Lesson One: Thanks Oli and Luke!

23 Jan

First day with a new class. List of names. Check. Keys to the room. Check. Markers for the board, pens, pencils, blank paper for making notes. Check. Coursebook…coursebook…nah, not this time.

A few days before meeting the new class, I spent some time trawling the many Dogme blogs. One in particular grabbed my eye: Oli Beddall’s An Experiment with Dogme. Great account of how he’s experimenting with Dogme, apparently in Japan.

Since Dogme is a new path for me, I thought I needed some sort of classroom compass while honing my teacher instinct. I printed Oli’s Lesson One and took it in as a sort of road map to show students what Dogme meant. I wanted to show them, but tell as well. Or rather, lead them to finding out.

We started with cut up cards of the definition of Dogme ELT from the first pages of Teaching Unplugged by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury. Ss worked to piece the definition together followed by a class discussion of various words in the definition. First lexical set of the day (classroom materials) and a quick word family (Merlin–wizard–wizardry) came of it.

Me: “So, how can this relate to you and to this semester?”

Ss: blank stares

Right, so the question was a bit abstract. I told the students not to worry, that we would uncover the answer as the hour-and-a-half lesson progressed. And we did.

We worked through Oli’s first lesson, which brought up the fact that I was doing the DELTA, that it involved an Experimental Practice research project, and that I wanted this group to help me along. It also led to a look at past vs present perfect simple and continuous tenses, as well as a little “make” vs “do” collocation work.

Ss actively participated, more than expected. Maybe I was on the right path…so, back to the abstract question, supported with Luke Medding’s drawing from the  IATEFL Brighton conference. Ss worked out that they were going to supply the content and create the lessons, but still didn’t know exactly what that meant.

More visuals: a comparative chart of Dogme ELT and Traditional courses, filled in collaboratively. They were getting it and even better, they looked interested!

Last step: a questionnaire in L1 (here, French) on students’ views on continuous teacher development, taking part in my DELTA experimental practice research, and trying a different approach for at least the first half of the semester.

This first encounter wasn’t completely material-less (Question: does a true Dogme lesson have to be? Comments appreciated!) and having a little map to follow made me feel more confident.

Now that I have the learners’ green light to explore the exciting world of Dogme, maybe next week, I’ll leave the classroom compass at home!

Lesson 2


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5 responses to “Lesson One: Thanks Oli and Luke!

  1. Luke Meddings

    January 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Christina, it’s great that you brought your blog to life and I’m glad you got past the blank stares! I was asked whether it was a good idea to share or discuss one’s (dogme) approach with the learners at a workshop last week so it’s really interesting to see how you went about doing this.

    In answer to your question (does a true Dogme lesson have to be completely material-less?), I would say definitely not. We chose our words carefully when we outlined three principles of teaching unplugged (in the book) as conversation-driven, materials-light and focused on emergent language.

    It isn’t conversation ‘bound’, it isn’t materials ‘free’ and it isn’t ‘restricted’ to emergent language. It’s a question of emphasis – teaching unplugged isn’t a kind of challenge to see how ‘pure’ we can do it. If the materials are light, there’s more room for conversation (which can be spoken or written); if the conversation flourishes, there’s less need for materials, and more room for learner language to emerge.

    Good luck with the classes and tell us how they go!


  2. olibeddall

    January 24, 2012 at 1:24 am

    Great to see my blog put to good use! Thanks for sharing. I’m sure you’ve got off to a good start. I like the fact that you talked through what you want to do with the class themselves – one of the keys to Dogme is working with the real lives of the people in the room, and that includes you and your Delta!

    Regarding your materials question, we’ve been having a similar discussion on my blog here:
    In this case my goal was to increase learners’ exposure to new lexis on their course and I was pondering how best to use materials to do this, while ensuring they’re an extension of our classroom discourse rather than abstract ‘teaching materials’ such as coursebooks. I also make the point that there’s nothing at all wrong with teaching materials, simply that I’m experimenting with getting by without them.


  3. Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

    January 25, 2012 at 9:21 am


    Thanks so much for those clarifications. I think I was a little worried about the classes becoming a bit monotonous without being able to introduce some sort of focus, maybe by bringing in some realia, a text, or some other tool to jump start the conversation. I think I would interpret “materials light” to mean no stacks of worksheets, no series of exercises that just move from one to the other. It doesn’t mean, however, just going in and saying “What do you want to do today?” (Although from time to time, that can be a good lesson too).

    As for explaining the concept to the students, I thought it was important to reassure them that yes, the class would be less formally structured than what they may be used to, but that no, that doesn’t mean that I just waltzed in without thinking about the lesson.

    Also, whenever I do experimental lessons, I like to let the students know. That way if 1) the lesson fails miserably, they’ll know that it was something completely new and different and 2) I like to get their feedback at the end. I usually tell them that I’ll ask for feedback afterwards so that during the lesson, they can just make quick mental notes of what they liked or didn’t like.

    Of course, I can see when there are times you wouldn’t want to tell them that you are experimenting too. I guess that depends on how you want to approach your EP, but I think both approaches are valid, for different reasons.


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