PART 3: BUILDING THE ENV, MATCHING PARAMETERS AND VALUES

This is a continuation of the posts Password Part 1 Playing and Password Part 2 Finding parameters.

This lesson still dealt with STEP 2 as we were working on the ENV model, learning to understand what it is so that it can be used later to make the Password game more effective.

The first 2 columns of the ENV, the Element (in this case, Describing an Animal) and the Names of the Features (ie the parameters) were set out on the classroom wall.
The third column, the Values, ie sentences describing different features of animals, were not on the wall. I had cut them up and laminated them and they were divided among the pupils, who had been split into groups of two’s and three’s. The pupils were asked to sort the sentences they had been given according to suitable parameters.
The pupils did this enthusiastically, although they didn’t find it easy. As well as being a thinking exercise, it involved a lot of reading and quite a lot of new vocabulary, which they were mostly able to help each other with, or which they looked up in the dictionary, or asked me about.
The groups then stuck their sorted sentences with blue tac on the wall next to the parameter they felt it belonged to. There were actually too many sentences, and it was messy to get them all to fit on the wall. However, they did seem to get the idea.

STEP 3: REFLECTION. Once the sentences were on the wall we all gathered in front of the ENV to read the sentences and reflect on what they’d done and how well they had done it. They had to comment if they felt a sentence was in the wrong place.
This led to more reading and clearing up of vocabulary problems, as well as to refining the ENV model, and allowing them to see if they understand correctly what features are.

TEACHER REFLECTIONS: It was interesting for the pupils to sort the sentences, but, as already said, there were too many and fewer would probably have made the point more clearly. I was too desperate to give them lots of examples of sentences and new vocabulary. It seemed that most of the pupils were getting the idea of parameters, but as yet they didn’t see how they were going to use them. This will come at the next stage when we look back at the ENV to help us to play the game better, both from a linguistic and thinking point of view.

It’s going to take a lot of practice still, and I have to think up motivating tasks where they can play with the features and values, and have to understand the importance of particular features for a particular purpose. Maybe in this case we should just have made a very simple ENV for describing an owl so that it could recognised, and then they could have tried the same with other animals and tested if it helped them to think up more relevant sentences in the game. This would have made it clearer to them why we were making the ENV model now. I’m wondering what other, better ways there might be of introducing ENV in this context.

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