Complexity: Activity 1

Lexical variety and task demand

Please read the information about complexity before working through these activities.

  1. Below are the directions read to the learners in both English and Chinese before the Jigsaw and Comparison tasks. Read the directions and think about the cognitive demands of the two tasks. Are the cognitive demands of these two tasks different? If yes, in what ways? And how do you think the difference might affect the learner language in terms of its complexity?

Directions for Jigsaw Task:

In English
Each of you has a photograph of house in Minnesota. Start by briefly describing your photo, and then find three things in your photos that are the same, and three things that are different.  Don’t show each other your photos. For example, you could ask, “This house has two windows.” or you could ask, “Is that house in the city?”

In Chinese

这是两张明尼苏达的不同的房子的图片。你们不能看对方的图片。你们要找出这两张图片里面的三个相同点和三个不同点。比如说,你可以说,这张图片的房子有两扇窗户,或者你也可以问,你那张图片的房子是在市区吗?

Directions for Comparison Task:

In English
Please talk about who might live in these houses. For example, how many people live in each house? What do you think their social class is? What do these kinds of houses tell you about American culture?

In Chinese
现在你们看着对方的图片,然后谈一谈谁会住在这两栋房子里面。比如说,有多少人住在里面?他们的社会地位怎么样?你能看出来美国文化的哪些方面?

  1. Now look at the transcripts of Jiulin and AnnaLi’s oral production on the Jigsaw and Comparison tasks. Classify the nouns that they use as concrete or abstract and fill in the table below (excluding erroneous uses of nouns).

Here, concrete nouns are those “referrable to classes of tangible (and sometimes discrete) nouns, categories, events and phenomena in the natural or human world” (Yip & Rimmington, 2004, 1), such as 人 (people), and 窗户 (window).
Abstract nouns are “non-referrable to concrete objects or entities in the natural or human world”, but “products of human epistemology, being convenient, summary labels used holistically to refer to complex or sophisticated situations, experiences, processes, qualities or phenomena in diverse areas of human endeavor” (5), such as 工作 (job), and 地方(place).

Task Jigsaw Comparison

Type of noun

Concrete

Abstract

Concrete

Abstract

Jiulin

AnnaLi

  1. For concrete nouns, also count those that refer to entities displayed in the pictures and those that refer to entities that aren’t actually shown, but can be inferred to exist. Compare the use of these concrete nouns across the two tasks. Are they different? If yes, what are the differences? What do you think might have caused these differences?

Task

Concrete nouns in Jigsaw

Concrete nouns in Comparison

In the picture

Yes

No

Yes

No

Jiulin

AnnaLi

Please type your answers to the questions in the box below.

When you have finished typing your answer, click to compare your response with the Learner Language staff response.

  1. In the Jigsaw task, the learners were asked to compare physical characteristics of two houses, while in the Comparison task, they were expected to make inferences about abstract cultural constructs such as social class, using facts shown in the photos as evidence. The Comparison task demands a discussion of abstract concepts and taps into higher order thinking skills. Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, higher order thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation and synthesis require more cognitive processing than lower order thinking skills (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). Therefore, compared with the Jigsaw task, the Comparison task seems to be cognitively more demanding. It requires the expression and development of language that is typically used in academic tasks and may elicit the use of more complex linguistic forms and more abstract nouns.  

  2. As can be seen from the table below, both learners use a greater variety of concrete and abstract nouns in the Comparison task than in the Jigsaw. In particular, Jiulin uses abstract nouns only in the Comparison task but never does so in the Jigsaw task. This is probably because the Comparison task elicits not only concrete entities but also abstract ones while the Jigsaw task specifically requires reference to concrete entities only.


    Task Jigsaw Comparison

    Type of nouns

    Concrete

    Abstract

    Concrete

    Abstract

    Jiulin

    照片  photo
    房子  house
    墙  wall
    门  door
    车  car
    楼  building
    树  tree
    马路  road
    草  grass
    窗户  window
    边  side
    前面  front
    旁边  side
    人  people
    电脑  computer

     

    窗户  window
    房子  house
    门  door
    墙  wall
    油漆  paint
    车  car
    后面  back
    马路  road
    隔壁  neighbor
    外面  outside
    草  grass
    钱  money
    大人  grownups
    工厂  factory
    明州  Minnesota
    人  people
    父母  parents
    孩子  kids
    城市  city
    狗  dog

    工作  job
    地方  place
    事  things
    派对  party
    东西  stuff
    穷人  the poor

    AnnaLi

    房子  house
    车  car
    窗户  window
    门  door
    墙  wall
    树  tree
    草  grass
    旁边  side
    前面  front
    电视  TV

    事  things
    东西  stuff

    设备  facilities
    空调  air-conditioner
    外面  outside
    颜色  color
    电视  TV
    窗户  window
    屋子  room
    房子  house
    钱  money
    人  people
    工厂  factory
    公司  company
    明州  Minnesota
    孩子  kids
    城市  city

    事  things
    东西  stuff
    工作  job



  3. In the Comparison Task, both learners sometimes use concrete nouns to refer to entities not visible in the photo, and to make inferences about cultural constructs like social class. In the Jigsaw Task, they only use concrete nouns to refer to visible attributes of the houses.

    Task

    Concrete nouns in Jigsaw

    Concrete nouns in Comparison

    In the picture

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Jiulin

    照片  photo
    房子  house
    墙  wall
    门  door
    车  car
    楼  building
    树  tree
    马路  road
    草  grass
    窗户  window
    边  side
    前面  front
    旁边  side

    人  people
    电脑  computer

    窗户  window
    房子  house
    门  door
    墙  wall
    油漆  paint
    车  car
    后面  back
    马路  road
    隔壁  neighbor
    外面  outside
    草  grass

    钱  money
    大人  grownups
    工厂  factory
    明州  Minnesota
    人  people
    父母  parents
    孩子  kids
    城市  city
    狗  dog

    AnnaLi

    房子  house
    车  car
    窗户  window
    门  door
    墙  wall
    树  tree
    草  grass
    旁边  side
    前面  front

    电视  TV

    设备  facilities
    空调  air-conditioner
    外面  outside
    颜色  color
    电视  TV
    窗户  window
    屋子  room
    房子  house

    钱  money
    人  people
    工厂  factory
    公司  company
    明州  Minnesota
    孩子  kids
    城市  city


 

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