The Pont Project: A Guide for Teachers

The Pont Project is a collaboration between organisations in Wales and Italy.
The team comprises:
ITALY – Associazione Culturale TwLetteratura / Betwyll, Espaci Occitan and Bepart
WALES – Head4Arts, Menter Iaith Caerffili and storyteller Tamar Eluned Williams

The project uses folk tales from the two countries as a way of increasing enjoyment of reading, having some fun with the texts and connecting with other readers. It involves four languages, a new user-friendly reading method and an app (available for free). It is designed to take place over the course of three weeks, focussing on two short tales each week.

We strongly recommend that teachers download the app and experiment with the resources themselves first in order to help create the best possible experience for their pupils.

The TwLettaratura Method – Helping young people fall in love with reading
This involves reading a short piece of writing together (in a classroom or online) and then simply making and sharing comments about what you have read. The method asks participants to follow a schedule that does not require reading large chunks of text at a time, instead it slows down the process and enables readers more space to reflect on what they have read. It does not require them to do lots of writing – the project only asks participants to devise short comments of no more than 140 characters, similar to “tweets”, (we call them “twylls”). They can write as many as they like and, as long as they are inspired by what they have read, they can comment on any part of the text that appeals to them.

This is just a new way of presenting traditional precis and “deep reading” techniques – the big difference is that they can also do this via a specially created app.

The Betwyll Reading App
Betwyll allows individuals or reading groups to follow the texts online and make their comments directly onto the text itself. Readers can “like” and “follow” the comments of other readers – from wherever they are – very much like you can on Twitter or Facebook. However, this site is all about encouraging dialogue about books/stories. It enables teachers to interact with the participants’ comments – or to reply in the persona of one of the characters.

The app is free to download and works on mobile phones and tablets (but not PCs or laptops). In this instance, we envisage this project as being something that children can engage with alongside parents via a smartphone (or tablet).

How it works
Once the app is downloaded, users are prompted to register. This will generate an email giving a password for the next log in (this can later be changed to something more memorable just by clicking on the settings icon in the top right corner of the Profile section). The front page lists a tutorial and showcases all the current projects – just keep scrolling down to find Project Pont. When this is tapped, it will reveal all six stories – two stories for each of the three weeks of the project. When you open the text pages, swipe from right to left until you find the language you want (Each one is in four languages).

You can also find Betwyll operating instructions by following these links (the second is a user guide created by children from Ysgol Trelyn):
https://www.betwyll.com/

The Stories
This project is based around six folk tales: three from Wales and three from the area of Northern Italy where they speak a minority language called Occitan. The Pont project celebrates the cultural heritage and bilingualism of these two regions and the stories appear in 4 different languages: English, Welsh, Italian and Occitan. More about Occitan below!

The stories are put together in pairs (one from Wales and one from Italy) with both sharing a similar theme: Week 1 Fairies , Week 2 Metamorphic (transforming) Creatures, Week 3 Dragons and Devils. Each story is less than 2 pages of A4 text to read and we suggest that participants follow one pair of stories a week over the course of three weeks.

What happens if a participants’ device won’t support Betwyll?
Digital technology has its challenges. If it doesn’t work, all is not lost. Although the young people we have worked with really enjoy accessing books / texts via Betwyll, this project can work equally well using hard copies of the text and writing their comments (“twylls”) on a paper grid. Is you need us to send these to you, send an email to: kate.strudwick@head4arts.org.uk

The Stories on video: The stories have all been recorded as a performance by professional storyteller, Tamar Eluned Williams (in both English and Welsh versions) and are available to view via the Head4Arts website or on Head4Arts and Menter Caerffili’s Youtube Page.

Making it more fun
Teachers can introduce additional daily challenges, for example, writing comments:

• as a precis of the story
• in verse
• like a newspaper headline
• as if addressing one of the characters
• without using the letter E

You might want to make an anthology of the best comments – or award prizes.

Learning more about Occitan : Occitan used to be widely spoken across France and bordering countries in mediaeval times, before it was superceded by Norman French. It takes its name from their way of saying “yes” (“Oc” rather than “Oui”) and it is still spoken by around 1.5 million people, mostly in the Languedoc area of France and in certain regions of Italy and Spain. It was even the first language of England’s King Richard the Lionheart and his brother King John (learned from their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine). If your class wants to try saying something in Occitan, we have recorded some simple phrases that they can try. These can be accessed via the Head4Arts website: www.head4arts.org.uk

Other Books: You will see that other texts are available on Betwyll – you are welcome to try those too (eg. Alice’ Adventures in Wonderland). There is also a hidden project based around Dan Anthony’s book “Rugby Zombies” which can only be accessed via a request to Head4Arts (for copyright reasons), and we can facilitate this if you want to read this book too. This book is also available in English and Welsh. For more details contact: kate.strudwick@head4arts.org.uk

And finally….

If you decide to follow this project in your school, please get in touch with and let us know! You are very welcome to use these resources – but it would be enormously helpful to us if you could let us know how many children are taking part so we can use this information to help us access funding to develop further projects like this one.

Head4Arts (on behalf of the Pont Project Partners) May 2020