Aim (in terms of subject matter): to write a short composition about learning Chinese (one of two tasks in a test).

Aim (in terms of thinking): to realize how thinking about the addressee and the aim determine the content of a text; to learn evaluating and finding arguments.

Task: according to the questions below write a draft of a presentation on your experience of learning Chinese.


  1. Your audience: to whom you are going to present? Why?
  2. Your aim: what do you want that your listeners learn from you?
  3. What problems did you have while learning Chinese?
  4. How did you solve the problems?
  5. Which are good methods of learning Chinese?
  6. Do you think that your audience will want to study Chinese after listening to you? Why? 

The 3-year students had about 40 minutes to answer these questions. So it wasn’t a proper essay, however, it was more than answering questions, because they had to answer the questions in a linked way and with several sentences per question. I wrote the questions because I wanted their writing to be less standard, as well as closer to real-life issues.

In two days we had an oral discussion on this topic (80 minutes).

Learners’ output: Although most texts were quite short, the students managed to discuss all the aspects. Questions 1 and 2 required my explanations (for some reasons students rarely think that people do read their essays and that people want to learn something new from presentations). With the other questions the students had to deal on their own. They used online dictionaries, translators, and they answered the questions as they understood them.

Teacher’s role: I didn’t help the students during writing (except my explanations to q-ns 1 and 2), but when we discussed this topic during the next lesson I had to explain everything, because the grammatical structures turned out to be too difficult and some students misunderstood the questions. During the discussion, the students realized what their mistakes were in writing.

I handed out their compositions, which I had already checked, and asked them the questions again. Each of the students declared what audience they would present to and what they want to prove. All the answers were evaluated in terms of being logical for the aim set in the beginning. Mostly, I was the one who evaluated, but I asked the whole class about some of the answers, the ones which highlighted important aspects. To clarify certain points I asked simple questions in Chinese, the more difficult ones or those where nuances were playing a role I asked both in Chinese and Latvian.   

Overall reflection on the task: During these 3 lessons the students did reading, writing and speaking. The aim of reading – writing, the aim of writing – speaking, the aim of speaking – understanding what to say, how and to whom. The language use aim was mainly reached – the students used certain vocabulary, expressed their thoughts quite well. The thinking aim was reached only during the discussion. I think it was because we had more time and I could give the students immediate feedback and receive new, more precise answers.

What I have noticed is that students like the discussions in which they have to provide arguments. So the teacher’s role is to monitor the discussion, to keep it focused. I think the teacher should check if the following answers correlate with the previous ones and point it out to the students. Then they start thinking about what they say, and even add or object to the other people’s opinions. 

Thinking task framework Step 1: done. The students discovered that talking about their studies can be more interesting than just listing the techniques and complaining about Chinese being difficult. The tool for increasing the challenge is to determine special conditions, in this task – the audience, the aim, the expected result of the presentation. 

Thinking task framework Step 2: partly done. By answering certain questions that students started to build the thinking algorithm – if I want to say/write something I have to think about its aim, effect, addressee. During the discussion they learnt one more step for their algorithm – look back and see if your present answer correlates with the previous answers and if your arguments are being extended or contradicted.

Unfortunately, due to time restrictions we rarely speak explicitly about the algorithms. Should do it.

Conclusions for the future: I like such tasks. I have already tried writing and then speaking, but now I will use reading as basis for writing with further speaking. And with further reflection of how we worked.  

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