Context:  ¦Private classes of English;  ¦A group of 6 children aged 5,  ¦Children attend the lessons once a week for 1h


1. Lesson / task description - before

TA aims :

  1. To let the SS name the features of a tower
  2. To let the ss name same features of clothes  
  3. To identify the shown colour
  4. To find food according to a given feature
  5. To practice asking strong questions in order to narrow the searching field
  6. To practice searching for animals according to a given feature
  7. To practice searching for shapes according to a given feature
  8. To practice searching for more common features within the given pictures


In terms of subject matter:

  1. To repeat the clothes, colour vocabulary
  2. To repeat food vocabulary, to introduce the parameter of taste (sweet)
  3. To repeat and learn animal habitats and the names of animals
  4. To introduce, repeat and teach shapes
  5. To learn new rhyming words
  6. To recall the characters of the tale “Little Red Riding Hood”. First rehearsal.


Materials I am going to use:

  1. Prepared sets of mixed vegetables and fruits.
  2. Prepared plastic animals and cards with animals
  3. Prepared cards with colours, clothes
  4. Worksheets with animal habitats and rhyming words


Tasks I am going to use:

  1. Warm-up activity: Build a tower of a certain colour. Then we compare the towers. Which tower is the best? Why is it a bad tower? How does it look like? Why do we call them towers?
  2. Form pairs according to the same features in clothes.
  3. Identify the shown colour with the one on your clothes.
  4. Birdie wants something sweet, but the doctor does not allow him to eat candies, because they will spoil his teeth. What can he eat (sweet and useful)? The Teacher shows the fruit and vegetable cards and the SS say, can Birdie eat it or not.
  5. One boy thinks of an object from the food cards lying on the floor. The Teacher shows how to ask strong questions to narrow the searching field.
  6. Our Birdie is captured by an Evil Witch and put into a tower on a remote island. SS have to save him. So they set off, but the Witch follows them everywhere. The SS go under the water and there transform into sea animals. The Witch comes to each of them and asks: “Are you Anna (name of a student)?” “No, I am a shark!” and frustrated the Witch comes to another child with the same question. Then the ss run through the forest and followed by the Witch transform into forest animals. The same dialogue occurs. Then ss happily rescue Birdie.
  7. The Teacher shows a circle to ss and they find circles in the room. Then they find something round to trace the shape of a circle. The same continues with a square and rectangle. Then we cut the forms out and make a collage.
  8. Rhyme time. SS have to connect words which rhyme. Then SS search for pairs in the pictures (that do not rhyme, but have something else in common).
  9. SS recall the characters from the tale “Little Red Riding Hood”, practice pronouncing the name of the main character. Name the features of character of each of them.
  10. Homework is to finish the collage and name it. Make sentences of where do animals live. Learn the rhymes.


2. Lesson / task description



When entering a classroom each child gets a task to build a tower of a certain colour and while the rest of the children appear they are busy with their tasks. When there is time to start, we compare the towers built and see, which is the best, worst and why. Among the expected features (tall and narrow), the SS named only tall.

Then we formed pairs, looking at each other’s clothes. Such pairs were formed – long sleeves, those, wearing shoes, tights, sweaters. As there were 6 people present I tried to extend their sorting, suggesting to add someone to their groups. For example, for those who made a pair, using the same feature – shoes, I suggested to find a new person, wearing shoes and divided the ss into two groups – barefoot and with shoes. When the ss found out that they were wearing tights, I suggested to find a new person with tights and the others were wearing socks. So the groups tights – socks were formed. It was difficult for me with the feature “long sleeves”, because all the ss were wearing long sleeves and no extended grouping occurred.

After that, to repeat colours and clothes, I showed the colour cards and those having this colour on their clothes made a step forward.

Then the sorting continued with the food items. And here the ss had to sort the food and vegetables according to the sweet taste. Here was the first task in a context. I told the ss that our Birdie wants something sweet, but cannot eat candies (limitation), because they spoil his teeth. SS easily chose fruits from the given cards and named a carrot, because it is also sweet. Here I had a difficulty, because I wanted them to say, that fruits are sweet, but because of the carrot, which is a vegetable and a kiwi, that one boy told was sour, I couldn’t say so. I felt confused.

