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.

This lesson is really just laying the ground for them having the necessary vocabulary to be able to do something in English with the tasks which will follow in subsequent lessons (grouping, describing…) It is connected with 2 chapters in their coursebooks, Wow! 3, one dealing with family words and the next teaching parts of the body and description of appearance.

Subject Aims: Introducing family vocabulary, some adjectives and ‘he’ and ‘she’.

Thinking Aims: Building up a description of a family together, in what will be ENV form, although we won’t talk about it as such. However, I’m hoping it will be familiar as a layout when they need it later on. I don’t know if there’s real thinking as in the challenge which should be posed by Step 1, but I’m trying to create a situation where they have the need for the new words, rather than just presenting them, and the description we make up is like a bank from which they deduce the use of HE and SHE.

Before we started this we practised and learned some adjectives through acting and miming (eg  old / young, big/small, quick/slow, tall / short…)

Step 1 (Not sure after all that I’m creating any kind of challenge here…?!) Creating motivation and need. I said that I want them to tell me about their families in English, and this they wanted to do, but said, ‘We can’t do that! We don’t know the words.’ (Is this enough to be a challenge?) So then we did the following.
-    I put pictures of each member of the Simpson family on the blackboard, each one below the other. They were immediately interested and chatting away in Finnish about who’s who. I explained that the problem is that they know all about these people, but I don’t know anything at all. (This is almost true – I’ve never followed the series.) So I need them to tell me about them in English.

-    I elicited and wrote the word ‘family’ and then elicited who each member is (mum, dad, brother, sister and baby sister) and wrote the words next to the appropriate person. After that I said we need more information about each person and they made suggestions,‘big’, ‘tall’. I wrote as a second column, next to the word dad, ‘ He’s big.’, ‘He’s Homer.’ etc. For mum, I wrote (as they suggested), ‘She’s Marge.’ ‘She’s tall.’ etc. I went on to write about the brother,’ He’s naughty’ etc. At this point one boy suddenly said to me, ‘ You made a mistake!’ When I asked where, he said I’d put an ‘s’ in front of ‘he’ by accident. ..and so they noticed HE and SHE, and were able themselves to make complete sentences about the sisters. In the end we basically had three columns, the first being THE SIMPSON FAMILY, with parameters, MUM, DAD, BROTHER, SISTER and BABY SISTER and the values sentences with descriptions of each. This was followed by spontaneous practice as they were immediately desperate to tell me about their own families. The ENV structure seemed to make it all very clear to them as they we were able to use all the language very well, immediately and I just helped with adjectives they needed.

Step 2: (I’m calling this Step 2, but it’s really practising building the tool, seeing if they can do it themselves on the basis of a text, rather than pictures.)
-    We listened to and read the chapter which is a dialogue of two characters talking about the family of one. I then aksed them to make a similar chart about Chris’s (the character’s) family. They drew the three columns in their notebooks and we wrote ‘Chris’s family’ in the first. They then filled in the rest. Some found the task easier than others – some were determned to find a sister in Chris’s family, although there wasn’t one – they basically wanted to copy the Simpsons model exactly without adapting it to a new situation.

Step 3: ( A quick reflection/ discussion on what they did.) We then discussed how the chart helped us to see and notice exactly who’s in the family, and how we have to be ready to change it for different families.
For homework they have some exercises from their books on he/she and family words. In the next lesson they’ll go on to make an ENV of their own family and we’ll think about what they want to tell me but can’t yet (to describe them better we’ll need vocabulary for parts of the body etc..).

My reflection on the lesson This lesson was very full. I have three Year 3 classes and with one we managed all this in one lesson – with the others it was spread over more than one. They were very active in the lessons and particularly enjoyed the Simpsons. He /She were also well used, so I feel the linguistic aims of this particular lesson were met. As for thinking, they just got an idea of what ENV looks like and tried to use it a little, but I think they’ll need a lot of practice of doing it in different ways to get the idea of what parameters are, and it’s going to take time as we have to build up their vocabulary at the same time. In this lesson were we really going through the steps of the Thinking Task Framework? I’m not sure. As they notice what they don’t know (as mentioned above) I plan to do a picture sorting task with them to elicit physical descriptions of people. We will then try to make an ENV model for describing a person in general. In this context is the ENV model an algorithm?


