• Blackboard groupings, Class 3 English

    Groupings from the Happy Families sorting task, as suggested by two different Yr 3 groups. The sorting task was intended to elicit the parameters for describing a person.

  • Class 4 Riddle Lessons

    Class: 4

    Subject: English

    Aim: These worksheets include a description and explanation of the series of lessons in which we used making riddles as a means to learn how to describe animals, as well as practising grammar and expanding vocabulary. The lessons also involved reflecting on parameters and building up an ENV or passport of an animal.

  • Class 5 English: writing and ENV cont.

    LESSON 3

    1. Description before lesson

    LINGUISTIC AIM: to practice writing a description of someone for a second time, using also new vocabulary and grammar learnt. Consolidation.

    THINKING AIM: to give them the opportunity to make use of the ENV model and other work done in order to improve their writing. To see if they actually make use of the model and are aware of it as a tool.

    MATERIALS: None in particular. Their own notebooks with their original descriptions in them, new vocabulary and examples of ENV models from their own writing and from the text in the book (WOW! 5)

    TASK: To write once again about a very special person. They could write about the same person as before or could write about someone else.

  • Clothes and Selling

     

    Overall Subject Aims: Clothes vocabulary, shopping situations (buying and selling, haggling, persuading), numbers, prices (based on Wow! 4 Ch 13 Cool!)
    Overall Thinking Aims: Practising looking for parameters and values (clothing), building up ENV through sorting task, and practising using the parameters through Yes/No Game. Recognising similarities and differences, seeing objects from new angle (through role play) and reflecting on tool (ENV) and tasks.
    Overall challenge and motivation / need:  Clifford, the class mascot ‘dog’ is enjoying visiting the pupils’ homes, but he’s missing his family in London and wants to go and visit them. He hasn’t got any money. How can we help him?
    Materials:  a box of old clothes, cards with pictures of items of clothing (24).

  • Clothes and Selling Part 2


    Subject Aim:
    Consolidate use of clothes vocabulary. Expand vocabulary to categories – size, colour etc. Speaking practice.

    Thinking Aim: Building ENV as a tool to help with sorting clothes. Practising using parameters and values through sorting and YES / NO – understanding idea of elimination.

     

    First, reminding pupils of our dilema – we need to make 600 euros for Clifford to go to London. We’re going to sell old clothes and we need to sort them as well as possible to make people want to buy them, so that we make as much money as possible. How could we best sort them. Last lesson we tried and we noticed it wasn’t so easy. Now let’s do some tasks to help us think about it more clearly and sort better.

  • Describing families and people. ENV.

    OVERALL AIMS: Subject: Learning new vocabulary – families, parts of the body and adjectives; learning to introduce and describe people, showing similarities and differences; learning and using he/she and his/her.
    Thinking: Becoming aware of the parameters necessary to introduce and describe a person. Introduction to idea of ENV, practise in categorizing and noticing similarities and differences.

  • Describing a country

    OVERALL AIMS:
    Thinking: Working towards learners writing instructions for themselves on ’How to describe a country’, through looking at parameters and building an ENV model.
    Subject matter: Practising reading comprehension in English, learning and practising vocabulary necessary for describing a country in English and building up own English text about a country

  • Describing a country, Alternative continuation.

    This post is linked to my previous one on describing a country. As I teach three different Year 5 groups, I continued this in a different way with another group, as I got a little lost with the first group. We had reached the point of them writing sentences about Finland in pairs on pieces of paper when their first lesson ended and their homework was to read about Ireland. I took in the papers.

  • Describing Families and People, part 4

    Thinking aimfor this lesson: Building an ENV model of how to describe a person based on the sentences they had thought up. Working out parameters.
    Subject aim: further extension and consolidation. Seeing their own sentences in correct,written form, reading and writing.

    Materials: a list of the sentences which all three classes had thought up, with a picture of the lady in question.

  • Describing Families and People, part 2


    The overall aims are in my first posting (Describing families and people) and below, and they cover at least two chapters in the coursebook Wow!3.
    OVERALL AIMS: Subject
    : Learning new vocabulary – families, parts of the body and adjectives; learning to introduce and describe people, showing similarities and differences; learning and using he/she and his/her.
    Thinking: Becoming aware of the parameters necessary to introduce and describe a person. Introduction to idea of ENV, practise in categorizing and noticing similarities and differences.    
    In the first lesson we made a kind of ENV chart of the Simpson family and then did the same from the dialogue in the coursebook. In this next lesson my aims were as follows:-
    Subject: Expanding vocabulary learning to parts of the body + more adjectives and understanding his / her.
    Thinking: Working out the parameters for describing a person; noticing similarities and differences.
    Materials: Sets of Happy Families cards with the names removed, so that there were only pictures.

  • Describing Families and People, part 3

    The overall linguistic aims are still to learn the vocabulary necessary for describing people and to be able to use it, as well as using he/she and his/her.

    The overall thinking aims are learning to build an ENV model and to think in parameters; noticing similarities and differences.

    Thinking aim of this lesson: Brainstorming what learned so far in order to start building paramters for describing a person.

    Subject:Expanding and consolidating vocabulary and sentences for describing someone and starting to link these to other vocabulary they’ve learned.

    Materials:One of the cards used in the sorting task from the previous lesson.

  • Describing Families and People, parts 5 & 6

    Language aims - learning to describe and talk about people, appearance and families, using he / she, his/ her and many new adjectives, revising and expanding vocabulary. Thinking aims:  - learning to build and use the ENV model when decribing a person, noticing similarities and differences, using the same material to look at people from different perspectives.

    The main character in the coursebook, Chris, ‘wakens’ to find himself in the middle of the maths lesson. It seems that his visit to  Ice-cream Island and the friends he made there have all been a dream. Or have they?

  • English Class 5 ENV

    Class 5 English(11 year-olds)2 x 45 min lessons a week

    3 groups (17 pupils, 13 pupils, 13 pupils)

    I am trying to teach the next unit in their course book using more thinking tasks than before, so this is what I’ve done so far, over two lessons. The aims for the whole unit are as follows:-

  • Handout for sorting sentences about Finland.

