Date  February 20, 2013

Form 8

Grammar lesson – Conditionals ( 2nd lesson)

Language aim – Conditionals

Thinking aim – ENV for describing conditionals

Before the lesson

After the previous lesson the students have a list of Conditional sentence structures and 1 example for every structure. Their home task was to find examples for every structure we had found during the lesson and add new forms if they found any.

At the lesson.

My aims - to find out what time a certain structure of a conditional clause refers to. Here are two problems for Russian speaking learners

- two different forms of verbs in the clauses while the time reference is one - using past tense forms for speaking about present/general and future, though in Russian the approach is the same, but it is still difficult for learners to be aware of the fact.  - to identify a second feature of Conditionals clauses – factuality. We spoke about factuality when we worked with Future and Modal verbs, but I am not sure if the students manage to use this knowledge.

At the beginning of the lesson we got back to the ideas we had found during the previous lesson and formulated the aims for the lesson.

The students offered the following aims:

- to find out when to use a comma - to find out what Modal verbs to use - to find out what verb structures should be in a sentence with a conditional clause.

Speaking about the last aim, I believe that there is a reason to speak about this, but I was not ready at this lesson to do it, I hope to come to this discussion later, when they have a general understanding of  time reference in conditionals so at this lesson I wanted them to speak more about the basic  structures we had ( without the one of imperative, though ) and to compare them according to the Time reference and Factuality parameters. Thus, I invited them to think about all structure we had and to think what we can do with them.

Here come their ideas.

The aim: - to find differences between different structure to understand how to use them.

We agreed on this.

But while reading their examples before the lesson I found out that some of them  couldn’t  yet identify the structure of the conditional clause properly, so I asked them to check this first, which they did individually and I helped the ones I considered necessary to help or those who asked me to help. This took about 3- 4 minutes.

Then I asked them to offer the algorithm/steps how to achieve our aim

1. to find differences and similarities between the structures and build a model for that.

2. to work with the model - to squeeze it, this is their term, as I understand they mean to make it more systematic and smaller as a result – to choose only necessary parameters, not all possible, to see if some parameters are similar, ect   - add structure/s  you haven’t got         3. to do an exercise – to check the model

So they offered 3 steps and I asked them to do the first one, the question was:

How to find (differences and similarities) between the verb forms in conditionals sentences:

Here are their answers:

1. To compare 2. To find regularities 3. Find parameters  and make a model 4. Compare by meaning according to these forms.

Here we discussed how we usually compare things and we agreed that we compare them by parameters, so points 1,2, and 3 were about the same idea. I still don’t understand what they meant in point 4, though, I think it is about the same parameters and values.

I asked them to offer possible parameters for comparison. They came up with Time and Vision, as we are speaking about actions, and they used these parameters when we spoke about other verb forms;  and Probability (they call it in different ways – factuality; opinion; sureness) as we are speaking about  ‘If’, and we use this parameter when we spoke about Modal verbs and Future time. So they used the previous knowledge, which was good.    

While working with their previous banks ( future and modal verbs I understood that some students still have problems with organizing the information in the form of ENV, namely, how to put together parameters, values and different structures, which I hadn’t expected, frankly.  So before inviting them to organize their models I asked them about how we can put all this information together. A student came to the board and drew the following table:   

Para/structure Str.1 Str 2 Str3 Str 4 Para 1     Para 2     …..    

In my head at that moment there were 2 parameters Time of the action and  Degree of factuality. My first impulse was to delete the third line, but then I changed my mind and asked how many parameters we need, and whether we need the 3rd parameter.

Do we need the ( …/ para 3)? The answers - if we have difference using the above 2 para then we don’t need it - if we have several different structures and the same value then we need a new parameter. - If we have several different structures and the same values then we should specify the values.

We discussed these things with them while building other models and I was glad that they remembered  them, though of course not all the students, just a few, but anyway.

Then they started to work individually. And here came a question from one of the students which I really hadn’t expected.

-  We speak about Factuality of WHAT?.

Here I was really very glad.  The question is about the factuality of the condition, the ‘If’- part of the sentence, or factuality of the result, the consequence part. For many students misunderstanding of the two leads to constant errors.  So we very quickly, as the end of the lesson was approaching, discussed this and I, in fact, answered the question, myself.

And immediately there appeared another question from another student:  

How to measure factuality? - % - Words – true/untrue/ real/ unreal/ likely/unlikely; possible/impossible -   Strong/weak/ high/low - ….?

