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Lesson Plan - An experiment with the Cuisenaire Rods
by Simon Ferdinand

Preliminary Information

Level: Intermediate (BEC-2 preparation)

Time: 60 minutes

Timetable fit: The lessons for this group take place on Saturday mornings in two lesson periods, 10.00 - 11 .15 and 11.35 -12.50. This is within a nine-month course. The previous lesson was on the same morning, from 10.00 to 11.15, and consisted of activities from the course textbook, "New Insights Into Business" (Longman).

Main aims:
To experiment with the use of Cuisenaire Rods, and learn about their effectiveness in different classroom activities.

Subsidiary aims:
To carry out a mingle speaking activity based on negotiations; to recycle the language of company organisation and structure (presented in the first lessons of the course, October 2000); to teach and practise the language of economic trends (rise, grow, fall, drop, sharply, gradually, go up / down, etc.)

Lesson Rationale:
The lesson will begin with a brief explanation to the history of the Cuisenaire Rods and their use in EEL teaching, while actually bringing the rods out of their box. I believe this is essential to validate their sudden appearance in this lesson, as I am concerned that they may remind some of the students of primary arithmetic lessons.
The next stage is a mingle activity. I want the first activity to familiarise the students with the rods in a simple way which does not require the rods to be interpreted. The intention here is similar to that of a top-down approach to language presentation. This is a mingle activity in which each student will be given three rods of different colours, and each one will decide to try to collect a particular colour. The students will be told to exchange rods for other rods by negotiating with other students. In the event that a proper two-way exchange is not possible, the pairs must find a third student who can create a triangular exchange. In order to give this activity a communicative twist, the students will be told to negotiate using polite expressions which would be suitable for a business context, and persuasion will have to be used.
The third stage of the lesson is the mapping activity. According to the number of students present in this lesson (out of a maximum of twelve), I shall split them up into pairs or threes. The students must make an organisation chart of their company. Initially, I shall tell them to map out the management structure in order to give them a clear task as an example, but they will be free to go about this task differently if they wish - a student who works in a very small company may not have much to map out if limited to management. The students must explain their own position in the scheme, and their partner(s) must ask questions about roles and relationships in the chart; the students later exchange roles. This should personalise the use of the rods and result in a visually-stimulated communicative activity.
The third activity (Stage 4) intends to revise the language of trends, which was presented at the beginning of the course, but which still causes some difficulties, since the students seem generally to use the verb "to be" with "up" or "down" as an alternative to the verbs "to rise", "to fall", "to raise", "to drop", etc. I shall read a selection of short texts from "The Economist" magazine's "Business This Week" section. The students will make a bar graph of line graph of the situation. For this, they will also work in pairs. In order to make a bar graph, the rods can be laid down side-by-side in such a way that they are set level at the end nearest the students (the "base" of the rods), but that the rise or fall can be seen at the "top". In order to make a line graph, vertical and horizontal axes can be formed by two pairs of the longest rods, with the trend movements represented by shorter rods. Since the rods will be laid out on the table top, I will be able to see immediately how well I have been understood. Since each of the texts used is about fifty to sixty words long, and describes neatly a real-life and up-to-date trend, the creation of a bar graph or line graph using the rods should be an effective way to combine rods with a visual notion which reflects the meaning of the language of economic trends, and should be as relevant to the students as possible. This activity also integrates listening skills.
At the end of the lesson, I shall ask the students informally if they have enjoyed using the rods and if they have found them useful. This will enable me to decide whether to make further use of the Rods or not.

Assumed knowledge:
I assume an intermediate level of linguistic competence, and at least a passive knowledge of the language of: company hierarchies, job titles, economic trends.

Anticipated problems and solutions:
1. This is the first time I have used Cuisenaire Rods, and as far as I know, the first time these students have seen them in an English-language classroom. 1 am not at all sure about how the students will react to them, nor about my own ability to use them effectively.
Solution: I will introduce the Rods in a brief preamble, mentioning their history and their use in the Silent Way, as I believe that if the students are told that the Rods are instrumental to serious adult language learning, it should overcome any idea they may have about the Rods being used only for children's arithmetic lessons.
I have also planned three main stages based on the use of the Rods which progressively assign the Rods an interpretable identity, rather than jumping in at the deep end using a Silent Way technique. I hope that this will steadily familiarise the students with the Rods.

2. One set of Cuisenaire Rods will restrict the activity of the students if they each take some Rods.
Solution: I will split the students into pairs or groups of three, thus making more Rods available for each group.

3. The Rods will require a certain amount of table space when mapping out organisation charts and bar graphs.
Solution: I will use a classroom which contains proper tables and chairs rather than individual seats with armrest writing-panels, and ask the students to clear the tables of their textbooks and other paraphernalia.

- Set of Cuisenaire Rods.
- Collection of short texts from "The Economist" - "Business This Week" section.
- (Classroom furniture - tables and chairs)
- Blackboard and chalk for any necessary explanations.


Stage 1: Warmer
To familiarise stds with the rods
To validate the use of rods in this lesson

t >>stds 5 minutes
1. Open the box of rods , take them out & lay them on the table.
2. Introduce the rods, talk about the history& uses in teaching.

Stage 2: Mingle
To give freer speaking practice
To practice some business language
To use the rods freely without having to 'interpret' them a symbols for something else

stds>>stds 10 minutes
1. Stds are given 3 rods each of different colours & are told to choose one colour & collect three of the same using business expressions to trade rods with the others.
2. Mingle activity.
3. Feedback

Stage 3: Mapping
To 'empower the stds'
For the stds to practise speaking about their own jobs & companies.
For the stds to practise explaining systems & relationships, using visual & tangible stimuli - as they would when giving a presentation.

stds>>stds 20 minutes
1. Show the stds how the rods can be laid out to reflect the organisation of a company.
2. Explain the activity - Stds are split into pairs or threes. Each group is given a variety of rods &, taking turns, stds map the organisation chart of their company with reference to their position in the scheme. The other stds ask questions about the roles & relationships.
3. Activity.
4. Feedback

Stage 4: Listening
To give intensive listening practice.
To recycle verbs, adjectives, nouns & adverbs related to trend movements.

t>>stds 10 minutes
1. Show the stds how rods can make bar graphs & line graphs.
2. Read out short texts from the 'Economist' magazine which refer to trend movements.
3. Stds work in pairs & create graphs that reflect these movements.
4. Feedback

Stage 5: Speaking
To give stds practice in speaking about personal observations of trends.
To change the focus.
To practise the language dis/agreement.

stds>>stds 10 minutes
1. Write on the board - economy, inflation, house prices, number of employees in my company etc. Tell stds to use the rods to talk about the different movements in the given subjects.
2. Activity - monitor & help out.
3. Feedback

Stage 6: Conclusion
To obtain feedback on the use of the rods in the lesson

t>>stds 5 minutes
1. Chat to the group about the lesson - did they enjoy it, like using the rods, would like to use them again...

To Tim Hahn's article about Cuisenaire Rods

To the cuisenaire rod activity illustration page

To the December 2000 newsletter - theme: cuisenaire rods

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