    Read the sentences below and sort them into groups (write only the sentences number). Try to name the groups.

  • Happy Family Cards

    The pupils had to divide the cards into two groups, and the after that into three or four groups. One group divided them one more time, into as many groups as they wanted.

  • Making role cards for a speaking exercise

    Warm-up. To get into the mood of English and setting the scene for the role play situation a video about travelling agencies is shown. After the watching there is a short reflection on the main issues of the news item.

    The next step is to ask the Students if they want to play a role play – a conversation between a customer and a travel agent. Everybody is eager to do it.

    Challenge 1. Let’s do the role play!

    I choose two volunteers and they start a dialogue. After the first sentences

     – Hello!- Hello! –I want to travel to France. –Well, how do you want to travel? –Well, it doesn’ t matter, the main thing – cheap. -Ok, do you want to travel with stops? –Well... 

    ...here, after less than 30 seconds the conversation stopped. So, the Students agreed that the role play failed.

    The question raises – what do we need for a successful role play? Some of the Students suggest – a role card where there is some information to speak about.

    Challenge 2. Students are divided into two groups and one group is asked to write role cards for a customer and the second group is asked to write  role cards for the travel agent. After five minutes the work is done.

    I choose one from six suggested role cards for the customer and one from six suggested role cards for the travel agent and two volunteers start the role play.

    The Students are given a short time to get acquinted with the role card and the conversation starts. This time it lasts almost a minute but there a lot of  breaks and pauses in the conversation and the students are not very satisfied with the information contained and they agree that the style of the role card – just points mentioned, e.g. want to go on honeymoon, somewhere warm, in May, etc. – does not help to get the idea of the character they are playing and it’s hard to use their imagination to catch the mood of the role play.

    At this moment there is a 10 minutes break and the students have a short rest.

    When the students return from the break I give them two reading tasks where they have to match the described persons with offered travel packages and the described persons with different hotels. After ten minutes the tasks are done and the answers checked.

    The next step is to evaluate the descriptions given in the task and students come to a conclusion that their style is better for role cards as the ones they made.

    The students are asked to sit in two groups – those who wrote customer cards and those who wrote travel agents’ cards and each group has to put together all the information of their descriptions and compare them with the reading task descriptions and are asked to and find the features which could help to write a good role card. As I know that this is an upper intermediate level group and we have already done done groupin tasks I suggest them to discuss the features and come to parameters.

    After ten minutes each group calls out the parameters and I get the following list.

    The last task – based on the parameters I wrote down on the Interactive board the students are asked to write the second version of a role card, this time they have to stay in the groups and with some discussion within the group to check that they choose to describe different places to offer as travel agents and different personalities to describe as customers.

    Here are the descriptions (...it will be added later)  I got and we  are going to test them next lesson.

    I have to remind once more that this was the upper-intermediate group and I am really anxious to see what the lower intermediate group is going to develop within these task framework...

     

  • Starting TA with Class 3 beginners: 4 Lesson 2 Descriptions, Using and testing the strategy

    LESSON 2: Using and Testing the strategy. (STEP 2) This post follows on from the three posts on starting TA in Class 3, Aims, Lesson 1 and Reflections

    Aim: Content: to reinforce new vocabulary, especially the words, shape, type of food, colour and size, and round, oval, long, big, small. To broaden vocabulary further and practise speaking and listening through the password game.
    Thinking: to reinforce the idea of parameters through vocabulary games , and to use the password game with different food words from last time in order to find more parameters for describing a food than we had in our original ENV.


    Warming up, remembering what we learned
    1. Describing and guessing. I described a fruit and they guessed. ‘It’s oval. It’s yellow and green and brown. It’s quite big. It’s a fuit.’ They guessed a pineapple.
    2. Then I asked them to try. One of them said, for example, it’s long and orange. And the others guessed a carrot. They then did it in pairs. To do this they had to use the vocabulary they’d learned in the last lesson.
    3. Vocabulary. While they were describing the foods I wrote up the ‘new’ vocabulary from the last lesson on the board. One class in particular had forgotten a lot and had to ask for help from classmates or me. One class seemed to remember everything very well, although during the previous lesson I’d felt they were less responsive (maybe they were concentrating well then?).
    4. In the end we had the same words on the board as the previous time – round, oval, long, big, small, medium and fruit, vegetable and berry.  I asked again what the words told us about the food. Now they were able to say immediately shape, colour, type of food and size. We then pronounced the words again, acted them and played with them a bit.
    5. Game to reinforce the vocabulary and the idea of parameters. I hid all the words and we played a game where I said a word (eg ‘round’) and they had to say the parameter (shape). In one class I played it with teams getting points, in another I just asked them to shout out the answer together, which actually turned out to be more fun, quicker and more effective. As soon as I could hear different answers they had to put up their hands and I kept repeating the same ones, in mixed up order, until they were getting them right.


    Checking homework, which was also reflecting on the tool we’d made in the previous lesson (STEP 3)
    6. We then took out the charts (more or less ENV) which they’d filled in with values at home. Before we checked them, I asked them if they thought it was an easy task and they said, yes, so they looked to see what their partner had written and realised that not all their answers were the same. In some cases the colour was unclear, and there were many variations on what was big and what was small, so we had a discussion about why size is unclear, and we decided it’s not a good parameter unless we compare it to the size of something else.
    7. Many had written extra explanations of foods in their notebooks and one had added a parameter to the chart. She wrote: Where it is born, and the value was ‘flower’. It turned out she meant ‘Where it grows’ and we learned new words to put in the values – on a plant, under the ground, on a tree. They all added the new parameter and values to their charts.


    Now we needed a new challenge which would let them see clearly what else was missing from the ‘tool’ we had. When they notice what is missing they can adapt it – all the time we are gradually moving towards making a tool which can be of general use, and not only for the foods we are describing now.


