Hyperion resurrected and the end of the Dogme experiment

02 May

ImageLast Monday was the final lesson with the science students. The end of a semester of experimenting with Dogme. The chance for the students to tell me what they thought about the experience.

Before getting into this, though, we had to go through their exam. I wanted to go through their exam with them, to take the time to let them see their mistakes and what they had done well. In correcting their work, I made sure to include both, in red and green ink, respectively, as I thought it was important to point out where improvement still needed to be made, but also when they had used some new vocabulary or a particularly challenging structure. Plus, since part of the exam was to write a short story, I could add my comments, questions, and reaction to their story without bleeding all over their papers.

For the corrections, I used the marking symbols out of J. Harmer’s How to Teach Writing. The idea was for them to figure out the correction themselves. Beforehand, we spent some time trying to guess what the code meant. Some, like “sp” or “g” were easy to guess, while we had some discussion about “c” for concordance, “wo” for word order, and “λ” for something’s missing.

Then, they spent nearly an hour working on correcting their work (which was a reaction to a text + writing a short story). I circulated to help with questions, reformulations, and checking their work. I noticed that they seemed particularly into the activity, looking from their paper to the symbol key on the board, to their paper, and sometimes asking each other for help. It’s difficult to say if the energy poured into the effort was because this is a group of good students or because they liked the challenge and the personalized activity, but it felt like gold.

We transitioned with end-of-semester feedback forms. I wanted to make sure that they took the time to think about and complete the forms, and I’ve learned that the quantity of feedback given runs pretty much in proportion to how close the end of class is. In other words, don’t expect a novel when the group has to rush to their next class right after filling in your feedback form. (P.S. their feedback is in another postJ

After I had collected their forms, we rounded off the semester with a final performance by one of the groups who hadn’t been able to show us their work last lesson because half of their pair was absent. We followed the same format as in the last lesson, as it seemed to encourage both communication between the groups and an opportunity for language work.

Surprisingly, the story seemed quite complex, with a narrator to recount the background to the plot and a few character swaps to manage 4 roles with 2 people. The story built on the poem Hyperion that we studied in Lesson 9, but didn’t just bring the poem to life. It rewrote the story completely!

In short, Hyperion, who was the keeper of the sun, had fought and lost against Atlas. To show his despair, he hid the sun from the humans. One day, a farmer realized that without the sun, his crops, and thus his family could not survive. The farmer went to see Atlas (on a chair-mountain, with a heavy backpack on his shoulders) to explain the dire situation. Atlas told the farmer that he would have to walk for many days (symbolized by the student pacing in circles around the room) to do plead his case directly with Hyperion. He found Hyperion, who offered to turn provide light to humans by setting the farmer’s body on fire and allowing it to burn in place of the sun. As the farmer climbed on a desk, his arms outstretched like a crucifixion, the narrator told of the farmer’s brave sacrifice for mankind and why the sun we see today is in fact a burning farmer’s body. Not bad, huh?

And thus we ended our semester of an experiment together with Dogme.

Students, I thank you for your willingness to try this out with me and for your valuable feedback. Let’s hope it will help us better understand what you, the learners, think about how we teachers do our job.


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