Lesson Plan For Learner Independence

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the Learned find themselves equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. 
   
 
     
   The “Pigeonhole” Strategy  Using classification processes  
     
  Classifying strategies are constantly involved in language learning, both in comprehension and in production activities.Making sense of language input often implies assigning items of information to categories which already exist in our mind, or creating new categories by closely examining individual items. The most obvious example of this mental activity is when we try to store vocabulary in our memory by arranging words into groups, according to their form or their meaning.

However, classifying information is not limited to individual words and phrases. When we want to understand and remember the content of a text, whether its main ideas or a number of facts or figures, we need to find some ordering system, i.e. a set of general categories which can help us to group together more specific items.

The same strategies come into play whenever we want to produce a text, particularly in writing. Selecting and ordering what we want to express implies assigning a range of isolated pieces of information to larger units of meaning. For example, we may need to mention many individual items (e.g. the ozone layer hole, air pollution, waste disposal) but make it clear that they belong to the same category (ecological problems). Or we may need to highlight a general statement and then provide a set of more specific examples.

These lesson plans train students to use classifying strategies at a variety of levels. At the most basic level, we ask them to closely examine individual words in order to spot similarities and differences and thus start grouping items: students are given both the categories and the elements (Lesson Plan 1). We then ask students to recognise the “odd word out” in word groups (Lesson Plan 2) and to rearrange words into groups (Lesson Plan 3): in both activities the number of groups, and the number of items in each group, are given.

In Lesson Plan 4 students have to distinguish categories from elements through identifying “general words” (like cold snacks). The next activities ask students to carry out complete classifications, from identifying the most suitable categories to deciding the items to include in each category. This is first done with items from a map (Lesson Plan 5), and then with book covers which suggest appropriate genres (Lesson Plan 6).

Classifications gradually become more complex as students are asked to consider short texts like advertisements (Lesson Plan 7) and magazine features (Lesson Plan 8): in both activities students are asked to focus their attention on the clues which help them to assign a text to its type. Finally, Lesson Plan 9 shows students how classifying strategies can assist them to process the content of texts by identifying suitable categories into which the information can be rearranged

Eric Hoffer

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