Aim (in terms of subject matter): To revise the sentence structure of questions and answers; to practise reading characters.

Aim (in terms of thinking): To discover and use all possible keys to do the task; to discover and use sentence patterns.

Target audience: Year 1. Individual work + whole class work.

Time: 20 minutes: 10 minutes for individual work, 10 minutes for comparison and discussion.

Task description: The task is based on two exercises from a coursebook. The first original task is to ask questions to the given answers, the second original task is to answer the given questions. The task I gave my students was to make a table of Q-A correspondences after having matched the questions and answers in the two exercises. What makes this task difficult: a) there are more questions than answers, b) the questions are addressed to ‘you’ but the answers are about different people, c) there’s one answer which doesn’t have a question. The task wasn’t to read the sentences, the students only had to read as much as they needed in order to fill in the table correctly.    

Learners’ response: Unfortunately, the students’ knowledge of key characters turned out to be even smaller than I'd expected, so within 10 minutes they only managed to find 1-2 pairs of questions and answers. Secondly, they tried to read words, not to see the sentences as patterns. Although I reminded of the rule “question=answer” and told them to open the list of question words, it didn’t help.

Teacher’s role: Before doing the task I emphasized the importance of looking at sentences as patterns, drew their attention to the words in bold in the answers. The students realized immediately that the marked words could help them, but they couldn’t understand which words they correspond to in the questions due to the inability to read characters. During the discussion I asked them to look at the patterns on the posters, at the list of question words, asked them to count the number of words in order to discover the patterns.  

Overall reflection on the task: Working together we managed to complete the task. However, there are still many people who misunderstand the rules and apply them incorrectly. The next step is to work with key characters, so that the students learn them. I think I should repeat the task in which the students get a text with only grammar words given and have to fill in the gaps in order to produce a logical text (see Creating texts in LV or RU with the grammar of Chinese). The aim has been reached only partially: with my help the students found some keys for doing the task, so it was Step 2 of the Thinking Framework


# Alexander Sokol 2013-02-21 15:17
Marija, this is interesting. It seems that the task you offered them fully met the requirements of the first step of the Thinking Task Framework (TTF). The problem started when moving to Step 2. Your students didn't know what to do, nor did they know how to approach the task. From the TTF point of view, this is the time when students should be helped to understand the need for the strategy / rule. I might be wrong, but it seems that you focused more on helping them out with this particular task rather than helping them understand the need for a strategy and possible ways of building it. Would that be a valid assumption or am I being wrong?
What I am trying to say is that we often underestimate the importance of focusing on meta-cognitive (the need for a strategy / model) instead of bringing a specific task to the end. I believe that students should accept this idea first and only then our efforts in getting them to build their own rules may start working.
# Marija Nikolajeva 2013-03-09 20:50
Hi Sasha, thanks for being interested. You know, actually, I always emphasize the importance of strategies. In this particular case you're right: an observer from the School Department was present at the lesson, so I had time restrictions and finishing the task was more important than the process itself. But in more relaxed atmosphere I take my time and we work on strategy formation.
We have already developed several algorithms (for asking questions, for searching words in dictionaries, analyzing lexical/grammatical functions of familiar characters for understanding texts, for deciding on the word order in phrases, etc) and I can see that the students do their best in applying these algorithms, they prefer to work consciously, there are less and less students who rely on good luck in doing tasks. I think they just need more time and practice.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-03-11 10:52
Thanks, Marija. Do you think you could share some of the algorithms you are referring to under Materials and comment on how learners use them and how these algorithms change with time?
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