This is a follow-up to the lesson on making ice-cream adverts, Ice-Cream adverts.

Content aim: to practise and revise buying and selling situations in English.

Thinking Aim: to see the function (either to buy or to sell ice-cream) and think about what language / behaviour is appropriate in that situation.

I’m reporting this lesson although it didn’t go very well and I’m not sure what thinking it actually involved. Hopefully I’ll learn from my mistakes!

Step 1. TASK: the pupils, in pairs, had adverts for selling an unusual type of ice-cream. Now their challenge was to try to sell the ice-cream to the others, so that theirs would be the one everyone wanted. As it stands this task did not involve enough challenge, especially as most of the pupils found the simple  phrases for buying and selling easy. The classroom was set up for similtaneous role plays, with ’stalls’, each with one advert stuck to it. Half the pupils were selling their ice-cream, and half were buying and then they swapped over. They had conversations in English and did a lot of bargaining, but all in all it was pretty chaotic. I didn’t see that they needed any tools at all, but in retrospect, that’s just what they needed! Above all, though, they needed clearer aims and a purpose for trying to sell their ice-cream. They weren’t motivated to do it ’properly’, because I guess they didn’t really know what they were doing.

Step 2 was non-existent.

Step 3 Reflection. This is a nice class, keen and imaginative, but lively too! They were very excited at the prospect of selling these wonderful, strange ice-creams. I should have predicted what would happen and I stopped their 'acting' short and we discussed what was going on. They agreed that it had been chaotic and we reflected on how it could have been better and what was wrong with it. They themselves said

 - they were deliberately rude to the salesperson

- they didn’t always stay at the stall until the sale was over

- they became ’silly’ and started asking for astronomical prices

- they stuck with their friends, instead of moving on when they should

All in all, I realise that my instructions and limitations were not clear enough. I have two groups and with the second group I made it clearer that I wanted a proper conversation which they would then write as a sketch. This worked better and they wrote little sketches where they had to make it clear how they would advertise their ’new’ ice-cream to someone at a kiosk, and they had to think about how the customer might react. These turned out quite well and they acted them out, but we didn’t have time to reflect much on them. The real challenge for them here was to do with controlling their behaviour in a ’freer’ situation than they’re used to, and maybe that’s just the thinking challenge I should have pounced on.

My reflections on this lesson. I really wanted to have a lesson where the pupils would practise speaking in an everyday situation, using useful phrases, also when something unpredictable came up, and at the same time bring the thinking element into it. They did use the vocabulary I wanted them to, but that was all. Otherwise, I hadn’t thought this through carefully enough. This really made me realise how very important clear aims are, so that the pupils are aware of them too, and how important limitations are too in ’creative’ tasks. Children easily go too far and become over-excited if they are left to think of ’anything at all’. It is no longer constructive or 'thinking'. 

I think this type of task could have potenial, but the pupils would need a good reason to do it properly. Maybe they could be videoed? There could be a prize for the group who sells most? Who is the ’Salesperson’ of the century? There could be different situations in which they have to sell – maybe a problem could come up, or what if someone lost their money, or had a complaint, or didn’t understand what the others were saying? Role-plays could be a good way of introducing different points of view at the same time. Maybe they could make up problematic situations for another group to perform, and we could evaluate their performances and how they could be improved and why such a problem might arise? Some of these situations would expose what they don’t know and could potentially lead to the need for thinking tools.

So far I’ve done mostly thinking tasks where the pupils have been working in pairs or groups and have had a writing task, or been sorting or playing a game and we’ve spoken as a class too. It feels more difficult to reflect on and evaluate a task where they’re simultaneously acting something out. Obviously it needs very careful planning. I will probebly try something similar to this another time when I have thought up a much more specific context. It would be very interesting to hear if someone has done some simple speaking practise in a thinking way. I’d be grateful for any ideas, also tips for classroom procedures.



# Irina Buchinska 2012-02-12 19:42
Susan, I would just like to add to your ideas about the role, aim, behaviour of the seller the vision of the buyer, because one more important and helpful limitation can be ' what for I need to buy the ice-crea', then it will be easier for them to decide which to buy which not to buy.

Re- speaking thinking task. Similarly to you I mostly focus on grammar and writing, and it's high time I did more with speaking. And it is difficult for me as well, I made several attempts but am not satisfied with the results yet. My idea is to create something similar to the system of task in text technology on the for older students but for younger ones, though there are a couple of systems of tasks to texts for kids, one of them is about creating a new chewing gum, you can refer to it to look for ideas about speaking task.
Another thing I do is doing projects and then present the product of the project, but this is more presentation speking skills not communicating speaking skills, though.
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