• Excerpt from C.Castaneda's text

    This is the material used on the lesson on TT, Form 9, September 26,2013 

    Task 1. Read the text and make a list of things you can characterize or refer to as problems.

    "When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague.
    He hopes for rewards that will never materialize for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.
    "He slowly begins to learn - bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.
    "And thus he has stumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: Fear! A terrible enemy treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest."
    "What will happen to the man if he runs away in fear?"
    "Nothing happens to him except that he will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully, or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have put an end to his cravings."
    "And what can he do to overcome fear?"
    From: ‘The Teachings of Don Juan’ by Carlos Castaneda

  • Form 9. Thinking tools: Problem. Lesson 2

    October 10,2013

    Form 9

    Language aim: speaking skills -  discussion – reasoning and argumentation

    Thinking skill –Thinking tools -  introducion to the problem model- a problem description (lesson 2)

    Background.  After the previous lesson ( Sep 26, see the previous lesson reflection) the students’ home task was   „ Choose your 3 learning problems and formulate them according to the structure we came up during the lesson” So, i decided to step aside from the text for the time being and to work with ideas which are closer to the students. This approach has pluses and minusies, I think.  The plus is that the context is more clear and familiar for the students but the minus is that the stereotypes  are stronger. 

    After reading Alexander’s  advice to my previous reflection, I decided to concentrate on a more precise problem formulation, by specifying the problem solver,  the wish and the obstacle.

    The expected outcome of the lesson was, consequently a new variant of the problem formulation.

    After reading their problems, which they sent to me as their hometask,  I understood that they really still describe problems in a very general way. I decided that maybe I should work on evaluation of their problems first and for that we had to work out an evaluation tool. In fact, I decided to combine these things -  description of the wish  and obstacle and  evaluation of  the problem quality, or sooner, I thought that I would be able to come to a more specific  wish and obstacle description through  the evaluation tool.

    Thus,  I started  the lesson with finding out how satisfied with their problem  descriptions  the students  were. 

    Teacher: Do you like how your problems sound now?  (this was their home task –to formulate their learning  problems).

    Students : -3 students (out of 13) were not very much satisfied  , because  their problems didn’t match our structure .

    One  of the comments was  ‘I don’t know how to expalin the wish’    This was important for me as this could be a starting point of the discussion about how to describe the wish, but I left the idea for the time being. 

    All the others  said that ‘yes they liked their work , the problems are well formulated’.

    I asked:  How did you decide that they are good?

    Here are the answers of 4 students who were eager to answer. Not many I must admit.

    1.  (It is)  According to the structure ( the majority of learners kept to this criterion, but as I now understand the structure we have is not precise enough, that is why the problems the students formulated were not good enough )

    2. (It is)  Precise  because it has a lot of information ( there was another difficulty they had- their ‘problems’ were too long, I think it was my foult as I couldn’t properly explained what precision here is and they gave too wide explanations)

    3. Should include solution  ( I didn’t know and now don’t know how to treat this idea, I think there is some reason?????)

    4. The obstacle should be the real obstacle to the wish ( I think it is also a good idea as the student tried to express the idea of a contradiction formulation, though it’s my guess. At this point I had to decide what to do next – to discuss the ideas above or procede with the idea of creating an evaluation tool, I opted for the latter)

    I put down their  answers as a list  and asked them  what this list is like.

    Students:  description of the  problem formulation . In fact I wanted them to notice that these are certain features of the ‘problem ’, but as they didn’t mentioned this (probably because it was obvious to them and features and description  might be synonyms for them , so here is the question of terminology, which I have to settle down),  I kept asking questions.

    The teacher :  if we look at point 1 :  ‘According to the structure’ what are possible options? 

    Students:  either  Yes  or    No

    Students :  So,  they are parameters

    The teacher: parameters of what ?

    The student (Emils):  the parameters according to which we can  evaluate the problem.

    The Teacher: Are they enough? Should we add more?

