1. Lesson description - before

This lesson was dedicated to working with one of the tasks from Part 5 of the system of tasks in the Text Technology. More specifically we dealt with task 5.2. from the system of tasks to R.Bach's How We Judge People. My aim was connected with getting the learners to understand features of a good example and, time permitting, bringing them to seeing how contradictions appear and then understanding features of a well-formulated contradiction. 

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


2. Lesson description - after

At the beginning of the lesson you can see the process of selecting a task to work on. This is quite a usual thing in the TA classroom, when the students can decide which task they are going to deal with during the lesson. You can also see that before we actually started working on the task, I tried to make sure that all the students understood what the task was about. After that I divided the task into parts to make it both easier to organise in terms of the classroom management and to explicitly connect with the aims of the lesson (I wanted to work with examples).

The challenge (Step 1) was created through the form of the task (a competitive game between the groups). To ensure that students think about the strategy for coming up with a good example (Step 2), I offered them evaluation criteria and asked to assess the quality of examples provided by other groups. It would have been possible to get the learners to work out the criteria themselves, and it would have probably been better from the point of view of the development of their thinking skills, but it wouldn't have allowed us to have the game and work on the contradiction (my second aim). As the development of the strategy was not something new for my learners while contradictions were still quite difficult, I opted for the latter.

Please note that the evaluation criteria were essential for the success of this lesson as otherwise it would have probably turned into an uncontrolled discussion. A larger part of the lesson was dedicated to students sharing their examples and commenting on their quality. On the one hand, it helped me make sure that students are practising giving examples, on the other hand, this gave us an opportunity to focus on the features of good examples and eventually build the strategy for a good example (Step 2). It should also be stressed that asking students to evaluate each other's examples actually led to a constant reflection process (Step 3).

One of the main tasks for the teacher was to ensure that students switch between playing (giving examples and arguing - good for language practice) and reflecting (evaluation and coming up with features of good examples - good for the development of thinking). Another task for the teacher was to raise the level of challenge when necessary and to draw students' attention to some problem areas when they faced them (eg the need for more specific evaluation criteria - 11 min of the video). Please also note that each time students came up with new ideas for the strategy (Step 2), I asked them to test them by continuing with examples (Step 3) - you can see it at the 13th min of the video, for example.

In the end I also used students' examples to demonstrate how contradictions appear and invited them to think of more examples and thus practise the formulation of contradictions. This brought us to a new loop of the Thinking Task Framework as we became aware of the need for to have criteria for a well-formulated contradiction (see the fragment around 18:30 in the video).

3. Overall reflection on the lesson

There are several aspects that make me believe the lesson was a success. First, I managed to get the students to accept the challenge and think of good examples. This is always essential for a successful TA lesson as things normally run smoothly when the teacher has succeeded in 'selling' the problem. Secondly, we succeeded in working on language in an integrated way. Students were not only using language but they also explicitly worked on it as it was one of the evaluation criteria when dealing with examples. And, finally, I managed to bring students to the criteria of a well-formulated contradiction in a natural way through their own examples and the need to evaluate their quality. 

Regarding the aspects to improve, I may refer to the evaluation criteria being given to learners as I indicated earlier. This definitely reduced the challenge for them in terms of the examples part of my aim.  


# Eleni Sirma 2013-10-13 21:43
The lesson was a success as the students participated gradually to the process (first the courageous and by the end of the lesson mostly all of them). The most inderesting moment of the lesson was when teacher gave evaluation criteria to the students and the students accepted the challenge. During the evaluation of the examples the discussion turned to an argument as some students were strict assessors of the others. The teacher's expeience worked here and made students go on with a constructive conversation. Finally,the basic aim of the lesson ,getting the students to understand features of a good example is accomplished.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-10-18 22:21
Eleni, many thanks for the comments.
Did you notice any differences if you compare this lesson with the ones you / your colleagues normally conduct? If so, which ones?
Is there anything your particularly liked / disliked about the lesson?
# fatih gokce 2013-10-21 23:16
I agree with Eleni and also I want to reply question.
During my speaking classes, I generally try to give my students tasks related to the text in the student book but if I compare lessons the main part that I miss during classes is evaluation part. After seeing this lesson I can say that students ' evaluation of each other 's examples increases their involvement and the reflection. I think this also helps the classroom management and motivation because the students actively participate in and this is one of the most important criteria I look for during my classes.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-10-23 00:54
Many thanks for your comments, Fatih. May I ask if you noticed anything specific in terms of the approach to the development of learners' thinking? Was it different / similar to what you are doing in your context?
# Mieke Achtergaele 2013-10-27 09:44
One of the first things that draws my attention is that the pupils get the opportunity to choose tasks out of a selection you provide them with. This helps them to make sure they are interested in what they are doing and will make them more confident when participating: they have chosen something they are talented at.
Making sure that all pupils are aware of what they are supposed to do and involving them while evaluating the examples they give ensures that they are participating to a higher extent.
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