    STEP 1   NEW CHALLENGE
    1. One of them came to the front and another of them wrote up a food word on the blackboard for the rest of the class to describe and for the one at the front to guess. I wrote up the sentences they suggested. At first it was very easy, and they used the same familiar foods again. They didn’t need to look at their charts at all.
    2. I then increased the challenge by saying that they could put up any food, not just the fruit and vegetables and berries we’d been talking about. This made it much more interesting.
    3. The first pupil to write up a word chose ‘Pineapple’, though I’d just described it and it was a fruit. However, the pupil at the front didn’t get it immediately. The rest of the class was very surprised she didn’t, so it was a challenge for them to think of more to say!


    STEP 2 REMINDING OF THE TOOL
    In the process of thinking up more sentences I asked them to check their charts, and they said, but we’ve said colour, size and so on. Eventually they started to think up more and asked for new words which I wrote up. In the end they had 10 sentences before she’d guessed. 

    The sentences they suggested, in this order, were:
    It’s yellow.
    It’s oval.
    It’s green.
    It’s a fruit.
    It’s big.
    It’s medium.
    It’s hard.
    It’s not from Finland.
    It’s like a rock.
    It’s hard.
    It starts with P.


    STEP 3 REFLECTING ON THE TOOL
    I asked if there’s anything we should add to the chart to make it more useful and eventually they suggested the new words they’d asked for during the game (hard, from Finland, It starts with P). We tried to think what the parameters actually were, and we came up with ‘How it feels’ (hard and soft) and ‘Where it comes from’ (countries), so we added them to the charts and added the values suitable for the fruit and veg they had on the chart. We also wanted to add ‘The first letter of the word’, with letters of the alphabet as values. There wasn’t room for this on our present chart, so now we’re thinking together about what kind of chart would be useful – should we make a bigger one with more foods on it to fill in, or should we make a kind of ‘general’ chart, which could be used for any food? They had to think about this for homework, and again, as an extra exercise, they could practise describing more foods themselves.

    Reflections on this lesson (here) also describe how the different classes reacted to it.

  • Starting TA with Class 3 beginners: 6 Keeping TA going (only just)

     KEEPING TA GOING (only just!)                JANUARY 2014

    These comments follow on from the posts on Lessons 1 and 2 and Reflections on Starting TA with Class 3 beginners.
    The Christmas holidays came just after we’d finished doing these lessons, so it wasn’t possible to carry them on smoothly – however, this is the sort of thing which always comes up. After Christmas I felt I had to move forward with the book more quickly as they’d have to have a test in the middle of February. The next chapter in the book was about sports, which didn’t lend  itself immediately to carrying on the same type of theme, so I decided just to try to keep our ‘describing’ lessons in the pupils’ minds and do other things meantime.


    How I tried to make sure they wouldn’t forget our ‘describing’ and the idea of parameters
    At least once a week I took 5 – 10 minutes of a lesson to do one of the following:-
    acting out the new vocabulary we’d learned for describing and asking what the parameters were ( they didn’t all remember words like ‘shape’, but they’d remembered the idea well).
    playing the game where I say a word and they say the parameter – we also played it with one of them coming to the front, and with one saying a parameter and seeing who was the first to shout out a value.
    - I made colourful ‘posters’ for the wall with SHAPE, COLOUR, TYPE OF FOOD and SIZE on them, and made words to stick on the posters. They were given a word each and had to stick it in the right place. This was a very quick exercise which kept the words and parameters in mind. I thought it would be too easy, but every time there were mistakes which they pointed out to each other, reminding each other of what the words meant and of what they were supposed to do.
    One or two pupils described a food and the others had to guess, and sometimes we played the password game, but very quickly, without writing anything up or reflecting on what they’d said.

    Some thoughts on reflection - English learning notebooks
    I hadn’t actually had time to give notebooks for reflection to two of the groups, so in the end I gave them later and their first reflection was not on TA work, but on their first vocabulary test. This vocabulary test was very traditional, based on learning a list of words from the course book. I still haven’t managed to get away from such tests which do seem to make pupils apply themselves to remembering words, but for how long…? Anyway, my question was, ‘How did you learn the words for your test?’ and I asked them to give detailed answers. As they’re not used to thinking about this kind of thing at all it took them a while to get started, but eventually they wrote a fair amount. Before their next vocabulary test I showed them a summary of the first reflections they’d written and asked if they could think of a different way of learning for the next test, and then I’d ask them about it and they could give each other good ideas as to how we could learn words better. When I did this they almost all wrote that they learned the same way as last time.


    I know we should have tried out some alternative ways of learning together first, but I thought I’d see if they came up with anything themselves. Many said they didn’t try a new way because the first way worked well, and of course they’re right – there was no need for change. What I have to do is to change the test, and to think of ways of having them use the vocabulary more. So this learner reflection hasn’t really gone anywhere, except that I’m more aware that there’s no point in reflecting if there’s nothing to reflect on!  There had been no challenge with any clear aim, at least from the pupils’ point of view, involved in the task, so things remained the same. However, it’s a step towards them thinking about their own learning and learning strategies and getting used to reflecting on what they’re doing. It also helps me a lot to read their reflections as we don’t have so much time to actually discuss these things together.

  • Starting TA with Class 3 beginners: 7 Lesson 3 Reflecting on descriptions

    This post leads on from the post on keeping TA going (only just!). Having been keeping it going somehow, I felt I wanted to have some TA in the next test I gave the classes. This meant that when they had a traditional test at the end of the next unit they had a voluntary extra exercise which was to describe a food in English. They didn't have to say what food it was, only describe it, and I, the teacher, should be able to recognise it. I wanted to see if they could still do it, and how much attention they paid to choosing good parameters. At least half of the pupils did this and this is what they wrote:


    DESCRIPTIONS OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES: EXTRAS IN TEST, February 2014
    • It’s green. It has water inside. It’s really big and it’s a little red too.
    • It’s green or red or yellow.  (an apple)
    • It’s brown. It’s big or small.  (a hamburger)
    • It’s small. It’s red.
    • It’s a vegetable. It’s oval. It’s orange. It’s medium. What is it?
    • It’s round. It’s red. It’s small. It’s a vegetable. What is it?
    • It’s long. It’s green. It’s oval. It’s a vegetable. What is it?
    • It’s brown. It’s square. It’s a rectangle. I like it.
    • It’s green. It’s a circle (It’s round?)
    • It’s yellow. It’s a crescent. I don’t like it.
    • It’s red. It’s oval.
    • It’s small. It’s round. It’s green.
    • It’s blue and very small. It’s a berry. It’s round.
    • It’s long and orange. It’s also big.
    • It’s yellow. It’s oval.
    • It’s red. It’s round. It’s small. It’s soft.
    • It’s long. It’s orange.

