friendship ecards and Dear Abbey lesson idea

Part I. Summary of Lesson Plan

Lesson Title: Friends

Profile of Students: 13-15 year old middle school, intermediate high

Target Language: vocabulary related to friendship; giving opinions and expressing gratitude

Materials: animated e-cards related to friendship, Anonymous letter from Lonely and Bamboozled in South Carolina to Dear Abbey column, a song titled “You’ve got a friend”, pictures of friends

Step 7. Warm up

– The teacher uses e-cards from to activate Ss’ schema.

Ss Look at the e-cards and get an idea what the lesson will be about.

– The teacher asks several questions to individual students, such as “What are the e-cards about?”, “What do you do with your friends?”, “Have you ever had any conflicts with your friends? When and why?”

– The teacher then has one student summarize what they have said about in the warm-up using a TSST technique.

Step 8. Presentation

– The T has the students brainstorm key words and content after looking at the last line of the reading text from Dear Abby column.

Individual students guess, and ask other students the same question.

– The T draws attention to the genre(newspaper) by asking Ss where they would find such writing.

– The T has Ss skim the text for main idea (I need a friend who is a girl.)

– The T checks understanding by asking a student to summarize and by then having them ask another student to do the same. The T cues when necessary and ends with a clear model.

– Next, the teacher draws attention to new vocabulary by having students guess meaning from context. The words include “return”, “annoying”, “nudge”, and “bamboozled”.(Ex: When I call some of my “friends”, they don ‘t return my call.”/ I have a little brother, but he is annoying!/ I feel lonely, but also like a “nudge”/ Lonely and bamboozled) Individual students are called upon and try to identify clues that help them find the meaning. Individual students are called upon to give synonyms and antonyms. Students are also asked to come up with example sentences through think-pair-share.

-The T ends the presentation by asking some higher level questions and trying to personalize. The teacher asks, “Why do you think her “friends” don’t return her calls?”, “What would you do if someone you don’t like calls you? Would you return his/her calls? Why or why not?” “Can you think of anyone who you don’t want to be friends with? If any, can you tell us why?”

Step 9. Activity

– The T has Ss interview with their partner to find out about their best friend.

– In order to find out about their partner’s best friend, Ss must ask their partner questions about their best friend. Before they start interviewing, Ss write interview questions such as “Who is your best friend?”, “How long have you been friends with him/her?”, “What do you do with him/her?”, “Why do you like him/her?”, “Have you ever had any conflicts with them? When and why?”, etc.

– The T tells Ss to ask all the question types starting with ‘who, when, where, what, how, why, how long, etc.’

– After writing the interview question, Ss interview with their partner about their best


– After the interview, the T now has students summarize(level 3) about their partner’s best friend in groups of 4.

Step 10. Independent Activity

– The T plays the song titled “You’ve got a friend.”

– The T tell Ss to write a heartfelt thank-you note to a friend who has been a best friend with them. The T tell Ss to include any specific moment to illustrate why they felt special friendship with their best friend.

– They will have 10 minutes to write their first draft, when time is finished, they will exchange their writing with their partner to receive and give feedback.

– Then, the T will collect students’ writing to give feedback and/or correct “only” any serious errors.

– After the T’s feedback, students’ writing will be revised later and sent to their best friend or posted on the class homepage, so their best friend or other classmates can read their writing.

Writing prompt I

Who is your best friend? What make you feel special friendship with him/her? Write a heartfelt letter to your best friend to express how you feel with him/her. Include any specific unforgettable moment that you came to feel special with him/her. Also, include any moment with conflicts if you have ever had with your best friend, and express how you feel grateful for your friend being there for you all the time.

Write in the space below or on a separate sheet of paper for 10 minutes. Your first draft will be collected for T’s feedback and then revised to be sent to your friend. If you do not want the T to read your letter, then it will be sent to your friend directly after being revised on your own.

Step 11. Feedback

Step 12. Closure

Part 2. Analysis of Lesson Plan

A lesson plan can be varied what kind of SLA theories the teacher has in mind designing it. SLA teachers can apply different theories to their lesson plan to make it more effective and more appealing to the students. Intrinsic Motivation theory is one way to encourage students to be intrinsically motivated. This lesson plan can by analyzed in terms of the Intrinsic Motivation theory by examining step 6, steps 7 and 8, and steps 9 and 10.

