I did this with Class 5 after we had finished reading Ch 4 of the coursebook, Wow 5, Mrs. Fish, about a vet visiting school and asking the children in the book about their pets. I asked the pupils about their own pets (nearly all of them have one) and the series of taks below are to give them a chance to use the language they learned in the chapter and also to extend it, and finally to be able to write a profile of their own pets. 

Linguistic aims: Vocabulary and topic to do with talking about and describing pets and people. Grammar: present simple, ’s’ and ’doesn’t’. Further linguistic aims: being able to write about pets and family in English.

Thinking aims: being able to see things from different points of view, categorizing, sorting, using an ENV to help come up with new and relevant ideas, and reflection on their use in a particular context. Noticing two sides of every issue. Professional development aims: Learning to use and teach ENV better as a tool to help learners to see how they can sysytematically improve their output and come up with relevant ideas. Leading to the idea of letting the pupils see how the function of the element is very important in helping to find useful parameters and values.

 LESSON 1.  Warm-up: A photo of a dog – in pairs the pupils thought up as many sentences as they could about the dog, based on the photo and also what they imagined about this dog’s life. They had about 10 minutes to do this and it was a competition to see who could think up the most. I did this with three groups and the number of different sentences the groups came up with varied between 20 and 31 (see handout of sentences Pupil sentences describing a dog ). This was done at the end of one lesson and before the next I took all their sentences and wrote them out (correctly) on one page.

Step 1: Presenting the learners with the task, a problem or challenge. I showed the list of corrected sentences and we then reflected on what kind of things we know about the dog. They came up with the parameters – appearance, character, age, name, likes/dislikes, food, habits, possessions. Then I gave them the challenge:-

Your parents have decided that they have to sell the dog (at this everyone said, ’No!’, so I explained that it was necessary because your family is going to move to a small flat in a city, and it wouldn’t be fair to keep the dog there). Now they have asked you to write a advert for selling the dog to be put online and in the local newspaper. Half the class love the dog (they were working in groups, and I said which groups love the dog) and the other half hate the dog (they weren’t happy about hating the dog, but I asked them to think of reasons themselves why they might hate it). The half who love the dog have to make an advert that will make sure that no-one wants to buy the dog; the half who hate the dog will have to make an advert to make sure someone definitely wants to buy it.

The ’challenge’ I gave them was not one they had no answers for – I had thought beforehand of what they might write (although in fact they were more inventive than I’d predicted!), but what I then wanted to do was to get them then to improve these first versions and to look carefully at how to deal with the task realistically (see how to keep a different point of view within realistic boundries, even while being inventive, and to see realistically two sides of any one feature). At this point I’m not sure if I’m working in Step 1 or Step 2 as I got the pupils to start making their adverts. As ’banks’ to help them linguistically, they had a list of their own corrected sentences as well as one real advert I’d found online for selling a dog. We quickly went through the vocabulary I’d listed below it and then I left it up to them to read and possibly use it or not. We’re going to be working on what they produce at this stage, and at the moment we didn’t make a ’generic description of the task.’ The pupils worked on these in groups for about 15 to 20 minutes and at the end of the lesson I collected their work.

 My reflections on this lesson

The linguistic aims seem to met (so far, as this will be a series of lessons). In writing and talking about the dog they’re using the present simple all the time, I’m reminding of ’s’ where necessary and of ’doesn’t, which is actually quite new. They’re also expanding their vocabulary. I was surprised how ’attached’ they were to the dog in the photo, so they were motivated to make the advertisements. They were also very keen to see the list of corrected sentences and wanted to know what other students had written and to pick out their own. They set down to doing the task well and asked quite a lot of words along the way, all of which I gave and put on the board and noted for further reference (eg kennel, collar, leash, house-trained, badly-behaved, well-trained, breed...). After the initial task of writing the sentences about the dog I asked them what we kinds of things we know about the dog, so in a way the parameters for talking about a dog. This wasn’t for any other purpose than to somehow get them into the habit of thinking in parameters and they do seem to be getting better at making suggestions. When we look at their adverts, I plan to get them to make an ENV for selling a dog, so again they’ll have to look for parameters.



# Renata Jonina 2011-11-23 14:24
Susan, thank you for sharing. The task sounds interesting and I would be keen to read the follow-up!
I just have one question. You said that on Step 1 "students came up with parameters". I just wonder, if they all named parameters (not values) and if these were values, how exactly did you shift their thinking from 'value' to 'parameter'?
# Susan Granlund 2011-11-23 19:33
Thanks for your question Renate! They did actually come up quite well with parameters. If they came up with a value, I just repeated that I want to know what that value (eg nice ) actually tells us about the dog in general / what kind of thing it tells us. They don't have so much English and they suggested, 'What he's like.' When they said that I asked which sentences fitted that parameter and they said, 'He's got blue eyes' and 'He's nice.' I then asked if these tell us the same kind of thing and they agreed they didn't, so we came up with 'Appearance' and 'Character'. I think they're beginning to get the idea about parameters telling us more generally about a group, but that they also have to think carefully and be specific in naming them. I must admit, I still get lost in this myself sometimes!
# Renata Jonina 2011-11-23 22:33
Thank you for replying, Susan! As I now picture it from your responses, first ENV comes as something unnatural and unclear, but more you speak about it, more students pay attention to it, and the teacher becomes more skilful him/herself on introducing and practicing it. Good to know it!
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