Lesson: Feb 08


(student) improve their texts (biographies).

(teacher) able to provide help with finding features that would make students’ biographies more interesting.

Task (hometask):

Finish rewriting the biographies


Previously the students were asked to write biographies of their grandmothers/grandfathers. They were told that the best biography will be chosen for the school newspaper. At the lesson on February 8 students got their first biography drafts corrected by me. At the beginning of the lesson I told them that I had encountered a problem: I couldn’t choose the best one. I asked the students why I had had such a problem.

The S’s answers to the question:

-biographies are long;

-you didn’t understand them;

-biographies are similar.

My response: That’s right. The biographies are too similar. What shall we do?

Students: We need to make them interesting.

Teacher: How to make a biography interesting? I give you five minutes to think about features of an interesting biography and of an uninteresting biography.

I reminded the students that their aim was to write a biography so that I choose it for the newspaper. I assured them that I won’t take into account their accuracy so that not to discourage the weaker students. Students were asked to draw two columns in their “Tips on writing” notes and to write down features of an interesting biography and features of an uninteresting biography, respectively.

The student’s ideas were the following:

Features of an Interesting Biography:

-       not too long or too short;

-       interesting facts;

-       funny moments;

-       written in verse;

-       beautiful font type;

-       different colour;

-       photo;

-       many adjectives.

Features of an Uninteresting Biography:

-       too long;

-       not clear;

-       too simple;

-       too many dates;

-       too impersonal.

My reaction: I wanted them to add some more features of an interesting biography so I asked students to match the features of the interesting and uninteresting biographies

As it was planned, there appeared several gaps. Due to this model the following points were added to the features of an interesting biography:

-       clear;

-       not too many dates;

-       interesting structure/ style;

-       some personal facts.

My reply: Ok. Now look at your biographies and think what of the above mentioned features you can apply to your biography.

The students started rewriting the biographies. For the rest of the lesson I monitored and helped.

Some more reflections:

It was difficult for me to decide whether the number of the parameters the students suggested is enough. I am also not sure whether we “named” the parameters correctly or whether we matched them appropriately.

The outcome: since I have four groups of 5 formers I chose four biographies.

One biography was chosen for the use of zeugma (in zeugma, the single word does not fit grammatically or idiomatically with one member of the pair): “She is responsible because she takes care of rabbits, cows and Grandpa”.

In another biography a lullaby was used: “When I was small, she sang a song when I went to bed:

Sleep, baby, sleep,
Our cottage vale is deep;
A little lamb is on the green,
With woolly fleece so soft and clean — Sleep, baby, sleep”.

In biography 3 the explanation of the grandmother’s name was given.

In biography 4 a story was described: “ In 1970 she went to a very beautiful town-Palanga. She swam in the sea when she heard somebody shouting. It was a man. My grandmother saved him and they fell in love (it was my grandfather). Some time ago they got married.”

These “gems” were added to the column “Features of an Interesting Biography”.


# Alexander Sokol 2013-04-02 16:49
Olga, thanks a lot for sharing. Sounds like an interesting lesson. A few comments below.

1. If you look at the aims, you will see that there's the aim for the subject only, the thinking aim is missing. It's quite a usual things for a novice TA teacher. The thinking aim is also necessary to be able to evaluate your lesson from the TA point of view, otherwise it's difficult to say if something is successful or not. How would you define your thinking aim for this lesson?

2. I like that you got the learners to work out features of a good biography. What I found a little strange, though, that these features were not used by the teacher later on when choosing the best biography. If the teacher chose the best on the basis of completely new features, a possible question / concern on the learners' part could be about the point of listing the features. Could you comment on this one please?

3. The idea of matching two lists of features with the purpose of finding additional ones is also very good. This approach is normally used for bringing learners to the Name of Feature / Parameter in addition to the list of Values of Features. Did you try to explicitly introduce the ENV model to your learners in that lesson? It seems like there was a good context for that.

4. I could comment on parameters and values if you would like me to but please share what you've come up with.
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