‘All mine’ was created and performed by Sara Abu El-Kaeir 11, Nada Abu Nada 11 and Reema Jabr 11, from Nuseirat Prep A Girls School, with support from their teacher Hadeel Mayyat.
‘An exile inside the home country’ was created and performed by Raw’aa Azem Abu Arra (15), Ola Muhammad Abu Arra(15), and Sarah Amjad Abu Arra (13) from Japanese Primary School for Girls, with support from their teacher Shorouq Daraghmeh.
‘Behind bars of silence’ was created and performed by Abdelrahman Samer Al-Ghossein (14 years old), Baraa Mohammed Jaber (13 years old), Khaled Shadi Abu Riala (13 years old) from Nuseirat Prep “E” Boys School, with support from their teacher Abdelrahman M. A. Mikkawi.
‘Nobody can destroy your dreams’ was created and performed by, Siwar shaat (13) years old , Qamar Abu Fakher (13) years old, Dana Abu Rahma(13)years old , Saja Shaat (13) years old and Tala Abu Abdou(13) years old from Al Madina Al Munawwarah girls Prep. School , with support from their teacher Soha Abed
So finally in the midst of a world crisis, and after much deliberation and agonising decisions by the judges from around the world we are almost ready to announce the 18 winning plays of the 2019/2020 Hands Up Project Playwriting competition.
Competitions are great; they can provide an incentive to produce work of exceptional quality (and yet again young people in Palestine have surpassed themselves with their brilliance, their commitment, and their innovative storytelling and performance skills) but with over 150 plays submitted, it’s also inevitable that some excellent plays are not amongst the winners.
So at this point it’s important to remind ourselves of why we put on the play writing and performing competition every year. We do it so that young people in Palestine may have an opportunity to develop their English in motivating and learning rich ways and that they may tell their untold stories to the world.
This fact is beautifully illustrated in Inas Younis Shurrab’s post below about how she turned the competition into a wonderful multi-skilled learning opportunity for all.
Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, but thinking what no one else has thought. It’s not what you look at the matters, it’s what you see. Critical and creative thinking is more than a skill for learning; it’s a skill for life. Everyone – not just our students, can benefit from enhanced thinking skills both in and out of the classroom.
Making a play out of a short story can be a good way to enable students to think about how to write a complete script which can be performed on stage and deciding on all the required materials to act this play successfully. The challenge of their creative thinking will increase if we ask them to change the title ,the end or the whole story to tell us something about their life. They should keep the story in their minds but to think about telling things differently.
Towards the Top ,is a school initiative about students making plays out of English short stories . It was presented to them as a competition between different teams to encourage them to do their best. Every team has their own short story.
The Target group:
The excellent and talented students at Al Fukhari Prep.Girls School from grade 5 to grade 9.
Time: October and November 2019
The Main Idea:
Students work in teams to read and understand an English short story. They then transfer it into a play in English and Arabic.
The Aims of the competition:
1- To get students to practice the four skills of English (reading , writing , speaking and listening) in order to improve their language.
2- To enhance the creative and the critical thinking of students.
3- To develop students self-confidence and team work.
4- To produce some purposeful plays made by the students of Al Fukhari School.
5 – To determine the most talented girls from different grades to write and perform in English.
The stages and how to win:
In order to win in the competition , the team have to pass four stages and to gain four golden stars to reach the medal of the winner. The Four stages are:
1- Stage 1: To pass this stage, the whole team should read and understand the story completely and to complete the first page in the competition handbook. They will be tested orally to make sure of that.
2- Stage 2: In this stage , the team of students should write their own play based on the short story . After checking the written script of the play , the team will gain the second golden star.
3- Stage 3: The team perform the play in front of the leading committee of the competition. Then they will have the third golden star.
4- Stage 4: In the last stage , the team have to make some changes in the play (story ) title and script to create a new end for the story . In this case the team will gain the fourth golden star.
To see the presentation of the four stages see this video
1- The given short stories are of different levels of difficulty to suit the level of different grades of students.
2-Every team will be asked to choose a name for them based on the moral of their story.
3- The responsible committee will guide all the teams and give them the needed feedback and advice to do their best.
There’s no doubt that the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has thrown education around the world into chaos. According to UNESCO, 85% of the world’s learners are not going to school right now. This means more than one and a half billion children are stuck at home!
But as we know, out of chaos there can sometimes arise incredible creativity, especially where Palestine is concerned. After all, Palestinian teachers have been providing quality education and dealing with the chaos imposed on them by external forces for many years now. They have consistently been finding creative ways to help children learn despite all the challenges – and to enable young people’s art to be noticed and their voices heard.
As a response to the current crisis, HUP has already reinvented ourselves and changed pretty much everything that we do. By immediately moving our sessions from #Zoom to #FacebookLive we’re coping with the school closures and enabling kids to access our team of volunteers in their own homes.
And next week we’re going to introduce three new creative ideas into the mix and hope that these will be ways not only to support the educational needs of young people in Palestine, but also to support other young people around the world under lockdown who want to practice and develop their English.
Mighty Pens – Saturdays, 12pm Palestine time.
As you may know we have been doing lots of storytelling sessions and grade specific English for Palestine sessions on Facebook live. This weekly session will also take place on facebook Live on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/handsupproject/videos/ but it will be an opportunity for young people to get some support creating poems, chants, stories and plays. It’s suitable for young people under 16, and everyone is welcome wherever you are.
Intercultural Show and tell – Mondays, 2pm Palestine
This weekly session will take place by #zoom (downloadable here https://zoom.us/download ) and will be limited to a maximum of 15 students aged 16 or under from anywhere in the world. The idea is that everyone brings along a personal possession which means something to them. It could be a favourite book, something which represents their hobby, a picture of someone they admire etc. They’ll then have a chance to talk about it to the others and one of our volunteers will provide supportive feedback. See this blog post I wrote about it a while back, and here’s an example of yours truly doing it as a beginner learner of Arabic as a second language (If I can do it anybody can! 🙂 ) Please send us an email at email@example.com to reserve a place.
Students versus Teachers – Wednesdays 2pm Palestine time
This will be a chance for students everywhere to get revenge on teachers for asking them questions all the time! 🙂 The idea is that students from around the world come up with some difficult general knowledge questions in English for the remote volunteer to answer. It’s a chance to practice language related to other areas of their curriculum in English. The students will score a point for each question that the remote volunteer fails to answer correctly. There’ll be a different theme each week and to kick us off on Tuesday we’ll focus on the theme of Science. (Please see the examples below from our classroom based versions in Palestine) The session is suitable for young people under 16, and limited to 15 students maximum. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place.