    Answers differed – some said enough, some said not enough. But then the common agreement was, that we don’t know whether to add or not to add, but we agree that we should introduce some improvements to the list, thus, to continue working with this evaluation list.

    So our further discussion was about an obstacle ( introduced by a student) and the argument point was:

    Should we include in the problem description a  few obstacles  or one obstacle?


    for one  obstacle –  because  we can find solution for one obstacle only ;  

    for many obstacles   - because if we solve only one obstacle we don’t solve the whole problem as there is left another obstacle 

    As we couldn’t come  to a common agreement   we  left it open for further research

    To help them  find more features of a problem description I gave them a simple, in my vision, example.

    Example 1. It is raining. John is sitting at home. He is bored.  Are there problems?   -the students answered  ‘No’

    Example 2.  John wants to go for a walk but it’s raining so he is bored.  Is it a problem? – the studentsanswered  ‘Yes”.  

    The teacher: Will you,please, evaluate the problem description.

    The students:  Not good, because

    1. Wish is not explained .

    2. Not clear what a problem is.

    So we decided to add 2 more points  to the evaluation list

    - Is the obstacle clear?

    - Is the wish clear?

    H.T. choose one of the problems you wrote an evaluate it according to the parameters, if necessary – make improvements.  

    Conclusions. I can’t say that I  fully achieved my initial aim to specify the wish and the obstacle, though I think that we moved in this direction; I think that I didn’t achieve the aim of introducing the evaluation tool as well, as it was done not consistenly and in a systematic way, sooner just  like some unconnected elements, fragments and I am afraid not very helpful. So it is still a problm for me to react to the students’ replies properly, giving them clear enough examples and put proper question to provoke their thinking, as I myself am not very strong and sure  in the area.



  • Self-study technology (3)

    Sep 20

    Thinking about Activities, Materials and Time

    to share general feedback on the self-study plans (goals/objectives/activities/time) and highlight common problematic areas.

    Time: 5 min

    Students were given back their self-study plans. Words ‘aim’, ‘objective’ and ‘activity’ were put on the board. Students were asked to express their opinion on the differences between these 3 notions. When listening to students opinions, I reminded them that (adopted from en.thinking-approach.eu):

    • ‘Aims’ include new things/improvement that one will be able to do and there should be simple ways of checking this improvement. 
    • “Objectives” are the result of learning, i.e.what one will be able to do as the result of doing certain activities. 
    • ‘Activities’ are specific actions the person will do to reach ones goals.

    Students had to look back at their study plans and improve them, taking into account the feedback and the differences just discussed. Many of students did not put any time or activities for their plans so the task for the next lesson was to put down time and activities and start selecting the material for working on one’s self-study.

    General reflection
    Many of students in both form still do not believe self-study is going to be evaluated, they continue either keeping silence and doing nothing or ask every time ‘why do we need it’ and ‘what is this we are doing on English lessons’, ‘you are not teaching us anything’. It feels really discouraging. Probably, I need to think more about motivating students for self-study. The first motivation I tried to use was connected with their results of diagnostic test but seems it no longer works. Reminding them about their exams also does not seem to work. In the form 10 the reply is – it’s still too far – or – don’t worry, we will pass the exam.

  • Work on preparation or how to parts to text (with video)

    This is the lesson I attended in Daugavpils Russian Lyceum in March 2011. The description is my vision of the lesson which may not coincide with the vision of the teacher. Irina, the teacher who ran the lesson, is welcome to share her comments as well. I am sure it will provide us with a better vision of the lesson.

    During the lesson the teacher focused on the so-called preparation or how to parts to text. When working with written tasks in the Text Technology, TA students are required not only develop the tasks themselves but also come up with their strategy or model for producing this type of text. This is referred to as a preparation or HOW TO part.

    In addition to my description of the lesson, you are also welcome to watch the video. 