    Lesson 3    February 2014
    Some of these descriptions were very clear and easy to guess; others not.  After the test we looked at them together and I asked them some which were easy and they guessed them easily; then I asked some which didn’t work so well, like, ‘ It’s green, or red or yellow.’ They agreed there wasn’t enough information.  I asked what information’s needed and they said they needed to know if it was a fruit or vegetable. With this we got back to their parameters and revised them, looking at their charts, to help them remember what parameters they could use.

    I then showed them their own sentences for ‘Cheese’ from an earlier lesson and we started to evaluate the sentences. They agreed that ‘A mouse eats it.’ was the best. This discussion didn’t take long, but it did remind them of the vocabulary we’d used and the ideas.

    My reflections
    I should have had this discussion with them with a clear idea in mind of why we need to look again at these sentences, and I didn’t have, so their interest began to wane. Of course they need to know why they're looking at this, they need to know our aim very clearly, as I myself have discussed, but as a teacher I just keeping forgetting things! Maybe I need instructions to myself on the wall! We played a game of Password and this helped them to be more creative in looking for other parameters, relevant to a particular food. All in all, I hadn't thought this lesson out well enough, but at least I saw from their test descriptions what they'd remembered.

    I need to remember: - motivate learners for task, find a good context, share aims with learners! I was really just seeing how this went, but it should have been linked to a clear further plan.

    One group was more interested and I asked them what else we could describe in this way so that it could be recognized easily. They suggested animals, which was good as it was just what I had in mind. Unfortunately many things turned up after this and we didn't manage to continue with the animal topic in the way I'd envisaged. However, we did return to to TA and food at the end of the term when practising a shopping conversation. (See: Starting TA with Class 3 beginners: 8 The Chump Problem, practising parameters.)

     

  • Starting TA with Class 3 beginners: 8 The Chump Problem, practising parameters

    LESSON 4      22.5.2014            WHIZ GOES SHOPPING: THE CHUMP PROBLEM
    I had this lesson twice, the same but with different groups, 3a and 3b. They've been learning English 2 hours a week since last August. We’d done some work previously on describing food (see diary entries, Starting TA with Class 3 beginners 1 - 7) and had made a very simple ENV in the form of a chart (or passport) to help with this. We hadn’t done work like this for quite a while.


    Content Aims:to revise food vocabulary, the vocabulary for describing food and the vocabulary of parameters and to add new ones; to learn and practise a shopping conversation (‘Can I help you’, ‘Can I have.., please’ ‘How much is it?’); to learn, ‘Pardon?’ and ‘I don’t understand.’; speaking.
    Competences:the pupils should be able to describe a food in the context of a shop conversation where they maybe can’t remember a word. They have to be able to find a good, relevant way of describing the food (so they should be able to find suitable parameters for this situation), and they should be able to do so calmly, aware of what is needed, and aware how a shopkeeper, for example, might respond.
    Thinking Aims: to revise the idea of parameters in the context of describing food. To expand the idea and notice if the chart or ENV for describing a food helps in a particular situation. Noticing the importance of the relevance of the description and seeing where the model (in this case ENV /chart) needs to be expanded and changed.


    This lesson is related to Chapter 14 in their course books (Yippee!3) where some new foods are introduced and the situation is buying food in a café.


    Warm-up
    - There were pictures of food on the blackboard (some new) and I described one for them to guess.
    - They tried describing and the others guessed. With one group in particular this was very easy – too easy. The other group remembered words quite well too. They looked at the wall, where there were posters with parameters and values they could use (shape, colour,size,type of food).
    - With one group we quickly revised the idea of parameters and looked at some of the vocabulary; with the other group I didn’t do this as they found the first revision task so easy. We looked back in their notebooks at the charts they’d made in an earlier lesson, ‘Food Gadgets’, which were basically ENVs, or passports, for describing a food, just to remind them that they existed.


    Challenge Step 1
    Context
    Now we needed a context for using what we’d learned previously (describing foods), so we decided to go and buy food from a kiosk. I chose a small kiosk as in a supermarket you don’t have to ask for anything. The pupils hadn’t done a shopping conversation before, so this was all new to them, and I decided to practise a very simple conversation with them before presenting it in the form of a challenge. This was therefore pretty traditional. I had a picture of two characters on the blackboard and a picture of a kiosk, and I elicited from them how the conversation might go. The result was more or less the following:-


    SHOPKEEPER                                                                CUSTOMER
     Good morning. Can I help you?                                      Good morning. Yes, please. Can I have a
                                                                                        ______, please.
     There you are.                                                                Thank you.
     Goodbye.                                                                        Goodbye.


    I deliberately missed out paying for the food to see if they’d notice it was missing, just so they’d have to think a bit themselves about what’s relevant and necessary in this situation. We looked at their books where there was a mechanical speaking exercise on using foods with a similar short conversation, which they then practised in pairs. One group asked how to ask the price; the other group didn’t, but when I asked what was missing they realised, and they all continued their conversations with pairs including asking the price.

