I decided to concentrate above all on Class 5. As this is new to me it seemed to be too much, trying to introduce it to all classes at the same time. With other classes some things came up and we did a little TA, but I did most with Class 5. I realise now that I didn’t do thinking games nearly as much, but then series of lessons began to take off in their own right.

Class 3:  I did very little TA, though I tried to do the same Describing families and people. ENV. lessons I did last year. Now it didn’t work so well, and I realised I was concentrating too much on the tasks and not enough on how the pupils were responding to it. There were many poor pupils in this class and I would have needed to start this with them in a much simpler way, starting with the vocabulary needed to talk about grouping and similarities and differences and so on.

Class 4: This class had been very active last year and we still did quite a lot of sorting, and we made riddles (see here), but otherwise we didn’t do much TA. Because of timetabling I ended up having more or less 1.5 hours a week with them which was very little, so I concentrated on getting through the basics of the curriculum in a fairly traditional way. However, this class is good and keen and next year I plan to leave their book altogether and to try to teach them mainly through TA, partly also because I have ideas for Class 5 based on what I’ve done with year’s Class  5.

Class 5: Although I wanted to do more with TA with Class 5 I still didn’t have an overall plan, so I did more, but it was still sporadic.
Near the beginning of the autumn term we did a series of lessons on Dog adverts by pupils. The pupils enjoyed doing it a lot, and I felt it involved more thinking than things we’d done before, mostly because I had a very clear, specific aim, with very clear limitations. This made a huge difference to it working well. These lessons almost began to live a life of their own and had lots of scope to do more than we did. We touched on contradictions, which meant the children and I exploring them together, and that was fun. The major thing missing was proper reflection and making an algorithm of what we’d done. That would have been an essential thing to do, especially as we later did a series of similar lessons connected to ice cream,Ice-Cream adverts. and we could have reflected on the dog lessons then. The Ice- Cream lessons were less successful, and I realised that my aim simply wasn’t clear or specific enough. I guess I learned a lot doing both these sets of lessons and feel I’m in a better position to plan something more long term for next year.

The other thing I’ve done this year is try to think in terms of the Thinking Task Framework when doing other activities in the English class, such as dealing with questions to ask foreign guests to the classroom ( from Australia and Ecquador),Questions for a guest 1, and later in the year in writing to penpals and in doing a Powerpoint for a class in Scotland about Finland. I feel the TTF helped me to make these activities much more focussed and useful and we’re able to refine algorithms made as we’ll have to do similar things in future and can look back and improve them. Moreover, they’re connected to real life and are genuinely challenging and motivating for the pupils on a personal level.

I made some attempt too to do some grammar in a more thinking wayQuestions for a guest , grammar, but found this very difficult. It did somehow help the pupils more than the way we usually do it, but was very time-consuming and certainly needs a lot of refining. I have to think through my aims for this very carefully and decide what I can expect from this age-group in terms of understanding grammar.

Class 6 :  I did very little TA with this year’s Class 6, and feel I should have done more but my energy ran out. All the workshops and open lessons as well as in training at school took a lot of time this year. I did report on our workshops and open lessons to Anni, the Finnish teacher, and together we planned some lessons for her 6th class Finnish classes.



# Alexander Sokol 2012-10-23 15:17
Susan, you seem to have forgotten to add the link to some of your earlier lessons - do please.
I've also got a question about grammar activities. The time it takes seems to be the first thing new TA teachers notice when starting with grammar. Would you give any recommendation here? What can teachers do not to feel they are spending too much time?
# Susan Granlund 2012-10-23 22:30
I haven't worked out the problem of feeling that it takes too long to do grammar in this way, but I think it's becuase I haven't done it properly yet. I'm sure if (hopefully when!) I begin to seethe results of working like this, it will seem like time very well spent.

Actually, after the work I did with class 5 last year on questions they do seem to remember do and does better than usual, and I feel I have more awareness of how they understand it and where possible problems lie (eg, the main problem turned out to be them not understanding what the third person means, having no idea that 'he' was the same person as 'my dad', so we did a lot of work on that.)

I really like the idea of 'Parallel Grammar' and of gradually introducing topics. Even my 6th class has problems with the present continuous, but maybe if I had introduced it more gradually, first only recognising it and moving on from there each year, discussing its use much more, and not jsut doing exercises, it would be easier. I don't feel it should be particularly difficult.

I have no particular recommendations yet, but would be gald to hear of some!
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