Class 5 English (11 year-olds)2 x 45 min lessons a week

3 groups (17 pupils, 13 pupils, 13 pupils)

I am trying to teach the next unit in their course book using more thinking tasks than before, so this is what I’ve done so far, over two lessons. The aims for the whole unit are as follows:-


LINGUISTIC AIMS: 3rd person present simple, ‘s’, doesn’t / does; talking about people, asking questions; revision of a lot of basic vocabulary – weather, illnesses, shopping, family, countries, languages, vehicles, giving directions, jobs, the environment, recycling.

THINKING AIMS: to familiarize the pupils with the ENV model and let them see how it can help them to write better and to organise their thoughts and text. To familiarize them with reflecting on what’s been done, leading to making algorithms.


1.Lesson / task description before

LINGUISTIC AIM: Revision of descriptions and family words; task will be partly for diagnostic purposes.

THINKING AIM: Building ENV model.

MATERIALS: From the textbook WOW 5, Chapter 5, ‘A Very Special Person.’

TASKS: Pupils write a description of an old person they know and we build the ENV model based on their descriptions.



- I showed them pictures of old people and elicited words for relatives in English – we got onto grandmother, grandfather and after a picture of a very old person, great-grandfather and mother. It turned out half the class had great grandparents and were very keen to talk about them.

- I then asked them to write about a grandparent or great-grandparent for 10 minutes. Most of them wanted to write a lot and asked for lots of words, like wheelchair and walking frame. I wrote these on the board. One or two couldn’t think of anything to write and had two or three sentences after 10 minutes.

- When 10 minutes was up I told them to stop and I drew two columns on the blackboard. I elicited sentences they had written and listed them in the right-hand column to get values. This class is usually very quiet and it’s difficult to get them to participate actively, but they were keen on making suggestions. They suggested sentences like He’s tall. He’s 90 years old. He lies in bed all day. She likes knitting. She’s got grey hair. She’s sick. She’s funny. She lives in Rauma. She likes walking. I then asked what these things told us about their grandparents and we found the parameters, health, age, appearance, home, likes/doesn’t like and hobbies. They copied the model into their notebooks and put the sentences next to a suitable parameter. I wanted them to be able to look back at this.

- After this we just had time to listen to the chapter in their books and hear what Linda (the character in the book) had written about her grandfather. I asked them to listen to and read the chapter aloud at home (they all have CDs of the texts) and to think about how Linda’s description differed from their own.


Introducing the subject and motivating them. Giving task and circulating, helping and encouraging where necessary. Eliciting the ENV and encouraging them to make conclusions.

3. Overall reflection on lesson

AIMS: I think we reached our aims as they wrote their descriptions and we made the ENV model. They also seemed to find the subject motivating as it was personal to each of them. However, this is just the beginning of a series of lessons.

TASKS & MATERIALS: As the aim was partly diagnostic the task was not set in the form of a problem; rather we were collecting data to make the ENV and then to improve their descriptions. Their writing, without guidance, was Step 1, and making the ENV model was Step 2.

QUESTIONS/CONCLUSIONS FOR THE FUTURE: In the next lesson we will expand the ENV model by applying it to the text in the book. They can ‘experiment’ a little with how it works. We haven’t yet got as far as Step 3, and I’m not quite sure how to apply it. It was surprising how much, and somehow also how little, we got done in the lesson. They stayed on task well.There’s not much thinking involved in them reading aloud, but getting them to listen to, repeat and read aloud the texts to a parent at home has helped their pronunciation a lot and familiarizes them well with the texts.



1.Description before lesson

LINGUISTIC AIM: expanding vocabulary and phrases for describing someone; finding rule for using ‘doesn’t’.

THINKING AIM: more work on ENV, applying it to text in book

MATERIALS: Text from course book WOW 5, Chapter 5, ‘A Very Special Person.’ and handout ‘A Very Special Person’ with two columns, the first column with the parameters the pupils themselves and room to add more parameters; the other column with space to fill in the values, ie sentences from the text relating to a particular parameter.

TASKS: Reading aloud, looking for ‘values’ from the text and filling in the handout, deducing when to use ‘doesn’t’.



-They read the dialogue and text in pairs.


-I reminded them of the model we’d made in the last lesson and showed them the handout with the parameters. I asked them to look for suitable sentences in the text and to fill in the handout. They did this in pairs and did it quite quickly and well.I also asked them if they could find sentences which would need a new parameter. (about 10minutes)


-We discussed the sentences and parameters together. They enjoyed looking for the sentences – also the poorer pupils - but looking for new parameters was more difficult. They did however come up with job, holidays and pets.



