I stopped by a newsagent’s on my after-work walk today and picked up a magazine called Sagesse Asiatique. It had a little book of proverbs and quotes with it. I read through a few and found this one, attributed to Buddha:
Life is not a problem to solve but a reality to experiment with.
While I’m not contradicting anyone’s religious figure, we could also substitute “life” for “the lesson.”
I’m nearly half way through my Dogme experiment, which so far seems to have shown that students do indeed like to experiment with reality, their own or the teacher’s. By that I mean having students share their lives and gradually open up with each other, the lessons pave the way for deeper involvement, physically, yes, but surely also cognitively.
We started this semester with a first lesson based on my life and the last two lessons (four and five) have been based on the students’ experiences. During the activities, the students really do talk to each other, and in English! I can’t say if it is just because they are lovely students or because this new approach feels more supportive, but I like to think it is a bit of both. This contrasts with another group in which the approach is much more traditional. For a description of what this class is like, see my comment on Phil Wade’s blog post EFL Experiment 2: The ultimate Dogme criticisms and responses.
I am really enjoying working with my Dogme students, but I feel that I myself still need to do some developing to become very comfortable with the approach. I wouldn’t say there are problems that need to be solved, but definitely some more things that need to experimented with.
I’d really like to focus on:
- Using the study-able language that comes up in class in communicative activities rather than talking about the language itself
- Better encouraging the students to take control of THEIR class. For the moment, I feel like I’m doing a lot of leading
- Keeping up the pace–for me it’s not always easy to tell the difference between reflective silence and “just waiting” silence
Next week I put the question to my students: Do we continue this semester as a Dogme experiment or do we try something more traditional? After all, letting the students decide is what this is all about, right?