Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Dogme Way

I did it! A lesson the "Dogme" way. No props, just me and a few ideas in my head. Did it work? Yes, absolutely! It was difficult to stop my students chatting. I had to interrupt the flow in order to try another activity out. In hindsight, maybe I should have let the conversation continue until the buzz had died down naturally. So, I'm not actually sure if I followed the "Dogme" rules. The night before I had read an article written by William Gomez in the English Teaching Professional magazine. called "Dog Days". The following are two activities that inspired me.

My WorldI wrote the countries from where the students were from on the board:
Kazhakstan, Switzerland, Portugal, Angola, Iraq, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Poland and France. In different nationality groups, I asked the students to find out a few things about each others' countries. After about 10 minutes, I asked them to change groups in order to find out about the other students' countries. The room was buzzing with the sound of students all talking animatedly and enthusiastically. They really wanted to find out about each other and when I asked them to stop, they continued speaking.

Me to Them
I wrote up 5 things to do with me in a circle on the board . Eg phrasal verbs, Dogme, dogs, motorbikes, perfume bottles.

I quickly asked the students to guess the connection to me and my life.
  • I love teaching phrasal verbs.
  • I was teaching the Dogme way as an experiment
  • I don't really like dogs but I have 3
  • I don't really like motorbikes and yet I have ridden about 7,000 kilometres on the back of them
  • I like collecting perfume bottles
I then asked the students to connect the topics to themselves. Again, the non-stop chatter was amazing and when the bell went, there wasn't an immediate rush to go and have lunch. I briefly asked them if they had enjoyed the "Dogme" way and the response was very positive.

Student Feedback and Involvement
For homework I asked the students to write for 5 minutes about how they felt about this particular lesson. Did they enjoy it? Did they feel bored? etc. I was delighted to find out that all of them wrote positively about the experience. So what was it that was different from a normal lesson? The only difference was not going to class with anything. The 2 simple ideas I had were in my head. The rest came straight from the students themselves. The vocabulary they wanted to know were written up on the board. as it cropped up. Nothing was pre-planned. The language all came up spontaneously. It related to a real-time need-to-know basis. As far as I could see, everyone in the class was engaged in the activity. There was a genuine interest in finding out more information about the different countries.

What did I learn?
Well, I realised that I have in fact been teaching the Dogme way without ever having called it by this particular name. The lesson was a series of opportunities to communicate without any pieces of paper or a coursebook. The main flow came from the students themselves. I was just a floating facilitator. I could easily have left the classroom and the flow would have continued. I am sure. Would it have been the same if I had left the class to get on with some grammar exercises?? I am not so sure!

The Future
Yes, I will most certainly do this again. The amount of vocabulary that came out spontaneously was a lot. New words were written up on the board and recycled. My students liked talking about each others countries, about each others thoughts on various topics. Each student was given the chance to explain open class some of the ideas which had come up. A lot of noise,but something positive came out of it. Luckily, I am not constrained by a coursebook, so I could literally throw them away if I wanted to, and use my own materials. This is a great feeling of freedom. Maybe not all teachers have this luxury.

Please refer to this previous posting here for more on Dogme.



YEAAAAA - am really glad to hear the experiment went so well Janet!

;-) K

Janet Bianchini said...

Thank you Karenne! I think everyone involved really enjoyed it. Have pencilled in "dogme" every day in my timetable next week, so look forward to more free-style communication!

All the best

J x

cloud 10 said...

You write about your experience so well Janet! It's like I'm in the classroom with you. So, is this the new approach to teaching now, just walking in and going with the flow?! Good to hear you enjoyed the 16 FCE interviews as well x

Alex Francisco said...

Hi Janet,
Again your enthusiasm and passion got to me. :) Now, if I may ask, how old are your students? You see, I'm wondering if what you did would work as well with my students. They are 12-15 year olds, they are all from the same country, so whenever I try to do something like that they usually take refuge in their own language. Yes, they will start by playing by the rules, but whenever they get stuck they imediately go back to Portuguese. Any advice? :)

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Alex

Just read your comment. It's a very good point that you make re monolingual classes. It is natural for students to take recourse in their own language if they get stuck. My current students are adults (16+ to 40+), and multi-lingual. Speaking in their own language is not usually a problem because of the diversity within the class.

With younger students, however, I am not sure whether this approach would be a bit too fluid and unstructured for them. I would definitely experiment with it though, but for short "chunks" of time, as opposed to a whole lesson and see what happens first, before going further.
Maybe recording or videoing their efforts might motivate them to stick to English entirely? I actually told my students we were going to experiment with "dogme" and so it was something new and interesting for them.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to do some teaching the "dogme" way.

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Jane

I've dicovered that teaching is just a big circle and a great merry-go-round of trends and techniques. They come and go with the flow. Nothing beats just giving our students what they really really want!

See you at school. Love J xx

Anne Hodgson said...

Good for you, Janet :-D
That "5 things about me" thingy is a standard way in for one-day compacts for me, but I draw a picture on an overhead slide, and ask my students to interpret what they see. Then they do the same, and stand up and do a Q and A with the other participants. A very quick way in if you don't know each othr, and you get a lot of language up front to take notres on and work on right afterwards.

I'm definitely with you on giving our students what they want. Just some food for thought: Sometimes they don't quite recognize yet what they need. Then they need gentle coaxing in a given direction.

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Anne

Thanks for your comment. I like your alternative version for getting to know your students.

Students could also write random numbers which mean something to them on a stickie and then circulate around the class trying to guess what the numbers refer to for the other students.

I agree that students more often than not, do need gentle coaxing to direct them to what they need.