    Once they were getting the hang of this I stopped and said now we have a new situation. Now Whiz, the character in the course book who comes from another land and who hasn’t eaten food before, has come to the kiosk. (Whiz is a ‘supertoy’, who is becoming a boy.) Whiz has now started to eat and has seen foods, but he doesn’t know the names of foods, and, a bit like a small child, has decided to call all foods chump, an imaginary word.
    STEP 1: Challenge
    Whiz goes to the kiosk and asks for a chump. What does the shopkeeper say when Whiz asks, ‘Can I have a chump, please?’? How does the conversation progress? They suggested that the shopkeeper might say, ‘What’s a chump?’ or ‘Pardon?’. We chose pardon, and decided that Whiz would probably repeat the word, a chump. The shopkeeper would then say, ‘I don’t understand.’ The pupils then realised that Whiz would have to describe the food to the shopkeeper. I tried this with one pupil and then they did it with their partners in pairs.
    It was surprising how much more difficult it was for them to describe the foods in this situation as the task was basically the same as at the beginning of the lesson. As shopkeepers they were quick to say that they didn’t understand, so ‘Whiz’ had to think of more and different ways of describing the food. In many cases they seemed to be stuck.
    STEP 2: Building the stairs
    Everyone agreed it had been more difficult now, so we looked back at our ‘Food gadgets’ to see if they could help. I had already made an extended version of it, basically to save time (we have almost no lessons left before the summer), which meant there were more foods on it, and there was also room to fill in more parameters. I asked if the task might be easier if we had more parameters and words, and they agreed, so they started filling in the new charts.

    This was lead too much by the teacher, but as the whole idea is new, I thought it might be good like this now and another time (when we have more time) they can work out for themselves how they could improve the chart. Some of them asked if they could add parameters, and they asked for more words. They were keen to fill in the chart as it seemed like concrete help – otherwise they were floundering.
    STEP 3: Reflecting on the model    
    The lesson ended here, and I don’t really have any more time with this class. However my plan was that they would try out the chump conversation again, using their new passports to help them, and we’d discuss if there was still something missing, thus taking us to Step 3, reflecting on the model. I’m thinking that at this point I could even introduce the word ‘parameter’, as it would make it so much easier to talk about the model. We would then test the model with a new challenge.

    See here: Starting TA with Class 3 Beginners:9  for how I planned to continue this topic and for teacher reflection on the lesson.

  • Starting TA with Class 3 beginners: 9 Chump continuation and reflections

    This post continues from 'Starting TA with Class 3 beginners: 8 The Chump Problem'. Below I describe how I planned to continue these lessons by introducing a new challenge where the learners are forced to think more quickly about which are the relevant parameters for this particular situation. The aims and basic situation are still the same as those described in the previous post.

    STEP 1: New context and challenge
    Whiz comes to the kiosk, but the shopkeeper has just put up the Closed sign. (I thought we could actually have a make-believe kiosk and sign, or a sign for each pair – maybe they could put the closed sign around their necks, for fun!) Anyway, the shopkeeper is keen to go home, and now along comes Whiz asking for his chump, so the shopkeeper is a bit impatient and says, ‘Quick!’, and ,’Sorry, I STILL don’t understand!’, and generally makes impatient noises, so Whiz really has to think about how he can describe the food in as few sentences as possible, having to find the defining feature of each food as quickly as possible.
    STEP 2: Building the stairs
    At this point we can look at the passports and see that in many cases they don’t help here, so how can we show the defining feature for each food? Should we circle the best parameters for each…? What suggestions do they have? Can we just adapt the model (chart/passport/ENV) we have, or do we need a new model altogether? They could think about this in groups to see what they come up with.
    STEP 3: Reflecting / testing the model
    Here I thought we could have a kind of game, ‘The Chump Challenge’. In 3’s the pupils could act out the situation. One pupil will be the shopkeeper, one Whiz and one a competition official writing out the sentences suggested by Whiz, and counting them. He or she will then give them to the judge (me, or another pupil?) and we’ll count the sentences, but will also give extra points to any ‘superclues’, which say it all in a nutshell. We’ll look together at the sentences and results and decide on the points to be awarded.  The idea is that the pupils get used to finding the most relevant clues in a particular situation, at first using their models, and this can later be transferred to other situations, in which they might need to adapt their models further. The models they have probably won’t help them much at all in finding the defining features of foods.


    TEACHER REFLECTIONS ON THE CHUMP PROBLEM LESSON
    There had been too long a gap since our previous ‘thinking’ lessons, although I had kept the ideas of parameters and describing alive through various short activities every now and then. I felt this fitted into the book quite well, but now we’ll only have time to read the actual café conversation from the book very quickly. However, it should be very easy for them after what we’ve done.


    I think the content aims of the lesson were met as the pupils used food vocabulary and the shopping conversation in different contexts and repeatedly, through the chump problem. They also all started using ‘Pardon?’ and ‘I don’t understand’ a lot, which is good – simple, but very necessary, phrases for a beginner.
    I didn’t actually get very far with the thinking aims – only as far as them getting stuck and starting to revise the chart/ model/ENV (I’m not sure what to call it), but I think the whole idea of the ‘chump’ word has potential, though I maybe need to adapt how I use it. At times I felt I was labouring the point with the class. It has to be simple to understand and carry out.

    All three classes I tried this out with seemed to waken up at the idea of Whiz going to the kiosk and they liked the word Chump. All three were also keen to work with the chart, and though we’d agreed beforehand there wouldn’t be homework, some of them wanted to work on it at home, and they were in no hurry to leave the class when the bell rang. I need to remember to keep variety within the lesson more for this age group.


    It’s a pity I won’t be able to carry out the plan I outlined above (as the holidays are starting), but maybe in the autumn we can continue in the same vein with a topic other than food (so it doesn’t get boring). We could have the same kind of situation and conversation for example in a pet shop.


    I didn’t manage in the end to do nearly as many thinking lessons as I’d planned after Christmas, and I realise now that I have to have them planned as maybe a 6-week block in order to really get somewhere with them and not feel I don’t have time. Maybe I can look at next year’s book and see if I can somehow fit this kind of thing in. We can continue with yes/no, riddles and other challenges to reinforce the idea of using ENV, making strong questions and sentences, and building and adapting thinking models. At the same time I have to keep them reflecting on their own learning. Although this year I've felt I have a clearer idea of how to integrate TA into my teaching, it's still very difficult to keep the momentum up, and I'm guessing this will take time, as I gradually move into new ways of working and the pupils get used to it too.

  • Starting TA with Class 3: 2 Lesson 1

     

    You can see the overall aims here.

    Below are the aims for the next few lessons.

    Content Aim: to learn and use vocab (fruit and veg) and phrases. To begin to notice and understand DO you…?

