Aim (In terms of subject matter): to understand a song, familiarize with certain grammar and vocabulary items, to use them while writing a dialogue on the basis of the song.  

Aim (In terms of thinking): to observe how the aim influences/changes the contents of writing, to learn looking deeper into the lyrics of a song in order to imagine how things described in the song took place and what happened then.

Materials: online dictionaries and lyrics of “Mangran” – a Taiwanese song about a girl who came to a restaurant but couldn’t decide what she wanted to eat. The song ends with rhetoric questions about loneliness, everyday rush, the meaning of life and true desires.

Task: to translate the song; to work in pairs to create dialogues – screenplays for TV series. The 1st scene should be the conversation at the restaurant, then the action should develop and have a logical ending.



Lesson description: I did the same task with all forms (10-12), but with different accents.

With Form 12 we did it orally: they already translated the song last year, so we just made dialogues. It was a short speaking task at the end of a lesson, in total it took us 20 minutes to make 2 dialogues.

I asked the students (only 3 people were present) to act 1) a conversation between an angry shop assistant who didn’t like the girl’s indecisiveness and 2) a conversation between a shop assistant who fell in love with the girl and wanted her to love him too. The 2nd conversation was much richer, because falling in love suggests meeting parents, marrying (if the parents agree), emigrating (if the parents don’t like the fiancée).

The teacher’s role. Although I was the one who offered the themes of the dialogues and turning points in the situations, the phrases were invented by the students, each of them was improvising. Mainly, it turned into a fluency exercise, the exchange of short but fast phrases, without referring to the text of the song and not using it as a source of grammar and vocabulary.

Form 11 had 40 minutes to translate the song in pairs, then we discussed the translation, without going deep into details, then they had 40 minutes to develop the concepts of their dialogues in pairs and start writing. I haven’t seen their works yet, they have to finish them at home, write with Chinese characters and bring to me next week.  

Unfortunately, only 3 people wrote their dialogues, the other 17 didn't. As to the written ones, I can say that the students used the text of the song as direct quotations, in the exchanges between the seller and the buyer. But I would like them to use the lyrics as the source of grammar, which hasn't been done. As to the quality of the dialogues, 1 was long and interesting with the storyline extended beyond the song context, the other 2 were very simple and contained only the scene described in the song. 

Form 10 translated the text individually, it took them 1.5 lessons (60 minutes). Then we discussed the translation and put down the most useful grammar structures and vocabulary (20 minutes).

As to writing the dialogues, I realized that it would take them too long to write dialogues in pairs, so I decided to make it a class work, the duration - 2 lessons (80 minutes). At first I asked them to state the goal – the final episode of our TV series. Then they offered what the characters said, with periodic discussions about whether it will or won’t and how it will lead to the final scene.

The teacher’s role was to paraphrase their sentences so that the students could translate them into Chinese and to draw their attention to the linguistic resources in the song. In fact, the students took quite much from the song, which I appreciated. I wrote everything on the board, they copied into their notebooks and have to write with the Chinese characters at home. It will be difficult, the students will have to look up the meanings of words again, which is a good exercise.

I’m going to share the dialogues with all the students so that they see how many different scenarios can grow from a very simple song about a hungry girl. And I also want to explicitly discuss the meaning of the aim in writing, as well as the use of original texts as sources as information for new texts.         

Overall reflection on the lessons / tasks. The task is quite difficult because it consists of several parts, which frightens some students, but I hope it is challenging and thus interesting. Doing such tasks regularly, the students will get used to Chinese as a tool, not only as a subject of learning.

Unfortunately, the students haven’t reached the degree when each of them can invent several stories during a lesson and compare them, thus observing the aim-contents relationship. But they will hear what their peers have written, will have a chance to compare the stories. And I hope that my regular questions and doubts have helped them to pay more attention to the logic of their screenplays. I can say that the aim of the lesson was reached to some extent, both in terms of language and thinking.

During the next lessons we will discuss the process of writing. So, at present, we’ve taken Step 1 of the Thinking Task Framework – increase the room for thinking – and Step 2 – build the steps together. Actually, it seems to me that I was trying to teach them fishing without saying that it was fishing.

We translated a song and wrote stories, but what for? It turns out that I only thought of the aim for this lesson – to write a screenplay, but didn’t think about the global aim – to develop the skill to use those resources which are available. This one is a really useful skill which few students possess. How to develop this skill is what I have to think about in the future and discuss with the students.          

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