Aim: Subject matters: 1) for that part of the group who don’t remember what subject they are studying at my lessons – to revise the vocabulary in the coursebook and plan which vocabulary they might use in their presentations; 2) for the strong students – to practise different forms of the past tense and other structures; 3) to prepare for a writing and a speaking task.

Aim: Thinking matters: to notice that the change in parameters changes the grammar and vocabulary used in the presentation.

Task: Group 1) to work out the plan of a presentation on what the Latvian Post is like nowadays; Group 2) to make the plan of a presentation on the history of the Latvian Post.


Lesson description. Form 12 (18-year-olds) were divided into 2 groups (3 and 4 people). I announced two topics for presentations, such as “The history of the Latvian Post” and “The Latvian Post nowadays”, the students had to use 2 lessons (80 minutes) to develop the plans of their presentations. The actual presentations will be made further in the future. The lesson was conducted in Latvian, because the aim wasn’t to practise speaking, but to explicate the behaviour of the language in different circumstances.

I offered the students to guess which of the topics is more appropriate for their levels of knowledge and to explain why they think so. The stronger group selected the historical theme immediately, but couldn’t specify why.

So my next question was about the use of tenses in each presentation, and then the students from the weak group said: “Aaahh, clear, our topic is easier – to speak about things in general and in the present tense…”. But then I asked the weaker group about the vocabulary range going to be used in their presentation and they only said about Unit 16 – ‘At the post office’, which was definitely not enough, but I left it for them to discover. 

At the stage of setting the tasks, I tried not to speak much. Actually, what I said was 1) “let’s decide if we want to save the Post or not”; 2) “you have to include as many aspects into your plan as you need to persuade the government to keep the Post alive”; 3) “think what features of language (vocabulary, grammar, linking devices, etc) will be typical of your presentations, list them”.

The first reaction of the students was “Can we use the internet?”. Of course, I didn’t allow because they didn’t need it. I explained that what they were doing wasn’t collecting information, but working out very basic lists of aspects which could be touched upon in certain presentations. So this task also showed them the necessity of seeing the big picture, and it showed me how important it is to do such ‘planning sessions’ on a regular basis.

I let the students work for 10 minutes individually, then checked what they had done. Their lists were very short, eg, 1) the functions, 2) the prices, 3) business language. Then I gave each group more ideas by asking different questions about the contents of the presentations. When individual plans were ready, I asked them to work together on the group plans. The most difficult part was to describe the language they were going to use, because they had to work on the metalinguistic level, which they are not quite familiar with.

The second 40 minutes were devoted to the presentations of the plans. Both groups were asked to compare their plans and see what coincided and what differed. This helped to add more ideas to the plans in terms of contents.

Then we discussed the linguistic aspects. The weaker group realized that they could produce long texts with the help of their coursebook. While writing about the post, they can refer to the themes we covered long ago, such as shopping, bank, school life, description of surroundings, transport, etc. In terms of grammar, that would be lots of adjectives, the present tense, additive linking words, etc. The stronger group’s presentation on the history of the post may differ in terms of included topics, and it will be richer in terms of structures: action description, object description, comparison, various past tense forms, contrasting and additive linking devices, etc.

The teacher’s role was to ask questions and to give examples to the students’ statements. Eg, T: “So you mean that I have to go to the post office to pay my bills?” S: “Oh no, not only the post office, you can go to the bank or do it online. So, we can use the vocabulary from Units 10 and 13 too!” Or T: “So do they still use horses to deliver mail?” S: “No, they don’t. We can use the ‘guo-past’ for the horses and ‘le-past’ for the airplanes and courier services.”

Overall evaluation of the lesson is positive. The aim was reached: the students revised the book; they learnt that there should be an aim and the whole view before you start planning a text; they saw the changes in the linguistic aspects caused by the changes in the aims of the text writer; hopefully, there will be less chaos in the texts they’ll write.

As to the thinking task framework, I am sure I’ve made the first step – increased the room for thinking by asking to view the post from the historical perspective and with the aim to prove its necessity for the society, instead of just asking to describe the postal service. The second step – build the stairs with the learner – was incomplete: yes, the teacher guided the students by questions and indirect answers, but there was no explicit discussion of the task performance algorithm. This should be done in the future.

The main conclusion for the future is to do some collective planning before writing. This gives the students more confidence as they see that the task is performable in general because it is performable at each separate stage. And it probably teaches them that good text structure is appreciated in any writing in any language, not only in Latvian and English. It also teaches the teacher to plan the work and learn predicting the aim-outcome relation of the lesson.

The follow-up activity: the students will write their compositions at home, I’ll check them. I also want the students to do some speaking, so they’ll make oral presentations of these topics.     




# Susan Granlund 2012-03-26 20:21
Marija, this sounds like an interesting lesson. I really like the fact that you gave two slightly different tasks, so that the stronger students could work at a more difficult level. I'll have to work on doing this within a single 'challenge'. I also find it really helps me as a teacher to think of a very specific aim, in Step 1, but I'm not so good at moving on to Steps 2 and 3!

Did they all individually write their plans for a presentation, although they discussed it together?
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