Here came the bell and we left the question open.

What I liked about the lesson was that they started asking good, in my vision, questions. Now my challenge is how to help them to learn to answer the questions without my direct answers, especially when the questions appear unexpectedly and I react to them promptly giving the answer, or when I don’t know the answer. By the end of the lesson I understood (to my surprise) that it was quite a challenge for the students to deal with the time of the action, as they still tend to identify the time of the action separately for every part of the sentence and using the same parameters as they used for these forms when speaking about Past and General in simple sentences. On the one hand it is good as it will be easier to speak about Mixed Conditionals, but now it is a challenge for me how to show them that we speak about the same time reference of  the action in both parts. At the moment I just ask them to pay attention to the context and to identify the time of the context not the conditional, I have to think how to cope with this next lesson.  on March 6 .

The home task was to work with examples of conditional sentences, where they had to find the conditional sentences and to identify the time of the action.


# Alexander Sokol 2013-03-05 21:02
Irina, I must admit this one was much more difficult to read (I wonder how others are feeling). At times, it was rather difficult for me to visualise the lesson. So apologies for my fragmented comments.

1. Aims (formulated by you)
I must be boring but let me say it again that I believe one should avoid general aims like 'conditionals'. It's just not productive.
'ÉNV for describing conditionals' - why is it a thinking aim? To me it sounds like a language aim.

2. Aim setting by the students
How do they formulate aims? On what basis? I might be wrong but it feels like the aims are not formulated on the basis of problems they face? Or are they?

3. Classroom management
From the description it seems that the lesson was mainly a frontal discussion. If it's true, can you explain why? You don't like that you often
push learners and tend to give answers instead of letting them come up with their own. At the same time, this format of the lesson is the one when such things are most likely to happen, aren't they? Why this approach then?

4. Questions of learners
I share your appreciation here. My question is though whether their questions are collected in any way? Collected by learners, I mean. I am just afraid that you might be the only one who remembers the question they asked before the lesson finished.

Ok, that's it for a start :)
# Irina Buchinska 2013-03-10 18:43
Alexander, thanks for the comments. I was going to upload my next reflection, but after reading your comment, I will postpone this, will re-read it once more to check if it sounds reader-friendly :)

re- frontal work, in my case it is usually like this - we work together, discussing some questions frontally all together - then the students work individually, applying, checking what has been discussed, - then again work together discusing what they have come up with and what questions have appeared, if necessary or possible (in terms of time) they work individually again.

re- their questions - I put them on the smart board, save and upoad on our school site where every form, in my case this particular group has their file where all the materials I consider important are saved. But even they have this, I agree with you that they might not remember or just ignore them, so I come back to them at the begining of the next lesson.

re- ENV model, maybe I formulated it wrong, in fact what we do is we build a model for conditionals using ENV and, thus, the students learn to apply this tool, though I agree that I might not see different stages of this skill development which I belive exist. Would be grateful if you help here.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-03-11 11:05
Irina, re-reading is fine. I just hope it won't take you a week to re-read. 15 min should be enough :)

Re frontal work. I know that you usually work like this. The question I was trying to ask if you think it's always the most beneficial form. And if you are not sure, why don't you consider to change it, at least occasionally?

Re their question. The process you've described (smart board, saving and making available) is what YOU do. My concern is what THEY are doing and why part of the process can't be delegated to them. For example, can't they be asked to do something with the file you upload? Can't they be asked to incorporate this info into their portfolios?

Re ENV. What I am trying to say is that when we are applying the ENV with the purpose of distinguishing between various structures, it's a language rather than a thinking aim. It becomes thinking when we focus on the process of building these models and try to improve it. Can I ask you to take a look at the list of skills related to the use of the ENV model? (sub-group 1 in the second group of skills here). Which of them do you think your learners have already developed? Which still require attention? What about dispositions. Please share your thoughts and I will be happy to help if I can.
# Irina Buchinska 2013-03-11 12:33
Thanks, Alexander.

Re- the classroom management. At the moment I find this way of work the most suitable for me as I can still control the process and get necessary feedback to plan further work.

I agree with your concern about what they do with the questions. I did their independent individual planning, but it didn't work well and I had either to work more on the way they put the questions and how putting the questions helps see and build the algorithm of their work or to organise this with the whole group and make it more guided until I see they are ready to do it independently and properly, which I chose.

Thank you for the ENV model comment, I will read it.

Re-reading might take time, your guess is right.
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