I have three Class 3 groups, each with 12 – 13 pupils, all aged 9 - 10, and I see them twice a week for 45 minutes. They all started English last August and up till now we’ve getting familiar with the language and each other, getting into classroom and learning routines and learning the basics through the course book, Yippee!3

I’m beginning to have some ideas now as to how I could have started TA with them from the very beginning, but I started just before Christmas as I had then begun to realize how I could change the TA lessons I’d been doing up till now to make my use of TA more consistent. I’d really like to help my learners to improve their thinking skills, and not to just be doing something ‘different’ with TA every now and then.

I also had an idea as to how I could relate TA to the course book, as using TA separately from the course book is too time-consuming. This probably all sounds very simple, but I feel as if I’m only just beginning to get the idea.

AIMS – How I came up with my overall content and thinking aims
What do I want my pupils to be able to do?
It was a huge help to me to realize that I could think of my aims in terms of what I want my pupils to be able to do. Being able to describe things in English, and put things in their own words, in order to manage in many different situations with the little English they have, is one thing I want them to be able to do. This skill will be always be useful when using a foreign language.
Why do this through TA?
Next I thought, how can TA add to this, help me to do it better?ll have to check that they have the basic skills needed to understand ENV (categorizing and comparing, for example) and that they have the language needed to talk about it in English.

When the aim for my pupils is  ‘How can we learn to describe things well in English?’, the ‘HOW’ question inevitably leads us to building strategies, reflecting on them and improving them as we move forward, it helps us to go round the Thinking Task Framework. In this way I hope I might be able to give my pupils tools for thinking and learning.

CONTEXT - relating the aims to the book

Whiz, the character in the 3rd class English book, comes from Sea Land, which is under the sea. He’s a toy, but it turns out that he can speak and move and so on, and he ends up being a boy ( a Pinocchio-type story). Whiz is bought by two children who get to know him and have to introduce their world to him – it turns out he doesn’t know what food is, and so on. This is ideal for introducing thinking. How can we describe things to people who just don’t know what they are?  Our world is seen through new eyes. This is relevant in real life too, when describing things to people from other cultures, or when speaking abroad, learning to paraphrase and manage with the language you have.

There is another character, Gadget, a kind of mad professor, who likes all kinds of gadgets and is following Whiz on his adventures. In the workbook ‘Gadget’ gives the grammar rules, so he offers a kind of toolbox. In the context of thinking, we can build up our own toolboxes, or gadgets too.

AIMS FOR THE FIRST FEW THINKING LESSONS: getting learners used to the idea of categorising, of thinking up their own vocabulary, of learning and recording vocabulary outside the book, of reflecting on their learning, what was done in class, on tools.

I aim to start very gradually, going by how the pupils are taking it. If something’s going well, I’ll give it a bit of extra time, if not we can come back to it later. Some of the time we can do the ‘traditional’ work in the book to cover the vocabulary areas we need to in the curriculum. Whenever it’s relevant, we’ll ‘add’ thinking. See our first TA lesson here.

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