The overall linguistic aims are still to learn the vocabulary necessary for describing people and to be able to use it, as well as using he/she and his/her.

The overall thinking aims are learning to build an ENV model and to think in parameters; noticing similarities and differences.

Thinking aim of this lesson: Brainstorming what learned so far in order to start building paramters for describing a person.

Subject: Expanding and consolidating vocabulary and sentences for describing someone and starting to link these to other vocabulary they’ve learned.

Materials: One of the cards used in the sorting task from the previous lesson.


The last lesson finished with the pupils trying in pairs to write descriptions of people in their notebooks on the basis of their sorting task and their homework had been drawing someone according to a desription.

Step 1 : My challenge here grew out of their reaction to what I asked them to do. I showed them one of the cards from the last lesson and asked them to tell me what sentences they could think up about this lady. They offered about five sentences in all ( Her eyes are blue. She’s a lady…). I said these were fine, but I was sure they could think up more. They didn’t agree. Then I said that I teach two other 3rd class groups and I was going to see how many sentences all the groups could think up. Immediately they were interested. I said I’d make a note of how many sentences they thought up about this one lady and there would be a time limit, to make it fair for the other classes too, so the conditions would be the same. We agreed they had five minutes to suggest sentences. They came up with a lot more which I tallied on the blackboard. Mostly they managed to think them up themselves, but sometimes I helped a bit if they needed a word and had a good idea, or they could look in their books. After 5 minutes they had 18 sentences and the ideas kept coming so we agreed on 5 more minutes. In the end they had 31 sentences. I took a note of the sentences myself as they were talking.  I then asked what we could do with all these sentences?

Step 2 (not sure if this is actually step 2, but it’s leading to building an ENV model of a person in the next lesson).They all agreed they would help us to describe someone, but I asked them how? They talked about the sentences being models they could look at (so we’ll think about making them into a bank). Then we decided we’d have to organise them to make it more useful. We agreed to do this in the next lesson as we wanted to read the chapter in their book now which was a dialogue describing a character. The dialogue was very easy for them understand as it was simpler than what we’d actually been doing. They were pleased at how easily they understood it.

Step 3: We reflected on what the chapter told us about the character and on why it was easy to understand. What had we done? They said they’d learned words and made up sentences themselves and they’d done lots of them. This isn’t reflecting on a tool, as they haven’t made one yet.

My reflections on this lesson: This lesson was really brainstorming sentences, reading and reflecting a little – not thinking yet. Making a kind of competition did make them exceed what they’d normally have done in thinking up sentences, but I’m not sure if it’s a valid way to make a challenge! We should probably have reflected on how they were suddenly able to think up a lot more sentences. That could have led onto a discussion about trying and how much they really show what they know and how much more they could do… We could still do this later. I did this same task with my other two 3rd class groups and they all came up with about the same number of sentences (32, 33), although there was some variation in what they thought up. They were all very enthusiastic.


# Alexander Sokol 2011-05-04 21:25
Susan, I'd say that your step 2 was more about motivating them than creating a thinking challenge. They were eager to think up sentences and actually did it, however they didn't need any tool for it as they didn't face problems (apart from occasional linguistic ones), did they? Your ideas of organising these sentences to make them useful for further use might have led to a challenge, especially if the pupils had accepted the need to organise the sentences.
# Larisa Sardiko 2011-05-06 15:43
Susan, what you have done as step 1 is something like I do, too. By tradition because I feel safer. And then I try to get the students to see if they could organize the ideas and how. And I find it hard, too.

Alexander and Susan, what do you think: is brainstorming OK as an initial step or should we try to avoid it at all? I have a difficulty with getting them to accept the parameters thinking. What one of them said is: normally we start brainstorming and then when we run out of features (ideas, sentences) we get down to parameters.
# Susan Granlund 2011-05-08 17:44
Thanks Alexander and Larissa. Yes, I'm interested in this too. In some cases brainstorming seems like a valid way to practise new linguistic material in a fairly straightforward manner and at the same time to obtain material to work on in a more thinking way - for sorting, making parameters, noticing similarities and differences etc. Is this acceptable, or should I be looking at things from a different angle which I haven't quite got a hold of yet? Perhaps, as you say Larissa, it just feels safe because we've done this part (brainstorming) before?
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