Also, some of the ideas in Krashen’s Input Hypothesis has been spotlighted in contemporary SLA theories even though not all of the Krashen’s ideas are considered as the most effective way to acquire a second language. This lesson plan is designed using the input hypothesis; teacher questions in step 7, reading in step 8, and teacher instructions in step 9 all show the influence of Krashen’s ideas.

While SLA researchers and teachers mostly agree with some of the Krashen’s idea in Input Hypothesis such as caregiver speech, that is, meaningful roughly-tuned input through only the target language, other ideas in his Affective Filter Hypothesis have been opposed by some SLA researchers and teachers. Krashen suggests that low anxiety is important for learners to successfully acquire a second language. However, such idea is very controversial. Unlike Krashen’s idea, the given lesson plan is designed to encourage learners to take more risks to result in a successful language learning; using T-S-S-T questions in step 7, cueing in step 8, and asking different types of questions all show the influence of risk-taking hypothesis.

Furthermore, Krashen’s idea that listening comprehension and reading are primarily important, and that speaking comes naturally after language competence has built through listening comprehension and reading, has been directly opposed by Swain’s Output Hypothesis. Swain agrees that SLA classes should involve more communicative use of language focusing on meaning in order to help learners build up competence. However, Swain asserts that learners build competence through noticing the gap and testing hypothesis in speaking and writing. Steps 9 and 10 in the given lesson plan are designed to help learners to try out and experiment with a new language, notice the gaps, get feedback, and then change their interlanguage system.

1. Input Hypothesis

First of all, the teacher’s questions in step 7 are focused on meaningful communication. Krashen believes that SLA classes should focus on meaningful communication but not on the form. All the questions the teacher asks in the warm-up are meaningful. They are asked for real communication. For example, such a question as “Have you ever had any conflicts with your friends?” provides opportunities for the teacher and the learners to communicate with each other. The teacher does not know if any student in class has had any conflicts with their friends or not. So, such a question is genuine and authentic. In real life, people ask only when they do not know. Furthermore, another question like “What are the e-cards about?” is also intended to communicate with the students in authentic situation. A language classroom itself can make a real-life communicative environment where the teacher and the learners can use the target language in an authentic context. In short, the teacher asks meaningful questions in step 7 to create opportunities for authentic communication.

In addition to the teacher questions in step 7, reading in step 8 also provides the class with authentic communication in terms of roughly-tuned and caregiver speech. Krashen claims that listening comprehension and reading are primarily of importance in language program. According to him, the learners should be given lots of comprehensible input through listening and reading to help improve language competence. Above all, authentic materials such as newspaper article and radio news or songs supply a wide range of input as Krashen refers to roughly-tuned input. Such materials contain different levels of grammatical items. For example, a newspaper article contains easy forms like he or she, medium level of forms such as plural —s as in ‘I love cats.’, and difficult forms like possessive —s and singular-s as in ‘He walks to his grandpa’s every Sunday morning.” The easy forms like ‘he’ or ‘she’ in the article provides an opportunity for recycling and review while they also can be a new language for the novice low level of learners. Furthermore, learners can be exposed to the hardest form such as possessive —s or third person singular —s while reading a newspaper article. While reading an anonymous letter from Lonely and Bamboolzed in South Carolina to Dear Abbey column provides learners with roughly-tuned input.

Another example of Krashen’s Input Hypothesis in step 8 is that the teacher gives a clear model to summarize. Giving a clear model also can be a good way of make input comprehensible. Krashen’s Input Hypothesis states that the teacher should make sure that students understand what is being said or what they are reading. A clear model of giving summary provided by the teacher help learners better understand what they hear and/or read. In Krashen’s idea, teacher talk in SLA class should be like caregiver speech. Characteristics of caregiver speech includes modifying language, slowing down, repeating, restating, changing wh-questions to yes/no questions.

Next, teacher instructions in step 9 can also supply meaningful input to a limited degree. The teacher instructions here are furnished students for an interview activity. The learners will listen to the teacher instructions and will get an idea how to complete their task. So, the teacher instructions in step 9 are also roughly-tuned input for real communication.