     1. Lesson description before

    By the time of the lesson the students had already spent quite some time working on their preparation parts and each of them had their own model. During the lesson the teacher wanted to deal with the developed models as a group, thus helping the learners to notice something that might be missing in their individual models and expand on them. The lesson was also an opportunity to go up to a metacognitive level when students reflect not only on a model in relation to a  specific task but also on models as such.

    2. Lesson description - after

    The lesson started with learners sharing their ideas about preparation parts and the need for them as well as questions and concerns. This resulted in a list of issues to deal with summarised on the board. After that the teacher invited the learners to select the priorities for the lesson and define the learning aims. After some discussion, it was agreed that the aim would be to come from questions and concerns to the shared vision of advantages and disadvantages of the preparation parts. 

    Then students were asked to work in groups, share their models with each other and see if there was something they felt like adding to their own models or something they needed to clarify. Students were also asked to come up with a version of a collective model to be shared with the rest of the class.

    The last part of the lesson was dedicated to the exchange between the groups and clarification. This part can be very interesting to see in terms of understanding a typical TA classroom discourse. You can see that it's not just the teacher - students conversation. Students also talk to each other and often pose new questions and provide answers. It's also important to note that the teacher constantly keeps up the level of challenge in the classroom not giving students a chance to talk for talking sake. 

    3. Overall reflection

    It is probably difficult to judge the extent to which the aim was achieved looking at this lesson independently without knowing what happened later. But it seems that the students achieved quite a lot during the classroom time. The homework connected with putting the new ideas into practice was a good idea to check on the individual progress of each student. 

    The lesson is a very good illustration of the Thinking Task Framework. As I wrote above, the teacher always checked that the questions students were dealing with were challenging enough for them (not how many times the teacher ensure this during the lesson - you can see it by the flashing Step 1 icon in the video). Challenging questions set new requirements to the students' preparation parts and they had to make them more instrumental (Step 2). Here they were asked to be more specific about values of various parameters, decide on what the choice of this or that value depended on, how the choice of one values affected further choices, etc. The homework asking students to put it to practice was a tool for coming to further reflection on the preparation parts (Step 3).

  • Working on problems in the Text Technology

    September 26, 2013.

    Form 9

    Text Technology text:   “A  Man of Knowledge” from ‘The Teachings of Don Juan’ by C. Castaneda. 

    Language aim: speaking skills -  discussion – reasoning and argumentation

    Thinking skill – introduction to the problem model- a problem formulation

    Background. The students read a part of the text  ‘The Teachings of Don Juan’ by Carlos Castaneda and  offer a way how to defeat the first enemy on the way of learning – fear. This was, in my vision, the first step  - in this case it was creating a first draft of the task. I plan to refer to this draft after doing sub-tasks and to evaluate the task.  The coming lesson was aimed at dealing with these sub-tasks.

    Activity 1. The teacher. I asked the students  to look back at the text they read at home and try to list the problems  or things we can call problems which they can find /identify in the text . 

    – The aim of this task was to show them that they should notice a number of potential problems even if it seems to be one problem, here - the first enemy of the man of knowledge.

    The students  either didn’t understand the task or couldn’t do the task, whichever,  they didn’t do the task. The challenge was all there. When it took too long – 3 min and they still didn’t start doing the task, I asked them what the problem/difficulty was.

    The students asked for clarification as they couldn’t understand what exactly they had to do. We started discussing what exactly was not clear in the task.

    Here are the learners’ questions

    - Whose problem?

    - What kind of problems? 

     The text is about fear as an enemy of the man of knowledge not a problem. Here I tried to bring them to the idea that ‘an enemy’ is a notion which has  features of a problem. They seemed to accept this and understood the task, at least then they started doing the task.

     My reflection: I didn’t expect that finding examples of problems in the context would have caused so much difficulty. On the other hand I see a good sign that they didn’t start doing the task because they started thinking about how to do the task, while usually I had examples when  they instantly started doing the task without any thinking.

