Talent promotion aims at not only the few gifted, it can be beneficial for all children and youth. All of them possess potential that can be developed. The development of resources in young people is intertwined with supporting interaction, self-confidence, and self-monitoring skills, social and emotional competence, communication skills, persuasive power and, last but not least, with developing one of the so-called key competences – intercultural competence.
There are skills, competences and resources and there are several ways to develop these in order to promote talent successfully. One way is to bring together the students of two teacher training institutes from different countries. Students can work together to collaborate in research, to learn about each other’s culture, to share their knowledge and finally to meet personally when visiting each other’s institutions.
This is exactly what two teacher training institutes – The University of Winchester from England and Apor Vilmos Catholic College from Hungary – decided to do by launching a joint project based on English and Hungarian folktale traditions.
The project began at a meeting of the Comenius Association in 2015. Two lecturers, Agnes Streitmann (Apor Vilmos Catholic College) and Jonathan Rooke (University of Winchester) with a shared enthusiasm for children’s literature realised they both taught their students about traditional folk tales and fairy tales. There was clearly commonality in the approaches and analytical tools. It became apparent that some of the tales that the English and Hungarian students study belong to the same tale-type and cycle. This triggered an idea. Could students from Hungary and England study together folk and fairy tales, share their research findings and do pedagogical work together? Appropriate tales were selected, a project plan was outlined and an international research project was born.
The project aims at promoting and providing both academic and practical background for the English and Hungarian Folk Tales Research Project of University of Winchester and Apor Vilmos College. The students investigate English and Hungarian Folk and Fairy Tales favouring tales that are common to both England and Hungary. They have studied English and Hungarian Folk Tales for example which belong to the animal bridegroom fairy-tale cycle, different Jack and the Beanstalk variants, the Gingerbread Man and other tales belonging to The Fleeing Pancake tale type, and some tales of the Cinderella cycle. In the 2018-19 academic year they are supposed to work with different kinds of folk tale heroes and heroines.
The theoretical aspects of the project comprise reading and analyzing English and Hungarian folk tales focusing on language patterns, folk tale motifs and imagery; examining universal values and common truths while simultaneously addressing the specifics of the tales as historically and culturally bound. Students investigate different aspects of the tales within cultural narrative, moral, and psychoanalytical frameworks, and they get familiarized with critical methodologies used in the study of folk and fairy tales – Propp’s structuralist, Bettelheim’s psychological framework, and Zipes’ socio-political approach – and apply these methodologies to the texts.
Besides doing research on the texts, students are encouraged to investigate the ways the tales are represented in diverse cultural forms through books, picture books, artwork, puppetry, drama, media adaptations.
Students share their research findings on a project website , which is populated with their research papers, film links, project activity plans, records of their pedagogical practice in classroom. For the informal communication students made a closed facebook page.
Practical and artistic aspects are also emphasised in both institutions. The theoretical, research part of the project is accompanied by art and craft activities aiming at preparing puppets, props, scenery, illustrations and so on to be used in performances in seminars and in school work with children.
In parallel with the English and Hungarian students’ cooperation, there is also primary school work. Students research possible ways of working with the children based on the tales. They prepare lesson plans, dramatize and perform the tales with children. Records of their pedagogical practice in classrooms is recorded on the project website.
In the autumn term schools that have existing good partnerships with the universities host the students and assist them in their practical classroom work with children. Students work with children in their home country, experimenting with ideas for teaching children about the folk and fairy tales. They refine these and then prepare to share the classroom pedagogical techniques with their partner students during the project-week at the partner institution in the spring term. The most popular storytelling techniques and pedagogical applications used by the students so far are as follows: Kamishibai (paper theatre), story-mountain, story-map, story-string, tablet technology, dramatization of tales.
During the project weeks students also participate in exciting and inspiring thematic programmes. They join the interactive workshops held by lecturers and guest performers, watch dramatized versions of tales performed by primary school pupils and puppet performances at puppet theatres, visit story museums, and enjoy sightseeing in Budapest and Winchester.