2. Risk-taking

One of the example the teacher uses to encourage students to take risks is TSST questions in step 7. To illustrate this, the teacher asks one student summarize using TSST questions. A TSST technique involves much higher risks than a mind-map for two reasons. The first reason is a TSST involves calling on students individually. While a mind-map does not necessarily require calling on students individually, using a TSST technique, the teacher calls on an individual student to answer the teacher’s question and then the student who has answered asks the same question to another individual student. When the teacher uses a TSST technique, students have to pay attention because they never know when T will call on them individually. When an individual student has to speak to the teacher or the class, the chances for the learner to take risks are obvious. Besides, a TSST technique create far more risks than a mind-map because students have to think about grammar when they ask or answer a question while a mind-map does not involve much grammar rather than vocabulary.

Another example that the teacher uses risk-taking theory in the lesson plan is cueing in step 8. Compared to ‘chunking’, cueing creates much more risks. To elaborate this, students have to think about content as well as form when the teacher ‘cues’ rather than gives ‘chunks of words’. In the given lesson plan, having students individually summarize the reading text, the teacher cues when necessary instead of chunking. Cueing involves much more risks than chunking because there are more chances for students to make errors in grammar while they are thinking about content to summarize or answer a question. If the teacher gives chunks to the students, it is less likely that students make grammatical errors or give a wrong idea about the content. They might have some difficulty pronouncing the sentence. Otherwise, no higher risks would get involved when students repeat the chunked words. However, there are more chances for students to have problems pronouncing the sentence when the teacher cues.

In addition to calling on students individually, the teacher also pushes the students to take more risks by asking different types of questions. The teacher starts with a lowest level questions in step 7 such as “what are the e-cards about?”, which does not create high risks because they do not involve much thinking but memorizing. Then, the questions, “What do you do with your friends?” and “Have you ever had any conflicts with your friends?” require students to think about themselves. At the end of step 7, however, the teacher levels up the question types from knowledge and comprehension check questions to synthesis questions by having one student summarize. To answer synthesis questions, students have to combine two or more ideas so as to form a whole, that is a summary. Summary should include the essential points or ideas in a brief, concise restatement. If students do not clearly understand the main idea, they can not give a good summary. Another example of synthesis questions in the lesson plan is found in step 8. The teacher again asks a student to summarize to check understanding after having students skim the text for main idea. Then, the teacher asks questions requiring the highest level of critical thinking including such questions in step 9 as “Who is your best friend? Why do you like him/her?”

3. Intrinsic Motivation

First of all, looking at step 6, materials used in the given lesson plan creates intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is related to the learners’ own decision or interest. It comes from the inside of the learner rather than outside. According to the student profile in the given lesson plan, students are age 13 to 15 in middle school. Learners in such age group seem to be interested in friends and friendships. Also, an anonymous letter to Dear Abbey column is likely to get students to be involved to experience strong conflicts or advice because it is easy for middle school students to relate the topic to their own life. In short, materials used in the given lesson may draw genuine interests for the students’ age with plenty of advice, opinions and conflicts.

Along with intrinsic motivation of materials in step 6, the teacher also tries to apply the Intrinsic Motivation theory throughout the next steps. The teacher personalizes the topic by asking different types of questions in steps 7 and 8. First of all, he/she asks several open questions in steps 8 to help students relate the topic to their own idea and life experience. For example, to answer the first two questions “Who is your best friend? How long have you been friends with them?”, students relate themselves to the topic. Then, another question like “What do you do with your friends?” requires students to think about their own life. Also, with the question “Have you ever had any conflicts with your friends?”, students need to refer to their own previous life experience. Furthermore, students are encouraged to give their opinions when being asked “Why do you like your friends? Or why do you not like some classmates?”

Furthermore, the teacher tries to draw students’ interest by using communicative activities with gaps in steps 9 and 10. If students know that they have gaps in order to complete the task, they have reasons to communicate with others. In step 9, the teacher encourages students to talk with others by having interview activity. In addition to the interview activity in step 9, the teacher uses an opinion gap in step 10. The students are asked to give their opinions in a journal response. The teacher tries to get students intrinsically motivated to complete their task by telling them that their journal writing will be posted on the class homepage. The question of how Christopher Reeve has inspired the students seems to encourage them to give their own opinion; however, it does not seem that the given question like “Do you believe that Christopher Reeve was a real-life superhero? Why or why not?” would involve strong conflicts for students to give opinions. Who does not think that Christopher Reeve who has overcome such big disabilities is a real-life superhero? In brief, the steps 9 and 10 shows that the given lesson plan was designed to increase students’ intrinsic motivation.