Then I wanted to show the ss how to ask the strong questions. I asked a boy to think of a fruit or a vegetable on the cards. While he was choosing the fruit, I started thinking what kind of question I could ask. Of course, first question should be “Is it a fruit?” and with the answer “Yes”  we could exclude the vegetables. But I somehow missed it at the lesson. I asked about colour. But the fruits were of 3 colours and I didn’t know how to exclude half of them, so I boldly asked: “ Is it red?”, because there were more red items, than any other else.  Luckily, it was red. So, we had a red apple, red tomato and a red pepper. I wanted to ask about the taste, because I was sure, that tomato has a sour taste. I consulted with my ss, but some of them told that tomato is sweet. I was confused again. So we had three sweet items. I switched to the evident features, luckily, a tomato and an apple had leaves. I asked about that. With the answer “ Yes” we had a tomato and an apple left. I asked about the place of growth: “Does it grow on trees?” – “Yes!”. It was an apple.

Then we went to another room. There were two tables with three chairs and ss had to group themselves to sit at these two tables. The shoes – barefoot division won. We started our shapes activity. I demonstrated the shape, named it and asked the ss to find it in the room and touch it. Then they searched for a wooden object in a special box that had this shape and traced the shape of it on a colourful paper.  The same continued with a square and a rectangle. The first ss to finish got the scissors and managed to cut their shapes, while the rest of ss were finishing their tracing task.

Then we switched to the rhyming words. SS had to listen carefully and say “Yes”, when the words, that I pronounced rhymed. Then the ss matched the pictures of rhyming words on their worksheets.

The TA task there was to find new connections between words. Some noticed, that the scales and a train had round details, both trains and plain had wheels and windows, a snail and a cat had a twisting element. I was drawing their attention to the plain and a train, thinking that they are vehicles. But the ss said that they are both fast.

We ended our lesson with repeating the characters from “Little Red Riding Hood” and drilling the name of the main character. I wanted them to name me the traits of character of each of them and to say, which character we can exclude, but we didn’t have time for this activity.

The SS had to tell any phrase in English to get to their parents.


3. Overall reflection on the lesson / task

Aim aspect: I think, that context of freeing the Birdie helped the children to fulfil the sorting tasks more enthusiastically. I didn’t accept all the answers (chosen animals), doubting, if a tiger could live under water and so on. I was happy to see that our little collage workshop went well ( our first trial). I was confused, when the ss gave me answers I didn’t expect (like sour kiwi and sweet tomato) and had to switch to a different feature to feel safe. I was surprised to see, that children notice what I do not put attention to – a twisting element in a cat’s tai and in a snail.


# Alexander Sokol 2013-11-12 17:16
thanks for the detailed reflection. As I was present in the lesson you've described, I feel I can provide more detailed feedback than I usually do. To make it easier to discuss what I am going to write, I will divide my comments into several separate posts and then everyone can choose the aspect they want to discuss. I will put some keywords on top of each post to make it easier to identify what I am speaking about.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-11-12 17:49
Organisational aspects

As Edgar commented earlier, you are generally a very well-prepared and organised teacher and there are lots of things colleagues can learn from you in terms of time-management, variety of tasks, etc. However there are a few things I suggest that you add to your repertoire to make the whole process even more productive.

1. Your participation in activities

I feel you could reach more if you participated in some activities you are asking children to do. For example, if you had built a few towers yourself at the very beginning of the lesson, it'd have allowed you to draw children's attention to some more features of a tower. Or you (or one of the toy characters you are playing for - see below) could have connected some of the drawings in the activity at the end of the class and then you could have invited them to say why you have connected them.

2. Use of spontaneous things during the lesson

You started very well when you involved me in the lesson giving your learners a context for real communication. I suggest that you make the use of spontaneous things into a tradition. For example, one of the girls brought a doll along. Couldn't it be used during the lesson? Can't we ask the children to tell the girl about the things you are doing? Can some things be explained to her with more details (by one of the students)?

