Odd-one-out: extreme adjectives (form 11)

Oct 31

1. Lesson/task description before
Subject matter: Introduce new extreme adjectives and practice them in the context
Thinking: introduce ENV to find differences between words
Teacher’s prof. development aim: to try out working with ENV when working with new words.

Materials/tasks I am going to use

  • Tasks and words from New Neadway Upper-Intermediate, Third edition. SB (p 76)

2. Lesson/task description – after
Procedures (how we worked: time, organisation, etc.)

One of the overall aims of lesson sequence was to help students make their speech richer by making them change simple adjectives they normally use into extreme and brighter ones (e.g. change ‘good’ for – marvellous, fabulous, excellent, etc.). As there were around 12 new adjectives to be introduced I was thinking how I can do it in a more ‘thinking way’. I had 2 groups of 11 formers coming one after another that is why had the chance to do one and the same exercise twice and see the difference.

The following procedure was followed (around 10 min).
4 words were put on the board: ridiculous – priceless – gorgeous – delighted. Students were asked if they knew any of them to make sure they understand these words. Then, I introduced the rules for odd-one-out game saying we need to exclude every word in turn. Students were giving their ideas and I was just putting them down trying to formulate via ENV. For instance, one of the replies was ‘ridiculous is negative in sense when all the rest is positive’. Taking into account this class was once introduced to ENV I asked how can we formulate this difference via ENV. But it was actually me who was mainly doing the formulation. In one group students had less difficulty to find differences, they very quickly switched from ‘sense’ to ‘number of letters’, then were trying to dig inside words for suffixes, etc. I was just putting their replies and pushing to formulate via ENV. It is worth mentioning that in one group the difference that was mentioned was ‘gorgeous has 2 letter –g-‘ and the rest words do not have it”. I accepted this reply because it was their first attempt. However, when continue working, students said “‘ridiculous’ has maximum number of letters (10) so it goes in one group and all the rest (with 9 and 8 letters) goes into another group”, I said that we cannot divide it this way. We need to make another group homogeneous (corresponding to one value). Then, one student said, ‘yes, but in this case we cannot put ‘gorgeous’ in one group and all the rest in another because the second group contains words with both 1 ‘g’ and 0 ‘g’ letters”. I replied that I agree and it’s a very good point the reply was accepted because it was the first attempt.
Students actually managed to find more or less acceptable differences. However, I wanted to ask for more differences. So I took one word (e.g. priceless) and asked if we can find another way of excluding it. After some ideas which lead to nothing I told students just to describe me the word ‘priceless’. I put everything they said on the board. Then I asked to describe the word ‘ridiculous’ and put information on the board as well and then we went through 2 lists together matching and adding values. Then I summarised that this is the way we can extend lists of features if we need to describe something or somebody.

Learners’ response and outputs (how they responded to the task and what they actually did in the lesson)

Students were engaged in finding the differences between words and were giving their ideas (non systematically). Doing it they had to use new words several times. They looked interested and were involved in the activity.

Teacher’s role (what the teacher actually did and how)

The teacher formulated students replies via ENV. The teacher was also trying to increase the challenge when students found differences (asked for more differences). However, I would say that in one group which was more successful in finding the differences I found it difficult to provide challenge. I know that a kind of a competition might have been offered but my students do not show much initiative when offered a competition (at least these are my feelings about them, I still haven’t managed to succeed in making them compete) so I hesitated to offer it.

3. Overall reflection on the lesson / task

Aim aspect (to what extent did we reach the aims?)

In general, I would say that ENV was offered for finding more differences just as planned. At the same time, if I analyse the achievement of the aim more critically I would say that I did not manage to create the need for the tool and did not show successfully how it helps them to cope when they are stuck. Yes, students were asked to find one more difference in addition to the one they had but I am not sure they felt stuck too much. So the tool was offered, students listened carefully when I summarised the value of the tool but I believe they did not understand much how they can use it in the future.

Tasks & materials aspect (how did we work on the tasks to reach the aim? Please make specific references to the steps of the thinking task framework)

Step 1: create the challenge. Small aspect of challenge was there when in one group students didn’t know how to exclude every single word and in another group when students were asked to exclude the same word twice. However, I am not sure this was a sufficient challenge. Somehow it seems to me it is not that easy to offer appropriate challenge.
Step 2: Build algorithm. The teacher asked students to formulate difference via features and values (so introduced the tool but it actually was introduced even before the challenge popped up). The tool - lists of values - was offered when students got stuck. I also paid attention to the fact that this is the tool that can help students to extend any description (for example when they have to compare different things). The generic description of the task was not built, though the last point links applicability of the tool to a wider context I doubt this is effective. Somehow the sub-step ‘build a generic description’ skipped from my mind.
Step 3: There was no reflection as an appropriate challenge was not there, so introduction of the tool did not help to cope with an extremely difficult task, as the result, we had nothing to reflect on. Probably, I had to ask for at least 5 ways of excluding every word. After students were stuck I had to offer the tool, make them apply it and then there would be space for reflection.

Questions / conclusions for the future

  • Taking into account it is only a fragmental not systemic ENV application I doubt students see ‘why’ part, i.e. how this can be useful to them on a larger scale. This aspect still has to be worked on. 
  • It occurred to me, that I do not think in terms of sub-steps. I think about challenge in general and offering the tool in general, but sub-steps the framework is offering somehow skip from my mind. I wonder if this is only my case or other colleagues also forget about keeping in mind sub-steps when they plan their lessons.
  • If you are thinking about your professional development then maybe it might be useful to think about the aim that is connected with your professional development (e.g. as in this case I was only trying out the way of working with ENV. Next time, my professional development aim in ENV-field might be connected with improving some unlucky aspect that are mentioned in this point. Prof. development aim might help to keep your mind on yourself as a teacher who is learning. 


# Susan Granlund 2011-11-10 20:57
Hi Renate!
I could really relate to how you felt as you were going through this. Like you, I think I've been concentrating a lot on the challenge and the tool and not on so much else, especially not, as you were mentioning, 'the generic description of a task'. However, now that I'm into my second year of working (sporadically!) with one or two classes in this way, I must admit that I'm just beginning to see how ENV can actually be used as a tool - we refer to old ones and adapt them to fit new situations (I'm still not convinced though, that I'm using properly, but it is useful for my purposes). Before I was doing as you were and introducing it whether it was needed or not. I agree that your idea of having a professional development aim could be very useful. Thanks!
# Renata Jonina 2011-11-23 01:03
Thank you for your comment, Susan! It is so useful for a newbie to know that once you felt the same:) and it gives hope that in a year I will also have a clearer vision on how ENV works.
Glad to hear you like the idea of 'professional development' aim. I am also trying to use it...not always successfully though...:)
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