Age -13years old

Language aim: Speaking about objects - to develop a more systemic vision of the ways of naming and speaking about object in the English language

Thinking theme: ENV, classification, noticing features of an element.

Background. I have just started to work with the students, they didn’t study with Thinking Approach during the previous. years.

Previous knowledge (students’ background knowledge): they have an idea of countable/uncountable nouns; plural/singular, articles, pronouns, adjectives.

Previous activities: at the first lesson we got acquainted with each other and the students told me about their classmates, they described their classmates, the text The Hobbit ( was given to the students as a home task to read and to translate the words they don’t know.


Re-read the text „The Hobbit” and

                   - Find and underline nouns

                 -   Underline words which are used to describe the objects/ to speak about the objects

Teacher’s after lesson reflection: Now I think that I should have given the task to underline words that name objects, not ‘underline nouns’. When preparing the task I had a big problem how to distinguish between ‘noun’ and ‘object’. I always tend to get into grammar aspect more than refer and describe ‘real objects’. I think that many teachers who try to work with thinking approach face this problem.

The following is an example of what I had expected from my students to do.

The Hobbit

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins.
What is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) little people, about half of our height, and smaller than then the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quickly and quietly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like large stupid folk which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colors (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow naturally leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know enough to go on with.  

(J R R Tolkien, The Hobbit)


We work in the classroom where every students has a PC, so the students did the task electronically. They started working with just underlining nouns, then I offered them to highlight similar cases, which some of them did. Working with the topic ‘speaking about objects’ turned out to be pretty difficult as there a large amount of material to deal with, at least at the moment it seems like that. And my questions here is: Is it better to work with a large amount of information or to focus first on some limited amount of information, e.g. articles ( sorry for again speaking about grammar)I personally prefer to work with a large amount of information, but in this case there is a great probability to get into a mess. How to avoid this?


Task 2. Divide all the words you have found into groups. Give names to the groups.

This is a variant of a table with different ways of speaking about objects which we got after discussing what students did individually.


Article ‘a’ Article ‘the’ No article pronoun ?
a hole the ground Baggins This hobbit some description
a hobbit the Big People hobbits his name no beards.
a hobbit the bearded   Dwarves little people our height no magic
a noise the ordinary   everyday sort Hobbits their feet no shoes
a mile the stomach large stupid folk their heads
a very   well-to-do hobbit large stupid folk
bright colors
leathery soles
thick warm brown   hair
long clever brown   fingers
good-natured   faces
deep fruity   laughs

I am afraid that I somehow helped students to come to this table, but I think that at the very beginning of working with in this case 7 Formers (12-13 y.o.) we can give them some hints. But my major question is:

Does this result is the one we should go to or not? If not what should be changed?

In fact, now I am thinking about the parameters any object might have and it’s pretty difficult but interesting. Can I have some advice on this?

Task 3. What conclusions can you make about the ways we speak about objects in English.using this table? What questions do you have?

A summary of the students’ conclusions

1. We use articles   a; the; without articles

a – with singular nouns; the – with singular and plural nouns; without articles – plural nouns; uncountable nouns, proper nouns.

2. pronouns – ‘this ‘with singular; their - with plural; his – with singular, our –with singular; some with singular, no – with plural and with uncountable;

Task 2. Read the text   “Does Money Really Make You Happy?” from your course book ( Opportunities Pre-intermediate) and add examples of phrases with nouns to your table.

They added pronouns – few, those, any, many; a lot of;

And here are additional conclusions they made:

-       ''Not any' and 'no' are used when we speak about negative.

-       Any  - about people

-       no -  about things.

-       Many, some, a lot of , a few - about more than 1 object, When we don’t know how many

-       Many -  with people

-       A lot of  - with both people and objects

And their question was : When do we use ‘some’ and when ‘a few’?

Teacher’s after lesson reflection. The students came with ideas about speaking about nouns not about objects, which I think is wrong. And now I am thinking how to come back to the objects. At the same time they tried to group things, and many of them did it choosing one parameter, though not all. They tried to make observations and conclusions, they put down questions which I took as direction for our further work.

Home task Read the following sentences find and highlight the pronouns and add the sentences to the groups you made at the lesson.

1. There aren't any car parks in the centre of Oxford.

2. Eating out is expensive here. There aren't many cheap restaurants.

3. Liverpool has a lot of great nightclubs.

4. Hurry up! We only have a little time before the coach leaves.

5. We saw some beautiful scenery when we went to Austria.

6. There are a few shops near the university.

7. It's very quiet. There aren't many people here today.

8. There is little money in the wallet.

9.   I’ve got a few books.

10.I can’t wait for you. I’ve got little time.


# Alexander Sokol 2015-10-28 12:11
Irina, thanks for sharing. Your experience is really valuable.
I will take your questions in turn and post my comments as separate messages,

The first one is about the choice between large and small amount of information. If I understand the contradictions correctly, it sounds as follows:

We have to work with large amount of info to be able to contextualise the problem well and we have to work with a small amount of info to ensure that students are able to achieve a result given the constraints of their competencies and time.

Is it the problem you are referring to?

If so, I think several standard solutions could apply. For example, we can resolve it in time and start by defining the general problem we face when referring to objects in English. Then, as a result of certain tasks, students can be friendly pushed towards more specific problems, where they start dealing with much more limited amount of info.

Do you think it would work in your case?
# Alexander Sokol 2015-10-28 12:24
Re the table you've come up to.

I don't know, perhaps a lot depends on what you do further on. The current division is basically based on the word preceding the noun. OK, these words are different and I assume students can notice this. But what's next? Generally we want them to come to parameters according to which we can make a choice of how we are going to refer to this or that object, right? How does this table help us?

What I am trying to say is that so far I don't see how students will start analysing different meanings. As it's the differences in meaning they need to be able to come up to parameters.
# Alexander Sokol 2015-10-28 12:28
Re 'parameters any object might have'. If I got you right, you are asking about possible parameters according to which we (speakers) can conceptualise objects, right?

If so, I'd suggest the following ones:
Vision (whole, unit, collection of unit)
Definiteness (definite, indefinite)
Number / amount (one, more than one)
Name (yes, no)

The above is for EN. In other languages, additional parameters may be important.
# Renata Jonina 2017-02-05 21:29
Hello Irina!
Thank you for this clear description and your post-lesson reflections. I am afraid I have no answers just an additional question:) Which problem are students solving? What was the aim of this series of lessons for them? Did you give them any pre-test to make them aware of their problem?
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