Teach Play Love: Building bridges across cultural differences through performing personal stories remotely – Haneen Jadalla (Gaza) and Nick Bilbrough (UK)

The students and teacher who joined us live during this session, from Gaza and Argentina

One aim of the Hands Up Project is to make language learning personal and intimate. The teachers give the students freedom to write personal stories, and afterwards to create a remote theatre performance which will be done globally. They can tell their stories to the world. ‘They’ are kids in Palestine, and young people from around the world. They create a sense of community irrespective of their location.

The image above shows how it felt like everyone was in the same place at the same time, despite working remotely.

We are responsible for the future of our learners, but in the future they are going to be responsible for our future tomorrow.


Why do we need to link students with their peers globally?

  • Self-identification
  • Self celebration
  • Cultural diversity

The children stand tall in front of the screen that they are able to do something so special.

Intercultural framework

  1. Students in both countries are asked to write personal stories individually. Don’t worry about mistakes – they are the ‘golden gates towards learning’ (wonderful phrase!)
  2. Swap the personal stories between you and the other teacher.
  3. Both groups meet online through Zoom. They go into breakout rooms (or do this remotely) to turn the stories into scripts. This is when students start discussing ideas, assigning roles, negotiating. The teacher is there as a stage director, praising their efforts and scaffolding their learning.
  4. The students from both ends meet in their local context (face-to-face) to edit and reformulate the script. The teacher supports them by supplying vocabulary and by editing the script, reformulating the language to a higher level, making it more accurate and authentic. Students can see before and after the editing process.
  5. Rehearsing the story and assigning the roles. The teacher acts as a stage director and facilitator. Implicitly they’re showing intonation, pausing. Explicitly, they’re showing how to use the camera, how to work with the Zoom box as a theatre method.
  6. Performing the stories in front of the screen.
  7. The original authors along with other participants discussing the whole experience.

In the example Haneen shared, the children in Palestine didn’t have any awareness of Argentinian music or names. They started to learn this, and started to learn more about creating stage directions.

Victoria’s story

We were put into groups and given the story above, with 10 minutes to turn it into a play. It was so much fun! [This said by somebody who refused point blank to do drama activities until 3 or 4 years ago!]

It was great to see a performance by four members of the audience in the room (from the UK, India and one other country I don’t know), done live for the students from Argentina and Gaza who were joining us remotely in the session. One of them (Victoria) wrote the story you see above. Victoria told us how she felt about watching other people perform her story, then talked about her feelings when the police came to her house. Then the Palestinian girls told us about her feelings when performing the Argentinian story – it was a new experience for them. When they first met each other, they were very scared and didn’t know what to do, but after that it was an amazing experience.

We then watched recordings of student performances performing the same play.

Watching the videos, we saw how when producing the video, students took advantage of ‘hide non-video participants’, switching on and off cameras, changing names, using props around the screen, knocking on the camera, all to add to the theatrical experience of watching the plays. It was fantastic!

We also heard from the girls themselves talking about how they feel about being part of the project.

At the end of the session, the audience and the students who were joining us remotely sang the Hands up song together, which was a lovely communal experience, with inspirational words.

These children are the real stars, teaching us how to work together and learn from each other.

The Hands Up Project has been an amazing experience for me, and has inspired me. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to be here with you here today and to speak to you in English. I want to be a volunteer for the Hands Up Project in the future.

Dana, one of the students from Gaza

Haneen has given our students a voice. The students’ personal stories tell us about themselves, they are sharing their identities. They have created a bridge between our two schools, built from the bricks of our stories, stuck together with commitment and joy. We are honoured to be here with you today.

Maria Teresa Continental, the teacher from Argentina

There are three books of plays written by students as part of the Hands Up Project. You can buy them to use with your students or to inspire them to write their own plays. Get them at the Hands Up Project shop. I have all three of them, and can recommend them. Each play is very short – 3 or 4 pages maximum – and easy to learn and perform, but with endless opportunities for creativity from the students.

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