    Thinking competencies / learning strategies: being able to categorize vocab in different ways. Using this (ENV) to describe and recognise (eg a fruit), by making a ‘passport’ of fruits and playing games with it / them.

    LESSON 1: Challenge and aim.
    In the previous lessons to this one we had been reading Chapter 3 of Yippee! 3, in which the character, Whiz, is in a food shop for the first time and doesn’t know what the foods are.
    Aim: Content: to learn group words (parameters) – food, colour, shape, feel (?) and vocabulary associated. To use these in context to describe a fruit or vegetable.
    Thinking: to become aware of some of the parameters of fruit and vegetables, leading on to finding more parameters through sorting. To make them reflect and be aware of how they’re learning. Introduce reflective / learning notebooks.

    Introduction, pre-tasks

    1. We looked at nine pictures of fruit and vegetables on the board (taken from the vocabulary page in the book.)

    2. I asked them,’ Do you like..?’ about these foods. Then they had to imagine they are Whiz and I asked, ‘Do you like..?’ The answer is, ‘I don’t know.’  We discussed why? Because Whiz says, ‘I don’t eat food.’
    3. They acted out the chapter in pairs to remind themselves of the situation.
    4. The characters were in the shop, but now the pupils had to imagine they’re not in the shop any more. Whiz asks them, ‘What’s an apple?’  They have to describe it to him.  ( I explained why it would be important to be able to do this  in general. When speaking a foreign language, before you know lots of words often have to describe them so that other person understands.)
    5. So I asked them ‘What can you tell him about an apple?’  They were slow to get started. But then came up with a couple of sentences. I wrote up their suggestions, putting new vocabulary at the side: It’s green or red. It’s a fruit. This is all they could say in English.


    Challenge (Step 1)
    6. I wrote on the board HOW can you learn to describe food well in English?  With the third group I was best able to sell this, to present this as a challenge and convince them that it’s a very worthwhile thing for them to be able to do. I told them that I’m often stuck when I forget a Finnish word in a shop and have to describe what I’m looking for. One pupil explained that his mum (who’s English) had had to describe a reindeer in Finnish when she couldn’t remember the word, and it was funny. Another pupil said to me, ‘Why don’t you try English?’ Good suggestion! I said that that can work, but their native tongue is Finnish, so it’s not so easy for them when abroad!
    It seemed important to have this conversation as they seemed afterwards to be more focussed on what we were doing and why than the other groups had been.
    So the challenge was, how can we describe foods well in English? I asked them,’ What don’t you know? What do you need to be able to do this?’  They didn’t know how to react to this question. Someone suggested, ‘ It is..’ and someone suggested more words. I wrote up, WORDS, SENTENCES, A STRATEGY.


    Building the stairs (Step 2)
    I suggested to them that a strategy to help us with words might be to sort the foods.
    7. I had small cards with pictures of the 9 foods from the board. I gave each pair a set of these and asked them to sort the cards into two groups. They quickly came up with fruit and vegetables, though a couple of groups were confused, because they thought there should be three groups – berries too. Only one group came up with colours at this stage.
    8. They then sorted a second time, and came up with round, long and oval foods, and big and small foods. I gave them the words in English if they didn’t know them, so eventually we had a 4 lists on the board:
    Fruit, vegetable, berry
    Blue, green, red
    Big, small
    Oval, round, long.
    We briefly practised the words by acting a bit, and then I asked what each of the lists told us. With a bit of prompting, and starting with the easy one (colour), they seemed to get the idea. So in the end we had four parameters,
    TYPE OF FOOD, COLOUR, SIZE and SHAPE.


    Trying out the ‘strategy’ (ie using the parameters and new words to help us describe)
    1. In groups of four the pupils were then given a brown bag. Each bag had a different food in it. There was a potato, a banana, a carrot and a mandarin orange. They had to keep their own food a secret and had 3 minutes to write as many sentences as they could about it. The other groups would then guess what the food was. They were very enthusiastic about this, and asked for more words too, though I said to use the board and stick to what they know. The potato caused problems – what colour is it actually? Is it big or small? It also turned out to be the most difficult to guess, mostly because they decided to say it was brown, yellow and black (it had black bits in it!).

    ENV
    9.  The lesson was almost over so I showed them ‘Whiz’s Food Gadget’, which I’d made in advance. It was basically a chart which forms an ENV of the foods, a passport of the foods.  They stuck them in their notebooks and we filled in the parameters of TYPE OF FOOD COLOUR, SHAPE and SIZE. Their homework was to fill in the values, ie information for each of the foods given (blueberries, a strawberry, a carrot and peas). Their extra, voluntary homework was to write about more foods, so that their classmates could guess them next time. They could also try to think of other parameters.


    10. I asked if they might have problems with the homework and they thought they might forget the new words. I had made a sheet for them, which they also stuck in their notebooks.
    My reflections on this lesson are here.

  • TA tools and teaching methods

    This is a handout we shared with colleagues during the introductory workshop on the Thinking Approach at Eura, Finland.

     

  • The Lost Dog. Descriptions in English

    TA lesson   My Lost Dog

    Subject:English

    Class:4 (age 10), 2nd year of English

    Lessons per week: 2

    The children have been learning about pets in their books and, based on playing the password game, they built an ENV of pets in general. They have just been learning, 'It has...'.

    AIMS:

    CONTENT:to practise using 'It is..' and 'It has..'. Writing sentences in English, expanding vocabulary. For teacher also diagnostic aim - sentences and grammar to be dealt with later.

    THINKING:to practise working out parameters to be able to give an appropriate description of something for a particular purpose. Building and using ENV as a tool.

    CONTEXT AND CHALLENGE:You are on a motoring holiday abroad and your dog gets lost. What should you do? At the Lost Animal Shelter you have to describe your dog very exactly to find out if it is there. They won't show you the dogs at the shelter, nor will they ask you many questions. You must decide what you need to tell them.

    The children made their descriptions, tested them out and worked out the necessary parameters. A more detailed plan for this lesson and the worksheet used are attached.

    Teacher's comment: This challenge turned out to be too easy for the pupils, and the final task would have worked better as the first task. This would have been more difficult and perhaps led to the need for banks to help the pupils make better and more appropriate descriptions and would have helped them to learn more new vocabulary. 

