Lesson 7: A recipe for better Dogme lessons

13 Mar

This morning, I started class with the question I usually ask this Monday morning group: “Did you have a good weekend? What did you do this weekend?” Sometimes the answers are less than enthusiastic but this morning one student seemed enthusiastic to tell me that he had made a cake.

Aha! Here was the beginning of a true Dogme moment! And we went with it.

“Who else cooked something good this weekend?”

We got vocabulary for broccoli and apple quiche, fish with sauce (and not fish sauce, as was pointed out), lasagna, and Ramen noodles (after all, they are students!). Another student admitted he had eaten chicken nuggets, but that it didn’t really count as cooking to him.

Of course, the discussion generated a board full of food vocabulary and some interesting bits about American vs. French cooking. We even worked on trying to find a satisfactory American equivalent of French lardons and settled on chunky bits of uncooked bacon.

I shared a life tip that I saw on a cooking show once: always have three dishes that you master, that are quick, easy, and cheap to make. That way, when friends just pop over, you can impress them with your improvisational kitchen skills.

Students worked in groups to prepare a recipe exchange. Each group brainstormed a recipe or two and wrote it out. As they worked, I put my own recipe, bananas poached in coconut milk with lime juice, on the board. Again, lots of food vocabulary emerged.

Students compared their recipes to mine for genre conventions, cooking vocabulary, etc. and made any necessary changes as I walked around to help them spot any differences.

To round off, students explained (and I insisted that they not read) their recipes to the other students. We got some basics like chocolate chip cookies and crepes, but also tiramisu, tomato and comté quiche, tuna peaches (a curious one indeed!)

This activity went well in my opinion for a few reasons: It emerged naturally from a real conversation, gave students something they could actually use in life, and let them share their own knowledge. On the daily class feedback forms, they all cited this as something they liked and found useful.

After, though, I think I artificially steered the class in another direction L

Last week’s homework was to choose a book from a bag I had brought in and write a story loosely based on the book’s subject. Since I had assigned it for homework, I wanted to make sure that we did something with it. After all, what’s the point of giving homework if it just sits in students’ binders afterwards?

Not all students had done the homework, and a few were absent last week so they didn’t have a book, but each group had 1 or 2 students with a story to tell. They shared their stories in their groups, I circulated to help with language.

I asked what they would like to do with their stories next and someone volunteered “listen to each others’ stories and guess the book that inspired it.” OK.

The books were all displayed in the front of the class and students shared their stories while others guessed. They all did the activity, but we had lost the energy of the first part of the lesson. I encouraged the listeners to ask questions to know more about the stories or to get clarification and some did, but it felt less authentic than before. Meef…

I think we could have saved this activity for another lesson and I’m sure the students would have understood. In my desire to show that they hadn’t done homework just for the sake of doing it, I think I prematurely aborted a lesson that was going well. Lesson learned—in Dogme, you really do have to roll with what comes up, maybe explaining to students the reason for delaying the homework-based activities. We could have just as easily started up next lesson with the story –telling and then branched out from there, in a more natural way.

What do you think? What should I have done?

Lesson 6                                                                                                                            Lesson 8


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6 responses to “Lesson 7: A recipe for better Dogme lessons

  1. dalecoulter

    April 19, 2012 at 8:39 am

    You know what? I read this blog post and then went to my private lesson. The student had brought a variety of typical foods back from her region in the south of Italy and started telling me about them. I fed in vocabulary to help her as she told me about the contents of her fridge, we looked at countable and uncountable nouns, then some determiners. After that, I asked her to write a recipe, which we did on a mini white board, I left gaps where we could add language like discourse markers to make her text more cohesive. After we discussed the differences between food in the north and south. For homework, I rewrote the recipe with lots of complex noun phrases for her to make sense of (she’s planning on doing a master’s soon and will encounter lots of these in the academic texts in the course). So, I guess this is a thankyou for the inspiration.

    I’ve found a few times that a lot of lexis emerges from a discussion but an idea of how to use it doesn’t come to me in the moment. In this case, it’s sometimes nice to get the students’ opinion on how; they’re often full of ideas. For example, the other week a lot of lexis for illness emerged “I’ve got a cold” “I’m feeling a little under the weather” and one student suggested we make mock phone calls to each other, to friends, family, work, school, to give reasons for not coming because we felt ill. Great activity.

    In that case you could have introduced relative clauses and got students to define the foods “the aubergine is a vegetable (that) we use (is used) in lots of Italian dishes” “Broccoli is a vegetable that is full of vitamin C”. Alternatively, you could have got them to make shopping lists and then looked at modals or going to and will for intentions or decisions taken in the moment. Compare lists and anything new students have to say “oh and I’ll pick up some apples too” if they hear a new food they need to buy.

    Just a few ideas which are always easier to come by when you’re not sitting with you class.


    • Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

      April 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Hi Dale,

      Thanks for the comment! Sounds like food is a hot topic that can be mined for lots of language, and not just vocabulary! I’m glad you found something in the post useful for you too. That’s what this is all about, sharing ideas, sometimes giving them, sometimes taking them.

      I do enjoy asking students what they’d like to do with things. Sometimes I do that with their homework–set them something to write or reflect on and then ask them what they’d like to do with it to “bring it to life” so to speak. I’ve done it before in class too, and often with this group, so they are used to the idea of getting to choose how they exploit stimulus or how to continue from one activity to another, but for some reason, I didn’t think to do so with this one. Like you said, sometimes you get the good ideas AFTER the lesson. At least I’ll know for next time!

  2. Carol Goodey

    April 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve just discovered this blog. It looks really interesting. I haven’t read the other posts yet but just wanted to comment here following your tweet.

    I recognize this situation – where I’ve stopped dynamic, enjoyable, productive interaction to do something I thought I should do in the class, whatever that might have been. It has usually come from a worry that I’m not doing enough of something and that learners will expect it. I’m finding increasingly that when I take too much control of the topic, though, the learners might do what they’re asked but with less energy and engagement.

    It’s difficult to know what you should have done just from reading the account and not having been there. If the students were still actively enjoying the food discussion perhaps it would have been better to stay with that and see where it went and what other opportunities for learning it brought about. It would have been fine to delay the story telling activity, and it would have given the students another chance to do the homework. However, if you had, perhaps the students would soon have got bored with the food topic and it might not have led anywhere, leaving not enough time for the homework activity which did seem to give some useful language practice too and they seemed keen to listen to each other’s stories. And, it’s always good to try something different, to change the pace and the expectations.

    So, not much help, I know, but these reflections are really useful for all of us to become more aware of what happens in the classroom and our role in it.

    Now to explore the rest of this blog…


  3. phil3wade

    April 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I think it was a good time as that was a natural end of that section. I think many Dogme lessons and activities in general, get dragged on and milked. I’ve done this myself. Nowadays, I like to see stages or mini-lessons and when it’s done it’s done so move on.

    Homework is important and you showed and utilised it in a following class. Why not make that part of the lessons every week ie lesson prep. They’ll definitely do the homework then.

    I like to think of a course as continually and existing from lesson 1 to the last but also outside the class via homework, online chats, group tasks, projects etc. Nik Peachey has mentioned this and Paul Maglione from a Techie perspective but it sits well with Dogme.


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