Parameters for Animal Sorting


Context:  ¦Private classes of English;  ¦A group of 6 children aged 5-6,  ¦Children attend the lessons once a week for 1h


1. Lesson / task description - before

TA aims :

  1. To let the ss name parameters (or at least features) for animals
  2. To let the ss practice sorting of animals, adding new parameters (food and drink, animal covering)
  3. To let the ss conclude that there are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores

In terms of subject matter:

1. To repeat animal and food vocabulary.

2. To repeat (teach) animals, to introduce new food characteristics for animals, to repeat animal covering vocabulary (fur, feathers, skin, scales, shell), to introduce animal habitat and homes vocabulary (water, house, den, hollow)


Materials I am going to use:

  1. Prepared sets of animals.
  2. Worksheets with animal coverings, animal food, animal homes (habitat)


Tasks I am going to use:

  1. To form pairs according to colour of clothes. Each pair is given a set of animals.
  2. SS should divide animals into 2 groups, then to sort them according to self-chosen parameters and then according to given parameters (covering, food, habitat)


2. Lesson / task description



First I told children that we are going to form pairs and we will have different tasks. Each task they should work with a new person. I suggested them to form pairs according to the same parameter – colour or the same type of clothes).

Then I gave each pair a set of animals. I told them to group the animals. Again there were sorting by size, colour, pattern, ie stripes – no stripes. Then I suggested my SS to sort the animals by habitat, ie separate those, who live in water, on the ground, in the air. After that I recalled them about the last lesson and animal covering and we grouped the animals in five groups (those with skin, feather, fur, shell and scales). Then I reminded them of what food each animal has. For each animal we named the food (reducing it to meat – herbs), then two groups were formed and  we named the first carnivores and the second herbivores. I also introduced  the notion “omnivores”, adding birds, dogs and cats.


In between those exercises there were such an activity, when I asked each student to come to me and to find a bird among the cards with animals, So we had a set of 4 birds and I asked them why did they think they were birds. They named me the following features: a beak, wings, special legs, ability to fly and to hatch. Then I drew their attention to the food and we came to the conclusion that birds are omnivores, because they eat both worms and grains.


After that I gave my SS a worksheet with animals’ homes and habitat.  They matched the animals and their homes. I asked them to add a new animal to each home/ habitat. As the task was quite difficult for them, I suggested them to finish it at home. The second home task is to group the given animals (carnivores, herbivores, omnivores).


3. Overall reflection on the lesson / task

Aim aspect:

I saw, that my SS were able to name features of animals, they were able to sort them according to my parameter (using their previous knowledge). What was new for them, I think, is that there are omnivores.

As to their division into animal with stripes – no stripes, it would be correct to name such parameter as pattern and find animals with stripes, spots and plain skin.

My weak point still is lack of context. I do not motivate students to solve the problem, using acquired skills, I teach them bare skills, like seeing parameters without further goal.

Here I would suggest the following context for my activities at this lesson:

  1. (as to birds’ features)How can we get to a remote island to save my Birdie? An evil witch captured him. A magician decided to help us, but he has only these animals at his disposal (cards with animals). Which ones will you choose to get to the island? (those who can fly) How do we call them> (birds) Why do we say they are birds? (beak, wings, legs, eggs, FEATHERS)
  2. Ok we got to the remote island, but we can’t find our Birdie. We know for sure, that it has feathers. We have to separate the animals to find those who have feathers and to befriend the rest of the animals (using the same parameter – covering).
  3. Ok, we found our Birdie among the birds, and he says that all the animals are starving. They haven’t been eating since the Witch knew, that you were coming to save Birdie. Please feed them! But we have only two containers with food and sadly it is under the spell. If you guess the names of those containers (meaty food. Herbal food) they will open by themselves. And there will be animals, that can eat from both.
  4. (re animal homes). Ok, the animals are full and happy, but they are very sleepy now. Can you find the best home for them? Unfortunately, we have only four homes at our disposal – water tank, a house, a den and a hollow. (from the worksheet). (after seeing the comment, it would be best to stop after suggesting to find the best home for them and to tell that we have only four of them and should place all the animals there. Let them define those homes themselves)


# Edgar Lasevich 2013-10-21 00:09
For others to better understand my feedback, I should mention that me and our colleague Ruta from Pinki joined Diana at this lesson as observers.
The lesson felt good: children were there and worked, time was distributed very well, time in general was used very professionally. I would really make compliments to Diana about procedures, time planning, and a nice combination of standard elements (which are present at the lesson) and the degree of new work. The language was also English from the first steps of those kids in the premises.
In reference to the "thinking" part. There are two aspects:
1. When categorizing, we should not accept division into groups such as "having feature 1" and "not having feature 1". This is a pretty standard approach in the beginning. The groups, when formed should be formed as "having feature 1" and "having feature 2". Feature 2 in this case cannot also be "not feature 1". In other words we cannot say that one group of animals have "sharp teeth' but another have "no sharp teeth". Other things to improve were, that when a category which was offered did not really work well, it was still accepted.
2. This is a mentioned aspect of contextualisation. The student involvement should be higher and allow much more qualitative thinking work when they want to reach some aim or when they compete. Something, like your suggested variant nr 4 may work with one HUGE "BUT". In your formulation you have already done all the "thinking part". You pretty openly dictate how you want animals to be split. The challenge in this case is rather low. This again can lead to not having enough space for thinking development.
Other aspects which I wanted to mention are:
the thinking part (and in some cases children were really good at coming with parameters), was not really accented. So I would say, we helped them being more flexible in the next such activity but not brought them any closer to internal model development, which in this case would need some little stress on the discoveries they came up to, like parameters, the number of those, etc.
Last one is that I think, in some moments I lacked some visual enhancement of those things which were done in the class. It may be explained, of course, by absence of whiteboard as such in the room.
To sum up, many things I really liked. You are doing a very good job (of course, I am not in the position to impose my evaluation on you). Some things to improve trying TA next time.
thank you.
# Diana Bolgare 2013-10-21 13:56
Dear Edgar, thank you for your comment. It is highly helpful for me. And your nice words regarding class management encourage me and inspire.
As to TA, I have already added to my description in Nr 4 the moment where I should stop and give a chance for my SS to start thinking.
As to visual enhancement, I would prefer to combine image with text (children do not read yet). To put more stress on the TA and underline their discoveries, I would make flashcards with the following parameters: size, number, colour, covering, eating habits, home. And, of course, I should reflect with my SS on the experience after the activity. I missed this step at the lesson, unfortunately.
# Ruta Virbule 2013-11-01 15:45
Hi, Diana!
I would also like to comment on your lesson. First - thank you for inviting me and Edgars to watch your lesson. As I was watching one of your lessons in spring I should say that there is a big progress in your work. You feel much more secure in giving tasks and kids seem to understand better what you want from them. I should agree with Edgars that the orgnisation of the lesson was perfect - students were busy all the time and even before the start of the lesson they had an English task while playing which ended with a sort of TA task - to prove which of the Lego buildings is a tower and why the mentioned buiding is a tower.
Well, regarding TA I suppose Edgars mentioned two facts more professionally as I could express but as a teacher who also works with small kids I admired your skill to continue speaking with them English all the time and only sometimes you whispered the translations.
Thank you! :-)
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