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Discourse in Writing
by Emma Worrall
- lesson plan - preliminary information 2

Anticipated Problems and Possible Solutions

Problem: Classroom management problems. The students will be working at small, individual tables and with small pieces of card. The regrouping process may cause confusion as may the removal of some cards from the essays (see stages 2 ) and later the dovetailing activity (see stage 6) where students will reform their essays. As the teacher working with 4 small groups will be time-consuming .

Solution: Provide large pieces of card and blutak for the students to stick the pieces of card to. Provide a model of the essays on the board and demonstrate how the students must reform their completed sentences to allow for more student autonomy and to give them a further opportunity to collaborate in groups in order to follow instructions given by the teacher. Students in each group will be asked to reproduce their part of the essay twice on two different red boards so that when students regroup for the dovetailing process (see stage 6) they will have two complete essays to look at instead of 5 or 6 students trying to look at one finished essay.

Problem: Students will have problems identifying the first sentence card of the essay and it will take them too long to complete (see stage 2).

Solution: Tell students the first sentence card and then ask them to identify the last sentence card before they go on to complete the rest of the essay.

Problem: Although there are 11 students in my FCE group they may not all attend the class.

Solution: Split the class into slightly bigger groups and ask all the students in each group to write one/two missing sentences each.

Problem: Students may be familiar with discourse markers but may not know how to use them effectively. Questions may arise over the positions of discourse markers and students may want to discuss others which have not been included in the list (see main aims)

Solution: Briefly discuss the various positions of the chosen discourse markers, making a note on the board next to each discourse marker, but steer students away from introducing others explaining that we can look at any others in another lesson.

Problem: Some of the discourse markers may cause problems for the students for example "despite" which is less complicated to use in Spanish than in English. I also predict that "a further disadvantage" may cause problems i.e. that students may think it is a contrast and "of course". which students may think is a contrast when it is used more in generalisations. Students may not understand why the various discourse markers are in the alloted categories.

Solution: Use "a further advantage as an example of a discourse marker and elicit the unnecessary word (i.e. "further") and elicit the purpose of "further" (addition). Prepare to explain the problem discourse markers and if necessary give further explanation via example sentences.

Problem: Some groups may finish the sentence reproduction (see stage 5) before other groups.

Solution: The fast finishers should provide help to the other group completing the same missing sentences. Or if their are only 2 groups ask students to choose two or three discourse markers which are either new to them or they do not use and note them in their notebooks with an example sentence.

Problem: Students may not have had enough time to absorb the content of the essay and will have extra difficulties reproducing their missing sentences.

Solution: "Help Cards" (see appendix) will be provided (two per missing sentences). The first help card will contain several content words from the original sentence card to help jog the students' memories. If the students still have problems recalling the nature of the missing sentences the second help card will provide the content words again with the category of discourse marker which was used in the original. Students will also be informed of the need to keep the meaning of the original but that they are not expected to reproduce the text word for word.

Problem: Students may not finish stages 6 and 7 before the end of the class.

Solution: The aim of the class is not to rush the students through the writing stages but to let them work at their own pace. Obviously, if students are really struggling they will need extra help from the teacher. If students do not get to the comparing stage I will write up their work and we can look at their work as the first part of the follow-up lesson as a whole class, checking for problems and errors.

Class Profile

The group has only been together for 3 weeks but already most of the regular students have built up a good rapport with each other. At the beginning of the course many students expressed a need for writing and listening practise in particular. They respond well to visual based activities and we have discussed the need for well-organised notes.

María: Has come through two or three of the academies' levels. She is a confident speaker but is quite weak. Her writing is stronger but she needs to check her work for Spanish translations for certain structures.

Ricardo: Has also studied at Hyland before so is used to the learner training that we employ here. He is very quiet in class but speaks carefully and accurately and feels more comfortable working in small groups. His writing is also strong and he has applied, to recent homework, some structures and discourse markers that we have already looked at.

Enrique: Is also quiet in class and will not readily volunteer opinions. He also seems to work well in small groups. His written work is fairly good and his listening skills too.

Marta: She is fairly confident in class and speaks with a good deal of accuracy. Her writing is well-structured. However, she has missed some classes (she works for a law firm and has said that she is fairly busy with her work).

Beatriz: Started the beginning of the year in a level below FCE but has been allowed to go to the FCE level because she is doing extra conversation classes. She has missed lots of classes and has only produced one piece of writing where she relied heavily on Spanish translation of phrases and she did not use many discourse markers.

María José: Like Beatriz, she was in the level below FCE and is following a conversation course, however, she is quiet in class and I suspect it is because she has been told that the FCE class is a trial to see how she gets on along with her conversation classes and she is worried that her level is noticeably lower than the others in the class. Her written work also relied heavily on Spanish translation and showed that she needs lots of learner training in the written part of the course.

Miguel Angel: Is a very confident student who has a tendency to dominate open class and small group discussions. He works well with María because she is confident too and she does not allow him to dominate the conversation. His written work is good. He has to write in English for his job (he is training to be an air traffic controller) so he is used to formal writing.

Olga: She has missed much of the course so far and she has given me one piece of writing which needed work, especially on the structure and linking phrases. Given her attendance so far, she will need to do a lot of catching up.

Elena: She has only recently joined the course (two classes) and she has not produced any written work yet. She is also fairly quiet in class but speaks fairly accurately.

Verónica: Has also recently joined the class. Her written work is okay and she speaks fairly accurately.

Virgínia: She is the youngest of the class. She is a very confident speaker and her writing, though lacking the maturity of the others' writing is well-thought out and very accurate.

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