     Another good thing was their questions – Whose problem? What kind of problem should we find? It can mean that they require specification and don’t do the task quickly and superficially as they feel that they don’t have enough information.

    My problems:

    - How to formulate the task so that it is clear for the students what to do  so that they could fulfil the task

    - how  to make it clear what to do and to keep the room for thinking, not giving them too many hints  

    Activity 2.  The aim – to formulate their ideas in the form of a problem – to revise the structure of a problem formulation:     Who + wish but who  + obstacle+ explanation. To introduce limitation/specification of the wish so that the problem looks like ‘Who + wish + explanation  but who  + obstacle+ explanation’

    Teacher:- Do you remember how we formulated the problem last year?

    Students:  Who + wish but who  + obstacle+ explanation  the students recalled the structure)

    Teacher:  Can you choose one problem from your list and re- formulate the problem accordingly?

    The students did the task and reformulated the problems. Here is the list of problems they offered:

    1. he isn’t clear about his objectives

    2. it’s difficult to overcome fear

    3. Nothing happen to the man if he runs away in fear, but he will never learn.

    4. a problem with zeal of M of K he is afraid doing something

    5. thoughts soon clash because of the big chunks of what to learn

    6. fear can appear in every step of the way

    Examples  of problem  formulation

    1. A M of K wants to overcome fear, but he can’t, because it’s difficult to overcome.

    2. A M of K wants to win fear, but he can’t, because it can appear in every step.

    3.  M of K wishes  to learn, but he isn’t clear about his objectives, so he can’t do it (because task isn’t clear)

    Reflection time.

    Teacher :  What does this way of problem formulation give us?

    Students: -The problem becomes clearer -We introduce specification

    Teacher:  Can we specify it more?


    - Yes we can but we don’t need.

    - We can specify who man of knowledge is, why they wish to become a man of knowledge. - 

    – we don’t need it because it is evident/obvious.

    As the idea of specification of the wish was important for me I decided to show them that the reason for the wish might be not so evident.

    I asked each of them to continue the phrase I wish it was summer now because ……

    The answers were different

    – because I miss warm weather,

    -  because I don’t want to go to school,

    - because I had more free time,

    - because I want to meet my friends more often,…

    I tried to show the learners that the answer to the question why a person wants/wishes to become a Man of Knowledge is not that obvious and different people may have different reasons, which in its turn will require different ways of problem solution. Here I wanted to introduce or revise the idea that we can’t solve a specific problem by general methods, that introducing limitations is important for understanding the problem we face.

    After the discussion they agreed that we have to specify the reason for the wish.

    At the end of the lesson I asked them to think about a very specific problem situation for them and me- they have to do a lot of things  - self- study, grammar home tasks, text home tasks, vocabulary tasks, regular diary writing – but they have not so much extra time.  I asked them to think and to formulate it as a problem.


    My reflection.

    What to do next?

    My difficulties

    1. How to go from the problem formulation  Who + wish with explanation why + but + Who + obstacle+ explanation why  to a contradiction form

    2. How to introduce if + …. then …

    3. How to build It should be ….. and it shouldn’t be …

    4. Which of the above to deal with first? Second? Is the choice linear?




  • Как выдвигать идеи? (How to generate ideas?)

    Дата: 28 февраля 2013 года
    Класс: 10
    Тема: «Как выдвигать идеи?»
    Урок английского языка
    Учитель: И. Бучинская
    Наблюдатель: Н.Ковылина

    1.    Цель:
    •    Предметная: повысить качество аргументации (обдумывание содержания текста)
    •    Мыслительная: использовать ЭИЗ для выдвижения/создания идей.
    •    Материалы/задания: цитата из текста, модель ЭИЗ (построение модели)

