Thinking: To play the Yes / No Game and see if they think of using the parameters they thought up to build their ENV model, leading to them testing and extending the model and becoming aware of strong questions.
Linguistic: Using classroom vocabulary, as well as yes/no questions and prepositions of place.

We finished our previous lesson (see Yes/No Game and ENV) being stuck for some parameters. In this lesson, after reading the chapter in their book, which was playing ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with..’, we played the game (I Spy..). It’s a guessing game and they were pretty good at it after all the work we’d done on words in the classroom.


Step 1. (The challenge.)
I then said we’d play a different game. They had to guess something I’m thinking of in the classroom, I would only answer YES, NO or YES AND NO and they had 10 questions in which to do it. They all looked wide-eyed, ‘That’s impossible!’ but we agreed to try. The word I had chosen was ‘sharpener’. I wrote up each of their questions as they asked them, and also the answers. I also wrote up the number of questions being asked. They first tried guessing any words, but suddendly realised they only had four guesses left and one or two of them started getting wise to the game. They asked, ‘Is it big?’ and ‘Is it red?’ and one boys asked, ‘Is it on the wall?’ When the ten questions were up they were nowhere near knowing the word.

Step 2. (Building the ‘tool’, ENV model, to help do the task, ie play the game.)
We then looked at their questions and I asked which ones might have been good, and they picked out the ones I’ve mentioned. When I asked why, they were able to say that they tell you more. I asked in what way they tell you more, and they found that hard to answer, but one boy said, well, you don’t have to look at big things anymore, or on the wall, or at red things, so they got close to the idea of elimination. Hardly anyone thought of using the paramters they had thought up last time (furniture, clothes, school things etc.)

I then asked them as a class to think of something, and I’d have to guess what it was. They liked this idea! I thought I’d do as Alexander suggested and divide the room into halves and then do this again and again, to help them get the idea of the importance of location. I wrote my own questions on the board and kept track of the number of questions. The problem was that their answers were often YES AND NO. I asked, ‘Is there more than one?’ and they said, ‘Yes.’ I hadn’t thought to say that it had to be one thing, so that could be a rule in future! I still asked about location,for example, ‘Is it on your desks?’, but I had to use other parameters too. I didn’t manage it in 10 questions (much to their delight!), but I asked one more, and got it. It was ‘stickers’. (They all have stickers on their notebooks.)

Once again we looked at the questions I’d asked and I asked how my questions were different from theirs. They noticed I didn’t start guessing till the very end. I asked which were good and in their opinion the good ones were the ones they answered ‘yes’ to. We then discussed if those which gave the answer no were a waste of time. A few of them realised that these questions and the answers tell quite a lot too. I then asked what things we would need to ask about to help us guess quickly and we listed their suggestions. In this way we got to the parameters of colour, location and size.

The lesson finished here and I still haven’t got to step 3! Next lesson I plan to go back to the ENV models they drew in their notebooks and ask them if they might be useful in our game, and if we could add other parameters to the list, or make a new list, rearranging the parameters and values. We could then play again and they can test if using the ENV model helps them to find out the object more quickly. In future lessons we’ll be revising and learning food words and I plan then to use yes/no with these words to see if they realise how they can play.

My reflections on the lesson: This seems to be progressing, but slowly. The pupils are definitely interested and my linguistic aims were met because they were definitely using plenty of vocabulary and thinking up questions, which is not easy at this stage. They didn’t use too many prepositions yet as they haven’t quite got the idea of the importance of location yet. The yes/no game is only a part of the lesson, so we’re taking our time. Most of them seem to have the idea of elimination and through trying this game with different areas ( food next) we can start to think of more general parameters for the game, rather than just categories for a particular group of words. However, I can see this is going to take time.

Note: I did almost the same lesson with two other year 4 groups and each time it was very different. One group was opened-mouthed at the 10 question-rule, went silent for what seemed like quite a long time, but then started asking very good questions. A few of them realised immediately what they had to do, and the others soon cottened on and followed suite, so they asked questions like,’ Is it on the red table?’ (yes!), ‘Is it in front of the radio?’, ‘Is it behind the rulers?’ etc. Their final guess was, ‘Is it the sharpener?’, so they managed it in ten questions, and when we discussed their questions they thought up good parameters easily.
The third group I did it with includes quite a few pupils with learning difficulties and I realised when we did the previous lesson with grouping classroom words that they found categorising extremely difficult and would have needed a lot more time to do the task than the others. The idea of the yes/no game was clearly very difficult and while being very keen to play, they continually just guessed words, in spite of the others telling them not to waste questions. I obviously have to think very carefully about how I do this sort of thing with this type of class. Maybe I need to have them in groups, offering some groups extra challenges, while I help those who will obviously be much slower to get the idea. This isn’t always easy in practice! Now I have to think how to organise thinking tasks, so the needs of as many pupils as possible are met.  A challenge.


# Alexander Sokol 2011-04-04 15:56
Thanks, Susan. Always love reading your reflections.
I like the idea of the teacher doing the same tasks she asks the pupils to do - it always works and has long-lasting benefits.
Yes, time is always the issue. A possibe solution is to see how you can increase the efficiency not by reducing the time spent on yes-no games but increasing the benefits of this time (eg by integrating your language aims).
Re pupils with difficulties. It might be a good idea to think of procedures that would help you involve them at the same level of challenge as the rest. Perhaps, when the pupils know the game and the procedure, there may be different games taking place in class at the same time.
# Susan Granlund 2011-04-10 11:18
Thanks for your comments. Yes, I maybe have to get the pupils doing this in groups, and maybe the quicker ones can have the challenge of 'teaching' the weaker ones to see the parameters and ask good questions - then they would be working on different levels at the same time? I don't know how this would work in practice, but I could make it an aim I'm working towards and try it.
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