3. Anchoring

As you always use several rooms, you can establish a connection between a specific room and the type of task you are doing. You are partially doing it already (writing in one room, playing on the floor in the other room, etc.) but I imagine it can be done more regularly. As a result, you will be able to anchor a specific activity (including type of tasks, behaviour, language use) to a specific place. This should provide you with more possibilities, especially if you decide to separate your learners for some of the activities.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-11-12 17:56
Use of Mediator

I like that you've introduced Birdie with the purpose of being a mediator. I feel, however, that it's not really used enough. There are several aspects that can be improved.

1. Birdie (and any character you want to use long term) should become more of a personality. Now it's absolutely detached from the world of your learners, therefore they are not and cannot be really interested in Birdie. Birdie should talk to them, ask questions, tell stories, participate in activities (eg build a tower, do a task on establishing connections, etc.)

2. Birdie must speak in the first person. Now you say what Birdie thinks / wants, etc. Let Birdie speak. It will not only make it more personal (I chose 'it' as I am not sure if Birdie is he or she :)) but will also significantly improve the degree of contextualisation of the task.

3. Speaking of contextualisation and the first person, I suggest that you generally increase this aspect. You can speak for various characters during the class. With time you can also invite your pupils to do the same.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-11-12 18:51
Thinking aims

It's good that you always list a set of separate thinking aims for the lesson. I think, however, that you can be more specific in terms of the aspect of thinking you would like to focus on and make your objectives more measurable. For example, naming a feature of a tower listed by you as one of the aims. Most of the children immediately said that towers are tall, didn't they? Did they need any thinking skills for that? I doubt, to be honest. What you probably wanted the learners to do is to be able to find several new features of objects. Or maybe even to make a step towards identifying distinguishing features of an object. In any case, this would mean developing and applying some kind of strategy for reaching the aim. And this needs to be planned into the lesson, otherwise it won't happen.

For example, if you wanted to deal with powerful questions, it would be a good idea to get the pupils to think about a strategy (eg when asking questions about cards, Birdie could be the one to raise this - for example,
'And I can guess after three questions - I am Birdie, I am super smart' (if Birdie likes boasting)). As soon as some elements of the strategy are there (eg find the middle, split a half), learners should be invited to practice it. And so on.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-11-12 18:58
Additional random ideas

Here I will just briefly list a few other aspects to keep in mind. If sth is unclear, ask and I will provide more details.

At times it feels that you are too much pre-occupied with knowledge (eg colours, finding shapes task). Perhaps more attention could be paid to skills and imagination (eg you do this task as a square, you as a triangle, etc - you should think of a task which different shapes could do differently - eg building a square city where everything is square).

You can introduce more competition into activities to increase motivation. Children like to compete.

Think more about boys' interests. Most activities seem to be more connected with girls' interests.

When working on riddles, look up Alla Nesterenko's Country of Riddles. It will give you some additional ideas.
# Diana Bolgare 2013-11-25 16:26
Dear Alexander, thank you for the comments. I must say, they are very useful for me, because contribute a lot to my professional growth and when applied, can make the whole process more productive. Now I want to say, that I started to use spontanious things at the lessons. The last lesson was the prove to this, because I actively involved a toy dog, broght along with one of the girls. This toy made friends with all of the children present and took part in the workshop. That was much fun and additional lanugage practice for the girl.
I am working on the Birdie's character now. At the moment he appears to be a helpless nice creature, who is often captured by an Evil Witch and should be saved and fed after it.
What concerns the possibility to speak for various characters during the class, I have partly introduced this idea while making short performances using a cardboard theater. Every lesson we watch the performance (first I speak for the characters) and children have their part, their character and speak out when needed.
Yes, you are right, I must plan the strategy to reach my thinking aims. At the moment, we are practising strong questions and children see, that by asking the right question half of the cards (or some cards) with food can be removed. Then they see, that the number of the cards reduces with each following question, until one card is left.
I have tried to introduce a competition, scoring betweeen two teams. This proved to be a success, for the chidlren were very eager to win.
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