-I then asked them to go back to the text and list the sentences with doesn’t. (This could be a ‘bank’, but meantime they’re just writing in their notebooks). We listed them together and I then asked how they would say the same sentences in the ‘I’ form. They were able to do this well (they did it orally in pairs). I then asked what the rule for ‘doesn’t’ might be, and they suggested it was used when speaking of someone else. We looked at some more examples and they decided it had to be in the singular. They then suggested orally some sentences about their own grandparents using doesn’t.


-We then over together what we’d done since they written their own texts about their grandparents. They made suggestions and I wrote them up in order. It turned out like this:-

  • oWe wrote about our grandparents.
  • oWe told some sentences and copied a table from the board.
  • oWe read the chapter from the book and filled in a new table.
  • oWe made a list of doesn’t sentences and thought some up.


-The lesson finished there and they had some traditional exercises from their workbook for homework (using doesn’t).

TEACHER’S ROLE: Giving instructions, providing extra material, guiding and eliciting.


3.Overall reflection on lesson

AIMS: The pupils did practice and use the sentences and vocabulary from the text and they did use the ENV model to look at the different aspects of the description of Linda’s grandfather in the book, but I think I tried to do too much in one lesson.

TASKS AND MATERIALS: I think the handout worked well and they started to get the idea of ENV more. However, several of the tasks did not involve ‘thinking’ as such – reading aloud, and how we dealt with ‘doesn’t’. I hadn’t really thought through well enough how I’d introduce it. They did try to think up a rule and made their own ‘bank’, but we didn’t really test their rule much and I found myself unwilling to take more time on it at the moment as I was concentrating more on the text itself. Their homework was too ‘traditional’. The idea of eliciting what we’d done so far was to start to give them the idea of reflecting on what they’d done, leading later to thinking about algorithms, but right now I’m not sure how to go on with that.

QUESTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS FOR THE FUTURE: I’m finding it hard to use the course book in this way. In one way it’s working well; in another I’m doing some of the traditional stuff as well. I think it might be easier to plan thinking lessons without the book at all, but I’ll keep trying. There just seem to be too many aims in the book for each lesson and we have so many routines in the class which keep order and which are familiar and somehow they’re needed too. I don’t want to change everything at once, though in the long run I want to be using completely different systems. In the next lesson I plan to ask them how what we’ve done so far will help them to write a better description of their grandparent and I’ll ask them to write it, using the ENV models we created to help them. Could I be starting to write an algorithm here and how?


# Alexander Sokol 2010-12-03 11:56
Susan, I will divide my comment into two parts. In this one, I will deal with Lesson 1.

I generally like how you introduced the ENV model. You used the resources of what the pupils were working on and it seems to fit quite naturally. There's one point I wanted to draw your attention to, though. Normally, we need models when we can't do without them. In real life, we will hardly turn to a model if we can do a task without it. In the context of the classroom, it means that it' important for pupils to feel that the models come in when they are stuck. We don't describe things via parameters and values just for the sake of doing it like this but because it helps us solve problems better. This is the view we'd like to share with pupils. Therefore, I'd suggest that in the future we turn to the ENV when pupils feel they need some help.

Another thing I found interesting is that you say you felt you'd done very little. I've got a question here. Do you mean 'little' in terms of the number of tasks or in terms of the things pupils learned? How do we generally evaluate how much we've done in the lesson?
# Alexander Sokol 2010-12-03 12:03
This comment is about Lesson 2. Again two points here.

You're saying that you were not quite satisfied with asking them to do quite a traditional homework. At the same time, you note that you didn't feel like spending more time in the lesson on their testing of the rule. So, my question is why you couldn't ask them to test the rule as homework as long as the traditional tasks you invited them to do basically dealt with the same topic (the use of 'do' and 'does').

You're asking how the algorithms can be introduced when doing a description task. As I said commenting on the ENV model above, I believe that we need tools (and the algorithm is a tool here) when we face a problem. So, I'd start by contextualising the task so, that pupils face a problem. It's difficult for me to come up with an immediate idea (you definitely know your situation better than I do), but could it be something like 'You are participating in a contest of the most unusual description of a grandparent. You've got ... min to write your description. The prize is ... and ... children are said to be taking part.' So, the point is that they've got to be better than other children, not just produce a description. From here, we may come to the need for an algorithm.
# Mari Starckman 2013-10-05 15:20
Kirjoitat Susan tekemisesti hyvin auki, niitä on helppo aloittelijankin seurata!
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