# Alexander Sokol 2011-04-05 08:40
Thanks, Susan. I think we should distinguish between sth we can call 'subject challenge' (in your example, creating the need for new vocabulary - they know what they don't know) and 'thinking challenge' (they don't know how to proceed). Both are important, however the first is about contextualising tasks and the second is about teaching thinking. You are right, the first is usually enough for having a good lesson (full as you say) as it really runs smoothly when we've succeeded in contextualising the task. It's often difficult though to integrate thinking in there. For this, the task needs to be more open, I belive. For example, when dealing with describing family members (one of the plans for subsequent lessons, right), you may ask them to add sth Finnish to a member of the Simpsons family. This might become a good thinking quest (esp if you manage to contextualise this task as well as you did with this one), as they will probably have lots of difficulties finding this 'Finnish' thing. So, you will have to search for parameters and the ENV will come handy.

A few more things. I am not sure that mother, father, etc. are parameters of the family. I'd say that 'members' is a parameter while 'father', 'mother', etc. are values.

Re your question in the end. Yes, if pupils build an algorithm for describing a person on the basis of the ENV model, it's an algorithm. You may call it an ENV based algorithm or an ENV of a character / family member but I'd not call it the ENV model as here it will be the ENV model applied for a particular task.
# Larisa Sardiko 2011-04-09 08:14
Thank you, Susan, for a clear and enjoyable account.
And thank you, Alexander for the clarification and for an example of a possible thinking challenge.
When you put it like this it becomes obvious - these are two different challenges.
Re: Alexander's idea on adding sth Finnish - 'you will have to search for parameters'. My students normally start from searching values and then we sort of (with my push) pass on to parameters. (When reflecting on the process one of the students (who has got the TA experience with Irina) said: we start from naming values and then when we run out of values, we proceed to parameters.) Is it OK or this process can be made more effective - I mean starting from 'parameters', not values? If yes, should I help (if yes - how) or let it be a natural process until they realise it?
# Alexander Sokol 2011-04-09 09:04
Larisa, would your students be seaching for values or brainstorming them? I think this may be the difference. I might be wrong but my assumption with the 'Finnish' thing was that they would have no clue what it could be. Then, one needs to think of parameters that may help them find this something 'Finnish'. What your student referred to was probably a different situation. The one when we seem to have plenty of ideas and start randomly picking them. Here the teacher's role is to challenge the ideas, so that students can actually run out of ideas. Then, you can go to parameters. I don't think you will manage to get them to start from parameters if they feel they can do it faster by brainstorming the values. This is actually one of the indicators that they start seeing the ENV as a model - they start from parameters instead of guessing values. Playing a yes-no game is a good example that ilustrates it.
# Susan Granlund 2011-04-10 11:11
Thanks Alexander and Larissa! Alexander, your explanation of how to make this into a more thinking task helped me too. Like Larissa, my learners have been doing more 'brainstorming' in order to sort and then make parameters, but I can see that looking for this 'Finnish' thing would force them to do the opposite.

Do I understand correctly that I could, for example, have introduced the idea of the 'Finnish' thing at the beginning of this lesson, to make it more thinking..? They wouldn't yet have had the vocabulary or the thinking skills to suggest things? Would the 'Finnish' thing have been the overall challenge, which we would have addressed (and can still address) after dealing with vocabulary and descriptions and when we return to describe family members more fully? So I could go through steps 1-3 of the framework at a lower level before returning to this? I've done a couple more lessons with these groups now, which I'll put in the diary, though I'm not sure they've got much more thinking in them than this one - yet!

I think I understand also what you mean about the ENV model not being an algorithm when it's for a particular task.
Joomla SEF URLs by Artio