4. Output Hypothesis

One of the example that the given lesson plan is designed using Swain’s Output Hypothesis is the interview activity in step 9. According to Swain, students notice the gap when they speak or write to reach the communicative goal. Even though the interview questions in step 9 are not so difficult for intermediate-high level students to answer with a correct form, students might make errors if their utterances are long and complicated. Some students might make errors not being able to use correct prepositions and/or appropriate conjunctions. For example, to answer the question, “Why do you like your best friend?”, students might have troubles and hesitates, saying “I like my best friend because he cares….”. Otherwise, they might make errors, saying “I like my best friend because he cares of me when I am troubled.”, for they do not know how to use the word ‘care’ correctly. When this happens, learners notice the gap between their own interlanguage system and the correct form in the target language system.

Step 10 in the given lesson plan is essentially to give students plenty of freedom to produce the target language. The teacher is not in control any longer. It is time for students to test their leading edge which is a newly learned form in interlanguage system. Everyone has different leading edge, so we can not imagine one’s leading edge. When students speak or write, they decide what to practice or what to test. When the learners get a new language, they do not know how to use it. So, they need to try out and experiment with it. They practice it to improve competence. Practicing involves reprocessing. To reprocess, learners try it out, get feedback, think again about the language and change their interlanguage system. For example, step 10 in the lesson plan requires students to write a heartfelt thank-you note to a friend who has been a best friend with them. While students write a heartfelt letter to a friend, they will try out a new form they have learned. Then they will get feedback from their peers in 10 minutes. Finally, teacher feedback will be provided for the students to think about what they wrote and change what is wrong in their interlanguage system.

Part 3. Conclusion

To summarize, the given lesson plan is designed using Input Hypothesis, Risk-Taking Theory, Intrinsic Motivation Theory, and Output Hypothesis. First of all, teacher questions in step 7, reading in step 8, and teacher instructions in step 9 all show the influence of Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. Unlike Krashen’s Affective Filter Hypothesis, however, the given lesson plan is designed to encourage learners to take more risks to result in a successful language learning; using T-S-S-T questions in step 7, cueing in step 8, and asking different types of questions all show the influence of risk-taking hypothesis. In addition, the intrinsic motivation theory is used to help students get genuinely motivated by providing different types of personalizing questions in steps 7 and 8, and by providing communicative activities with gaps in steps 9 and 10. With the conflicts in friendship from Dear Abbey column in the newspaper, students in age 13 to 15 can go through deep feeling because they really can relate the topic to their real-life situation. Furthermore, Swain’s Output Hypothesis is used to furnish students with the opportunities to practice a language through the lesson, highlighting step 10.

In general, the teacher applies varied SLA theories in effective ways. The teacher tries to provide students with authentic use of the target language to make input comprehensible. Also, the teacher uses authentic reading (in step 8) and listening materials (in step 10) to help students get roughly-tuned input. Choosing a topic, the teacher considered students’ age to attract their genuine interest in the topic. Students in middle school have lots of things to say about friends and friendship. Moreover, the teacher tries to encourage students to take more risks. For example, the teacher have students use the target language in a sentence level by asking TSST questions and by asking them to summarize. Additionally, the teacher asks higher level questions that require students think critically. Finally, the teacher also realizes that using a language in speaking and writing is very important to build competence. Therefore, the teacher include speaking activity in step 9 and writing activity in step 10. Importantly, the teacher does not forget to give feedback after the independent activity (step 10) so that the students will have chances to fix their problem and change their interlanguage system. Applying different types of SLA theories helps teachers to design their lesson plan effectively.

One suggestion to improve the given lesson plan is that the independent activity in step 10 needs to include more conflicts, advice or opinions. Writing a heartfelt thank-you letter to their best friend might be an interesting topic for middle school students; however, it does not seem to create much conflicts. Writing one or two pieces of advice to any of their friends who has problem keeping friends would help students to get involved with more advice and opinions.

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