    2.    Описание урока
    •    Процедуры
    В начале урока учитель поинтересовалась у учеников, чему они научились, выполняя задания  к тексту Э.Сигал «История любви», какова была цель выполнения этих заданий. Ученики ответили, что, выполняя задания, они учились анализировать различные ситуации, учили слова, пробовали выдвигать идеи.
    Учитель определила цель урока: научиться выдвигать качественные идеи.
    Ученикам было предложено следующее высказывание: «Начало - самый лучший этап в отношениях» (The beginning is the best stage in the relationship)
    Задание: написать как можно больше идей, почему именно начало – самый лучший этап в отношениях. Время выполнения задания – 5 минут.
    Ученики не справились с заданием: кто-то написал одну идею, кто-то вообще ничего не написал.
    Учитель спросила, почему не удалось выполнить задание. Ученики отметили, что не было идей, не знали, что писать. Один ученик сказал, что для выполнения этого задания ему нужно больше времени.
    Учитель спросила, что нужно сделать, чтобы создать/выдвинуть идеи. Ученики назвали анализ ситуации. Учитель предложила проанализировать ситуацию: вспомнить начало любых отношений и подумать, почему именно этот этап был самым хорошим. Ученики стали отмечать различные чувства, которые они испытали.
    Учитель уточнила: что на самом деле надо анализировать? Отметили: «начало» и «самый лучший этап». Учитель поинтересовалась, как понять/доказать, что какой-то этап самый лучший. Ученики сказали, что надо этот этап сравнить с другими этапами.
    Учитель уточнила вопрос: как мы обычно что-то с чем-то сравниваем? Выбираем параметры для сравнения.
    Учитель: что будем сравнивать?
    Ученики: начало с другими этапами.
    Были названы следующие этапы: 0.ожидание – 1. начало – 2. развитие - 3.середина –
    4. кульминация – 5. конец. Вся информация фиксировала на доске (учитель)и на рабочих листах (ученики)
    Учитель: что поможет найти параметры?
    Ученики: признаки отношений (эмоции) и то, из чего состоят отношения (поведение, влияние, цели, конфликты).
    Учитель: что будем делать со всей информацией, которую  мы сейчас получили?
    Ученики: выбрать параметры, найти хорошее/плохое на разных этапах отношений, сравнить по параметрам.
    Учитель: это поможет более качественно выполнить задание?
    Ученики согласились.
    Учитель попросила учеников описать шаги, с помощью которых можно прийти к новым идеям (домашнее задание).

    •    Работа учеников
    Обычно ученики этого класса стараются отмалчиваться. На протяжении всего этого урока ученики работали увлеченно, все были включены в работу, обсуждение.
    •    Работа учителя
    Учитель умело направляла работу учеников, задавая вопросы.

    3. Общее впечатление об уроке
    • Цель на этом уроке была достигнута: ученики потренировались в использовании/применении ЭИЗ, который поможет прийти к новым для учеников идеям.
    • Задание (работа над заданием для достижения цели; шаг 1 – проблема, шаг 2 - построение ступенек, шаг 3 - рефлексия):
    Шаг 1 – проблема появилась тогда, когда ученики стали выполнять задание.
    Шаг 2 – построение ступенек – вопросы учителя, ответы учеников, фиксация ответов, построение модели ЭИЗ на уроке.
    Шаг 3. – домашнее задание. Снова меня не покидало ощущение, что вообще-то весь урок ученики рефлексировали, определяя целесообразность «своих шагов», хотя, может, я и ошибаюсь.
    • Вопросы/выводы на будущее:
    Мне понравился урок: мне даже показалось, что это что-то из ТА-классики: четко прослеживались все три шага на уроке. Удачно было выбрано высказывание (ученики действительно работали с интересом), четкое ведение учебного диалога, вовлечение в работу каждого ученика, понятная форма фиксации результата работы.
    Я увидела для себя перспективу использования подобного рода заданий: выполнение заданий из системы заданий к тексту (сайт ru.thinking-approach.org) на уроках русского языка - создание с учениками инструмента выполнения задания (выдвижение идей).

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