Preserving Linguistic Identities Through the Intercultural Project: Hands of the World

Hands of the World (HOTW): Can You See What We Say is a unique and inclusive intercultural project that unites learners of all ages from around the world through music, Makaton signing and a wide range of digital technologies. The project was created by Sharon Tonner-Saunders, a lecturer in primary education at the University of Dundee, Scotland to create a fully inclusive learning environment where students can work collaboratively to develop an understanding and appreciation of identities, cultures and languages where Inclusion, Diversity and Linguistic Identities are at the heart of HOTW. The project has successfully run for two years, and during that time it has won various awards, with the latest being the best eTwinning project in the UK, alongside eTwinning Quality labels from different European countries and the prestigious eTwinning European Quality label.


The project involves over 60 schools, from around the world, in meaningful activities where Communication, Collaboration, Language Learning, Student Voice, Problem Solving, Social Justice and Global Learning are at the key drivers of the project. Georgia Maneta, a teacher of English in a primary school in a rural area joined the project back in September 2020 (the second year of the project). For her, the project was a great way to introduce her students to different cultures, a different “language” (that o

Makaton) and, of course, to various exciting WebTools.

The success of the project evolves around activities that enable pupils of any age and ability to work together, where language is not a barrier. These activities include, a Traditional Postcard with a Modern Twist, A Travelling Teddy Bear, Inclusive Music and Makaton Challenges and the main aspect of the project, collaborative songs.

The Traditional Postcard with a Modern Twist activity enabled pupils to connect with one another, in their own language, through the use of traditional and modern technology (postcards and QR codes ). More can be found out about the project at the HOTW Postcard online area. Pupils used a range of digital technologies, for example, digital movie making, QR code creators, Padlet pages, online meetings, etc., to enable them to communicate with schools around the world and bring their traditional postcard alive. Pupils and teachers enjoyed creating, sending and receiving postcards to enable them to develop an understanding and appreciation of differences and similarities through real-life engaging activities.

The Travelling Teddy Bear activity involved the project teddy bear visiting participating schools. The teddy bear got ready to travel around Europe and interact with European students, see their schools and participate in their lessons and activities. The journey started with students from all schools deciding on his name. After voting, using the online voting system Tricider, he was named “iccky”. Rocky started travelling and in his rucksack he had to carry one song from each country he visited. Each school recorded themselves singing a song in their language and sharing with the next school on his journey by a QR code that was inside the rucksack. Ricky’s adventures were captured on a shared blog.that enabled pupils to communicate and collaborate. Due to theCOVID-19 pandemic, Rocky was only able to travel to a few schools in UK and did not manage to travel to Greece, however, he still managed to travel to different parts of the UK during the pandemic where teachers welcomed him into their homes to enable pupils in the project to learn about different cultures through weekly quizzes using another voting system called Mentimeter. All the information about Ricky’s travels can be found at Teddy Teaches the World To Sing. During lockdown, the project changed to meet the needs of the learners and to enable them to still feel connected to their global peers. Music and Makaton challenges were then created that had different levels of participation to ensure that learners of all ages and abilities could participate. Some of the challenges had to do with both students and teachers learning about a song using Makaton signs and trying to perform as much as they could. This is why every challenge had progressive levels of participation called Chilli Challenges starting from “Mild” to “Super Sizzling Chilli Challenge” (4 levels in all). In this way, everyone could choose a challenge they felt comfortable with performing. There were also challenges where students had to express their feelings through drawing, again they could choose one of the chilli challenges, and narrate their personal stories during the pandemic by using any WebTool they felt comfortable with. Every challenge contained a demonstration video at the beginning, made by Sharon Tonner-Saunders or students from the University of Dundee, which helped everyone involved to learn the Makaton signs. During the pandemic, teachers found and implemented amazing WebTools in order to make their teaching more interactive. These tools were presented during a webinar organised by Sharon. All the details of the challenges can be found on the HOTW eTwinning online area.

At the heart of the project was the collaborative songs which are created by pupils from around the world. Each school was assigned a line/s from a song which they record themselves singing and singing. The lines are sent to Sharon who knitted them all together to create one song made by many hands around the world. Due to schools being in lockdown, the first song. A Million Dreams, was created before and during lockdown and represents how schools can be connected when everything feels disconnected in life. A positive that came from lockdown learning was that some schools were able to use the online platforms to connect pupils together through webinars and create another version of the song from live webinars and individual contributions. More information about the songs can be found on the HOTW Song page.

The project, despite the difficulties it had to undergo during lockdown learning, proved really successful in all the fields. It had clear goals and objectives at the beginning, well set out activities and every partner was aware of the things they had to do.

The way HOTW was organised, the project promoted learning interculturally, through a variety of pedagogical approaches, whilst promoting interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Collaboration permeated the project through each activity that encouraged students to learn together in pairs, groups,

along with their teachers and finally with their global peers. Teachers created a strong bond during the difficult period of the lockdown, a fact that contributed a lot to the success of the project and to the smooth implementation of the activities. Of course, technology could not be left out as ours is a digital era and students learn and interact in a different way. A great variety of digital tools were used for each activity, which enriched the students’ knowledge and made interaction easier. The project became known locally and globally as all teachers who participated in it disseminated it through their school websites, virtual events, local media, social media and conferences. The whole idea and organisation of the project can be seen here: https://twinspace.etwinning.net/94991/pages/page/741925

Last but not least, the project was a way for the students to realise that they can communicate with their peers around the world by using a universal language, that they all share the same dreams and fears and that they are all citizens of the globe and not of a certain country whilst preserving their own identities.


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