Tag Archives: Dogme

Up and running!

30 Mar

Well, we’ve finally gotten our Dogme Pura Vida action research project up and running.  If you’d like to check out our progress or see summaries of any of the classes, plese visit the blog at puravidadogme.wordpress.com

Thank you to everybody who has helped, either through contributing ideas, providing the space (Rosa  at Pi Plus Academy), visiting our blogs, or attending the classes.  Most importantly, this project never would have even started without my friend and colleague, @ChrisOzog, whose energy and ideas made it all happen.

Also, since I’ll be writing pretty frequently for the other blog, there probably won’t be anything here over the next few months.  See you at puravidadogme.wordpress.com!


Random Spanish vocab at its finest

4 Nov

Here’s a serious linguistic test: take a look at my new Spanish vocab and try to guess what we’ve been studying in my weekly class (all bad translations are my own):

• Pezuña – a hoof

• El colmo de la chineazon n– ‘the pinnacle of being spoiled (pretty sure this is Costa Rica specific)

• De según como se mire – It depends how you look at it

• No es tanto que… sino que… – It’s not so much… as it is…

• Empedernido – something like ‘hard-line’ (adj.)

• Yo discrepo – I disagree (formal)

• Meter la cuchara – Get involved in somebody else’s business (another Ticoismo I think)

• Caballo de Troya – Trojan horse

If you guessed it was an exam prep class focusing on the environment and deforestation in Spain, then well done!

I guess what strikes me here, looking back at my notes, is that students really do learn what the want to learn and not what the teacher sets out to teach. Luckily in my case I take the class with my friend Chris who shares similar views on language learning and with my teacher Fernando who has been receptive to ideas regarding using emergent language.

In the past though, I’ve had classes were the teacher was insistent on presenting and practicing certain structures (usually involving the subjunctive!). In these cases I dutifully did what was asked of me, dropped out of the class, and then learnt some new vocab from my wife, the taxi driver, my bandmates, etc.

As normally happens, reflecting on my Spanish classes gets me to thinking about my own teaching practices and those of the staff here at the school. If I find the set material so dull, surely they do too? And while I know a number of the teachers are creative and open to emergent language and the students’ immediate needs, I’m also equally sure that there are a number of teachers who follow the coursebook from unit 1 to unit 12 without deviation. I shudder to think…

Unplugged Action Reseach Group

3 Oct

I had always assumed that promotions were a good thing. You know – more money, more job freedom, more responsibility – all good stuff. And at the outset, my experiences matched my expectations. Starting as a full-time teacher, I then became a Cambridge Examiner, then a teacher training coordinator, and then a CELTA trainer. So far, so good.

Until… I became the Director of Studies. Sure there was a raise and a lot of job freedom but at what cost? An unwanted shift in my relationship with new teachers, getting up early every morning, dealing with unhappy students/parents, and worst of all, no teaching! While I still get to do teacher training and the occasional substitution, I never have a class of my own. Theoretically I could assign myself a class, but it would have to be on top of my regular work load and without pay. I love teaching but really…

Thankfully, I’ve got the go ahead to start an Action Research Group next January as our school plans to move into a much larger, newer building. This group (another teacher’s idea) will consist of volunteer students who come twice a week for an hour and a half. There will be no coursebook or preset syllabus and anyone can join in. In a wonderfully unilateral decision, I’ve made myself the teacher although others are welcome to teach a class if they are interested in experimenting with different methodologies, activities, or are just interested in doing a little research. The idea is that we then have staff presentations were we can share our experiences. For my part I would love to experiment more with Dogme without the institutional constraints we usually have in place.

So… if anyone has any wonderful ideas they would like to have trialed, please leave a comment and I would be happy to incorporate them into my lessons. I’m sure I’ll be ‘borrowing’ many of the ideas I’ve read about on the blogosphere as well as ones from my colleagues. Also, if anyone has any suggestions for how to make this experiment a success, I’m all ears!

A Dogme Question

5 Sep

The other day I was participating in an excellent workshop by a colleague demonstrating how an unplugged lesson might go. Having initiated an entertaining and fruitful speaking activity, and having got the ‘students’ to board much of the dialogue, groups then decided what possible language points could be focused on to improve the range of the output.

The teachers came up with all kinds of ideas including question tags, question formation, slang for phone conversations, etc. The workshop then went on to demonstrate various possible practice activities, using the initial language/context, that didn’t require photocopies. We all went away happy and satisfied.

Then my usual internal cynicism and nay saying kicked in and I started to wonder about how this would have worked with certain colleagues I have observed numerous times over the last few years…

Colleague A: Only teaches lower levels and loves to correct errors, particularly ones were ‘rules’ can be taught. Every delayed feedback session invariably leads to an explanation of the difference between present perfect and past simple. Without fail.

Colleague B: Has been experimenting with TBL and Dogme but on a few occasions has perceived that students need exponents for expressing certainty, whether or not it was really relevant to what they were trying to say.

Both are able teachers and have been doing it a long time but always seem to perceive the same student needs. Hmm…

Thinking back to the workshop I then questioned my own choice of language point to work with (elision and substitution) and those of my peers. Would I ever have opted to focus on the language points they had chosen? Would they have ever considered mine? Maybe, but maybe not, and if not are the students any worse off?

All of this has led me to ask myself a few questions to which I have no answers:

• As a teacher, what can I do to make sure I don’t get stuck only helping students with the areas of language I’m most comfortable with?

• As an observer, how I can I help other teachers to expand the range of knowledge gaps that they pick up on?

• For teachers who are seriously restricted in terms of what they can notice (inexperienced/stuck in their ways), is a syllabus/coursebook such a bad idea? What if this is the only way that they will cover certain language points the students want and need to communicate effectively?

It could very well be that this is all just my own misunderstanding about some aspect of unplugged teaching, but any clarification would be greatly appreciated.

Help me oh wise ELT gurus…

Dogme workshop

19 Jul

Ok, so this is definitely a bit of a cop-out, but just to see how this blog thing works, I thought I would add a quick first post linking to another blog.

A little while ago, my friend Chris and I did a workshop on Dogme as part of the professional development programme at IH Costa Rica.  We thought it would be more interesting if the workshop itself was done as much as possible in the style of Dogme.  Thankfully, Chris then took the time to write up the synopsis and results and post them on his blog.

If you’re interested, take a look here.