     

  • Thinking Theme Day, Part 1

    THINKING THEME DAY 8.2.2013      

    Susan Granlund and Anni Savisaari

    Part 1

    Number of pupils: about 200, divided among 9 teachers into groups with pupils from classes 1 – 6 (7 to 12 year olds) mixed. They were then further divided into groups of 6.

    Time: 9am – 1pm ( 4 lessons: 1 – Setting out the challenge and warm-up task, 2 – Finding reasons behind the problem and making ENV, starting to develop solution, 3 – Making a poster to advertise group solution and why it’s good, 4 – presenting solutions to each other in classes, evaluating and deciding on the best, 5 – whole school presentations of those solutions chosen in the classes, and reflection on day and solutions back in own classes.)

    Aim: To have the whole school working together to solve a common problem; giving the staff and pupils a chance to see how they might manage to approach a problem with some help from TA. To let pupils see the value of working together on something difficult and to let them see how some ‘tools’ and procedures (ENV) might help them.

    Specific aim: to try to solve the perennial problem of untidy corridors and cloakrooms in the school by asking the pupils themselves to solve it.

    Organisation of the day

    Whole school morning assembly    Step 1: SETTING THE CHALLENGE

    Motivation: We imagine we are from a firm called ‘Lapsissa on Ratkaisu Oy’ – ‘The Solution lies in Children Ltd.’ We believe that children are able to solve much more difficult problems than we think, and that they can solve some problems which adults haven’t been able to. We can give them some tools to help them and we‘re sure they can do it. Today they will not have a school day, but a working day. They’ll be in teams of different ages, just like adults at work, and they’ll have the company’s paper with logos provided as well as pencils and stickers ‘I Can Think’.

    The Problem: We showed them a photograph of an untidy corridor.

    1. Have they seen a corridor like this? What’s the problem? They made suggestions, specific and general – there are shoes in the middle of the corridor, the coats have fallen, and the corridor is messy.
    2. Does it matter? Why is it a problem? They suggested it doesn’t look nice, someone could trip, you can lose things, things can get broken, damaged. We also spoke about the fact that the fire chief had visited the school and said that in an emergency, when the corridors are possibly dark, corridors like this would be a real risk. We established many reasons for keeping the corridors tidy.
    3. What about the cleaners? They’ve been complaining about the corridors. So what do you think their job there is? They suggested cleaning the floor, dusting.
    4. We interviewed the cleaners themselves. They said cleaning the floor and the walls and wiping all the surfaces. We asked, is it their job to pick up fallen jackets, put away shoes and so on? They said no. We asked if it’s the teachers’ job? The parents’? The classroom assistants? Whose? The pupils all said their own.
    5. We asked the pupils to imagine they are cleaners and they go into this corridor. How do they feel? Not happy.
    6. We asked if keeping their coats and shoes tidy is difficult, and they all said no. So we asked why it’s a problem. One boy suggested at once that they’re lazy.

     

    CHALLENGE / TASK: In their teams they have to find a solution to keeping the corridors tidy and the following limitations apply:

    a)     The solution is one that has not been tried before.

    b)    It should be a long term solution.

    c)     It should be easy for everyone to understand.

    d)    It should not involve money.

    e)     It should not involve adults.

    The pupils were then divided into groups and set off to start working in the classrooms. In each class there were two big posters on the wall, one with the AIM – to find a way to keep the corridors tidy, and one with the LIMITATIONS, so that they could keep them in mind while working.

    Group warm-up task, 10 minutes:to find a name for your group. Limitations  - it should start with T, it shouldn’t be someone’s name, it should include at least one double consonant, and it should have an odd number of letters.

    The idea of this small task was to fill the 10 minutes before their first break and to give them a chance to think together on something smaller. In the end most groups found this task extremely difficult, and the teachers said the pupils had to help each other a lot explaining what a double consonant is and even what an odd number is. In the end however they all found a name (at the end of the day we saw many of the names and no two were the same – only a few groups had made a long name, the others had all desperately tried to make a name of 5 or 7 letters, although this wasn’t stipulated at all).

    It would have been good to reflect at once on this task and how they’d done it, but it wasn’t possible as our timetable was tight and there were so many groups. However, getting better at this kind of small task is something we could do with classes. This task was also difficult as the pupils in the groups didn’t really know each other, since they were all from different classes.

    Teachers:Earlier in the week we’d given the teachers an explanation of the procedures we envisaged for the day and roughly how long things would take. They therefore had time to ask us questions about it and to understand what it was about. We had also made a few sheets with ‘Thinking Games’ for them to try out if they had time left over (Odd Man Out, Yes/No, Good and Bad).

    Step 2: Tools to help solve the problem.See Thinking Theme Day, Part 2 andThinking Theme Day, Part 3, Feedback and Reflections

     

  • Thinking Theme Day, Part 2

    THINKING THEME DAY
    Part 2
    Part 1, a 45-minute lesson, had been introducing the problem in the assembly hall, dividing groups and giving a small 10-minute task, to find a group name. See Thinking Theme Day, Part 1


    STEP 2: TOOLS TO HELP WITH THE CHALLENGE
    Lesson 2.
    The groups were advised that in order to solve the problem we have to know why it is a problem.
    10 minutes: In groups the pupils were asked to list the reasons why keeping the corridors tidy is such a problem, as most of them couldn’t think why at once. They were slow to get started with this, but once they got going they found lots of reasons, including things we, as teachers, hadn’t thought of, like the fact that they have competitions to get into the classroom first, so they more or less just throw their coats at the hooks!


    10 minutes: whole class discussion, listing all the reasons they’d found, and making an ENV model of the reasons, with the reasons being the values. They had help in grouping the values to find parameters as we didn’t have time – we predicted that the parameters would concern TIME, SPACE and BEHAVIOUR, so they were asked to fit the reasons into these, which they did.


