Date: September 5

Form: 10

Task: to describe a mystic character - vampire

The description of the lessons (2x40min)

To warm up I played a song and then I played with studentsa  guessing game with yes/no questions. It took quite a long time for them to guess what is white as snow, light as a feather and round like the sun. At last they came up with an answer that it is a table tennis ball but I had to agree with them that this ball can be orange, too.

Then I asked students what is a person with fangs, pale skin and dark cape. It took a second to find out that it is a vampire.

I divided students into 5 groups of 3 persons and they had to write a description of a vampire. The first sentences came fast but it was a problem for them to write more than 40 words. The descriptions were sticked to the wall and each student had a small coloured sticking paper (each group had another colour) and they could put their papers to the description they liked the most except to their own group's descrition. There were no distinct winners or losers because all the descriptions were more or less similar.

Coming to the end of the first 40 minutes lesson I told the students that there is a person arrived from Africa who has never ever heard of vampires but after reading their descriptions he became interested in this mystic character and would like to make a movie about it to tell his people. That means he needs more detailed description of a vampire, at least in 150 words. Students started to object that they can't write so much.

I asked them to write out the main features of their previously written descriptions and give them me. Then was the bell and the first lesson was over.

During the break I quickly put all the features in one word document and printed out 5 copies to give the groups after the break.

At the beginning of the second lesson I invited the students to sort all the given features into at least three groups and give each group a title.

After some time each group told their divisions and I put all the variants on the blackboard and we came up with many groups of parameters - appearance, clothing, habits, behaviour, living place, etc.

After a short discussion students agreed that with the help of these parameters it would be easier for them the write a new description. This time I asked each of them write a description of a future vampire, not old-fashioned Dracula or modern Twilight saga Edward but to think what would the future vampire look like.

So, this time not in groups, but individually each student was writing a description of a future vampire, using the parameters seen on the whiteboard.

At the very end of the lesson I gathered the descriptions and gave each student a small piece of paper to write a reflection of the lesson. They had to answer two questions - what did I learn in this lesson and what did help you to write the final description.

Some of the students wrote that they learned a lot abut vampires but there were some who admitted that they learned to find out parameters and group features. Some of the students also added that these parameters helped to write the descriptions on the future vampire. But all of them were surprised to see that they wrote much longer descriptions that at the beginning of the lesson while working in groups. The average length of the descriptions was more than 60 words.

After this lesson I felt very inspired and thought that now I have learned something myself and taught my students but... the next day I tried to repeat the same procedure with the second group of Form 10 and this lesson was being watched by Edgars. Well... This will be continued...


# Edgar Lasevich 2013-11-02 11:36
Good things:
The language of communiation was English. The procedures and the flow of the lesson, how it was planned were easy to understand. The procedures for the class work were chosen pretty well. Mostly students were working either in groups or individually. Procedures changed and groups were optimal – 3 people in each. Students have to participate and provide some results of their work to move to the next stage. The lesson this way was based on students responses.
Things to think about:

The biggest issue to pay attention to when the lesson is planned based on a tasks is that most tasks are still planned with old motivation. Students this manner do not get involved into resolving an issue which they see as motivating. We thus substitute former book-based teaching with book-based teaching which has elements of more analytical types of work with improved classroom organization. This way, we cannot really set the challenge, because the challenge may only be set high enough if it is accepted by students, who in this case become leading group in shaping the work.
Activities 1 and 2. The teacher wanted to reach only the function of „introducing a vampire” and maybe „mention the phenomenon of features”. (while puzzle provides the space to discuss: features, their difference and classifications, parameters, practice new „connecting phrases”, create new puzzles, etc). Neither its form, nor essence of „puzzle based on features” in this variant could be properly delivered. YES-NO game we use to discuss strategy of how to reduce the „research area”, to narrow the semantic field of possible answers/solutions. To reach this we use certain requirements (limitations) to the process: set up a small number (close to a necessary minimum) of possible questions which students may ask (we call it „a price of a problem’) and evaluate (through discussion) each question they ask. The aim is to share algorithm of reducing research area, not to just play or introduce the topic. Having only „to introduce” function in the head, the puzzle is done without any certain „thinking’ , just as another way to organizē Standard guessing activity.
The central aim of the lesson was motivated by the Initial problem which the teacher and students came up with (difficult to create qualitative description). This should mean that in the process of practices the aim of work – to create a model which would allow to make qualitative descriptions. Was it reached?Did you create any work around making this strategy? If this is not reached we need a better setting of the aim. So that the lesson changes from procedure-driven to aim-driven.
During setting of tasks, was italways clear what you expect students to do? We always emphasize, that students should know exactly what results and in what form (with what limitations) you want them to come up with.
When the teacher keeps the aim in mind throughout the lesson, he is flexible to change parts of it to reach the aim (better model for description in this case). So the flow of the lesson gets no rigid then. You plan not „from activity to activity’ but „from result in step 1 to the result in step... which in the end brings me to the AIM”. Thus, the teacher, then is free to make stops and discuss. Here at the lesson, students provided very fertile grounds for such „steps aside” and discussion. They gave immortal and dead as features of a vampire. Can it happen? Any other eamples. Or – are „features that use no in formulation” have the same validity as positive statement features? Etc. Also, discussion is necessary to make students understand what instrument (model) they have come to and its usability.
Also, the TA normally should evoke more language at the lesson, rather then less. Discussions, group work should make students speak more.
Further areas of professional growth:
Aim formulation for lesson and its analysis of if it is always there in the plan.
Clearer formulation of task goals and results expected.
Seeing thinking aims behind task forms which are offered. Here it helps to divide activities into elementary steps. Ezplain to a robot what your students should do. For example to make a good comparison: step 1 you make a list of features for object 1, step 2 do the same for object 2, step 3 m atch two list of features, step 4 name the matched groups, step 5 name unmatched features, step 6 add to the initial lists based on what parameters they lacked. This will help you to see two things – if there is logics in moving through precedure of the task (also you will clearly formulate results at each step), and to see the room for challenge at each step (like you make increase the number of expected features in lists 1 and 2).
The last aspect. I had a feeling that some your challenges were not accepted by students. They did because you asked them, not because they felt it was motivating. I think, what helps here – is to start planning „from them”. Make a discussion to see what interests them. There are certainly many spacts, which connect their culture to the topic of „vampire”. It is the TA teacher’s task to use their interests to build your lesson upon.
# Kirsi Urmson 2013-11-10 17:09
Hello Ruta,
Thank you for sharing your tasks! When I read your article, I could identify myself doing similar things!
Edgar's comments are good. We teachers still try to do too many things for the pupils. I can see myself still acting like that! It is challenging to take the risk and not know oneself how will the lesson actually go; which way will it turn. Am I going to hit the wall or be absolutely confused not knowing where to go.
We teachers should know so much about setting aims but how come it is still difficult. While trying to teach thinking skills it is vital to get the aims right.
Happy planning with future tasks!
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