    10 minutes: class discussion continued with them suggesting what the ideal situation would be in the case of each reason they had found, so, for example, if the problem is that coats fall down and no-one picks them up, they suggested that if anyone sees a coat on the floor, or accidently knocks it down themselves, they should pick it up.
    15 minutes: the groups started to look for possible solutions to the problem. Some of the groups looked closely at the ENV and what it said, some went to look more closely at the cloakroom itself to see if there was anything that could be improved there. They were asked to think which of the problems is the worst one and which of the ideal situations would help most.


    LESSON 3
    The groups thought up their own solutions to the problem, planned a poster advertising their solution and why they thought it would work, and started to make their posters. They were also supposed, in their classes consisting of three to four groups, to listen to each group’s solution, consider the good and bad points of each and decide together which was best, to be presented to the whole school. This was quite ambitious in the time we had, and choosing the best one spilled over into the next lesson. The children were enthusiastic about this stage.


    LESSON 4
    Everyone gathered in the assembly hall and the the groups who’d been chosen from the classes all presented their own ideas. We had thought that pupils should ask them questions and that they should say why they think this is a good solution, but time ran out.


    See Thinking Theme Day, Part 3, Feedback and Reflections

  • Thinking Theme Day, Part 3, Feedback and Reflections

    Part 3       Feedback: Pupil and Teacher Reflections on the Thinking Theme Day

    Following on from the ‘Thinking Day’ (Thinking Theme Day, Part 1, Thinking Theme Day, Part 2). All the pupils filled in a feedback and reflection form, which was partly based on questions they’re always asked after theme days and partly based on questions we wanted them to think about afterwards. Here’s a summary of the pupils’ answers: (The first three questions are always asked after a theme day.)


    1Was the theme day   Great ( 19 ), Good ( 64 ) or Boring ( 39 )? The older children in particular found it boring; the younger ones were enthusiastic. There are probably several reasons for this.

    a) The older ones are more resistant to doing things in a different way from usual, especially if they have to work hard at it.

    b) Because the groups were from different classes, the older ones had to take responsibility for their groups and sometimes found it hard to control the younger ones, or to get anything out of them – there wasn’t a very equal share of work.

    c) Some of the older ones think (or at least say) that everything is boring.

    2. What did you learn from the theme day?

    To think, to make a poster, how to keep the corridors tidy, to pick up coats from the floor, to keep our indoor shoes in the classroom, to work in a group, that you don’t always need money to solve problems, what the word ‘think’ means. 

    One boy wrote, ‘ I learned that if you really, really think about something, you can eventually find a solution.’ But another wrote, ‘ I learned that some things are too difficult even for children to solve.’

    3. What was the best thing about the theme day?

    Making new friends, working in a group, making a poster, thinking together, juice and biscuits, breaks, no homework.

    4. What was easy?

    Working in a group, making the poster

    5. What was difficult?

    Thinking,  thinking up a name for the group, finding the solution, making the poster.

    6. What helped you to find a solution?

    Talking to friends, group discussion, the aim on the wall and the limitations on the wall, the chart about the reasons on the blackboard, listening. Above all they felt it was very useful to be solving the problem in a group.

    7. Which of the solutions presented in the assembly hall did you think was best and why?

    They liked a variety of solutions and gave reasons such as, ‘It’s a good idea.’, ‘It would keep the corridor tidy.’, ‘It didn’t cost anything.’, ‘It was funny’, ‘It gave the problems and the solutions.’, ‘There were good pictures to remind us how to behave’, ‘It’s good to use the class mentors to keep order’, ‘ It’s good you don’t have to use the class mentors to keep order.’ The majority of the reasons concerned content rather than the thinking aspect, which is natural, since this is new. Maybe it shows us some of the things we could be working on?

    Our own reflections and the follow-up to the day.

    It was quite ambitious to think that we could get the whole school to try to solve a problem, and maybe it wasn’t exactly TA, going round the Thinking Task Framework, or proper TA problem solving. However, our aim was to get the whole school working together on something that’s a common problem and to make them think about thinking, and I think we did succeed in that. It was a change for the pupils to be given responsibility for this problem as they’re used to just being told continuously to pick things up and keep things tidy etc etc. Might it change their attitude to the issue? The results, their ‘solutions’ were a variety of suggestions, which didn’t of course produce one solution.

    Follow-up

    Now the student council is now going to choose the best ones, and make a ‘solution’ or suggestion from a mixture of the best ideas which could help. They’ll present them to the school and say why they decided on these and then they’ll think of a procedure – how they’re going to implement it. Everyone will check to see if it’s working and if it’s not, then they’ll give feedback and suggestions and it can be refined. We’ll see at the end of the term if all this has helped to keep the corridors tidier or not! Could this be called Step 3?

    TA or not?

    During the course of the theme day the pupils were given challenges, with limitations, and the answers were not to be found anywhere. We didn’t give them tools, but we helped them to make a kind of ENV model of the reasons for the problem, and guided them as to how they might come up with ideas by asking them to think what would be the ideal situation. After that we just let them get on with it, except that they had to say why they came with the solution they did, and then reflect on the day. Through the student council this will continue, they’ll be reminded of it and will be checking how it’s all working.

    Of course, our groups were too big (6 in each) and there was too much age difference in each. In retrospect it might have been better to have had classes 1 – 3 working together and then 4 – 6 working together, especially as they have separate corridors. There could have been a separate solution for each.

    In the course of the day one or two of the teachers tried out Yes/No or Odd Man Out with some groups, and enjoyed it.

    I think having a thinking theme day was a good idea, but maybe we could have done it quite differently. The topic itself was fairly motivating, and everyone recognises it’s a real problem, but actually, just before it the cleaners had given one class chocolate for being tidier than the others, and suddenly everyone started being tidier! That kind of undermined our idea, though we stressed to the pupils that chocolate is not a long term solution and does not get to the root of the problem!

    Maybe pupils could have been thinking up stories together and then we could have made a school book? The theme itself could be anything I guess and it’s good if it’s a useful one, but it also has to be motivating. Maybe it could be a day run by pupils with lots of thinking  games? It wouldn’t have to be called a thinking theme day, but the topic could involve TA in some way.

    We’d be grateful for any comments on how this could be improved and any other ideas for a thinking theme day.

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