Talking Dogme at TESOL France Lyon

02 Jun

Just got back from doing my first teacher-fronted presentation (you know, where you stand in front of a room full of people staring at you, the PowerPoint projector glaring in your face). It was TESOL France Lyon’s inaugural event and I was there in the name of Dogme…

The crowd wasn’t huge, around 15 people or so, which:

1) made it less frightening and

2) meant we could actually do a demo Dogme lesson because you guessed it—I presented the experimental semester.

Only a few people in the room had heard of Dogme and fewer knew what it was. Sonia, another speaker of the day came up with a pretty good summary. Something like “not planning too much what you’re going to do, but taking what students say and building a lesson around it, based on what needs to be worked on.” Sounded like a good start

So on we went through a bit of student feedback from their time with Dogme, the background of the movement or the Danish connection as I call it, and some key components of the approach:

  • Conversation Interaction-driven
  • Materials-light (not necessarily mats-free!)
  • Focused on emergent learner language

I also talked about POST-planning lessons as a sort of bird killer (as in “kill 2 birds with one stone”—nothing “afowl” of course!) It keeps a record of what was done in class in case another teacher needs to sub for you one day and helps you track what’s actually been done rather than just what you had planned to do. Plus it provides a chance to reflect on how the lesson went, what worked, and how to build on that.

Maybe the best part though was actually going through a demo Dogme lesson with fellow teachers. We did an accelerated, condensed lesson, talked about how it unfolded,  then brainstormed how it could have gone differently. The demo lesson was heavily inspired by the first half of Lesson 7 and suggested alternatives looked a bit like this:

From feedback I got, they really enjoyed this part because it offered the opportunity to see what the lesson looked like and how it could have gone in alternative directions, depending on the interests of a particular group of students.

The participants asked lots of stimulating questions, leading to lively discussion (and thankfully no one just wanted to pick a verbal fight—I was a bit nervous about that, I must admit!)

Two questions came up for which I didn’t have answers, so fellow Dogmeticians, I need your help here!

  • (How) could you do Dogme with an ESP class or an exam prep class like a TOEIC class?
  • What suggestions do you have for doing Dogme with 5-year olds?

I’ve done non-Dogme TOEIC prep and kids aren’t really my thing, but if anyone has any responses to these questions, I’m all ears and will transmit the answers to the people who asked them (crediting you, of course!)

Finally, a touch of advice for anyone thinking about presenting for the first time—GO FOR IT!!

More to come on that subject, though!


Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Dogme


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Talking Dogme at TESOL France Lyon

  1. Pat Brans

    October 30, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Thanks for this post. I find it very useful, even though I don’t teach language. I do teach business, in English, and to non-native speakers mostly. I like the idea of lots of conversation and light on material. I think we tend to use to many visuals – especially in business presentations. One time the projector didn’t work and students had to present orally without slides. I actually liked it much better, because I focused on their words.

    I didn’t know about Dogme. I thought it was a movie. 😉

  2. Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

    October 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Hi Pat,

    Glad you found your way over to my blog and even more so that you found it useful! And thanks for leaving a comment!

    Although here we talk about Dogme in language teaching, I’m sure it is not restricted to just that field. In fact, any subject that allows you to converse with the students and build up the lessons from there could fall into the category. I think it’s a whole other way of being a teacher because you’re not in “knowledge transmission” mode but rather in “knowledge collaboration.” If you give the knowledge a little space to grow, you’ll probably find that you can do courses that are just as fruitful with less. Less is more, I guess!

    I like your example with the video projector failure. I think that a lot of great things are born out of these kinds of situations. For example, Zumba (you can argue how great that could be considered, but I think it’s a pretty fun way to work out) was created because the guy went to teach his aerobics class and had forgotten the regular workout music. All he had was his iPod with a bunch of Latin music, so he built the gym class around that. And now the guy’s probably a millionaire and you can find Zumba classes all over the world (even in Pascagoula, Mississippi 😉

    And bravo for the movie reference! It was indeed originally a film movement started in 1995 by Lars Von Trier. He wanted to strip film-making of all the artifice of Hollywood blockbusters to get back to the here-and-now of cinema. A bit like what happens when you take all the bells and whistles out of the classroom and just work with the students, and maybe something to get the conversation rolling.

    Just in case you’re interested in learning more, there are other blogs that have much more (and often better) information than mine. Try these selected posts from other Dogme-friendly blogs if you’re interested:

    “The Ultimate Dogme Criticisms and Responses” on Phil Wade’s EFL Thoughts and Reflections:

    “What makes a lesson GREAT” on Anthony Gaughan’s “Teacher Training Unplugged”:
    There are several blog posts on this theme + a webinar you can watch which is really worth the time!

    “DELTA–Experimental Practice on Jemma Gardner’s “Unplugged Reflections”:
    Has a lot of good background info about the approach + her experiment with a class doing a Dogme lesson

    “A Dogma for ELT”: the article by Scott Thornbury that set off the Dogme movement in English Language Teaching. A good read for teachers in any subject, really.

    Happy exploring!

  3. Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

    October 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Sorry! Here’s the link to the Thornbury article:


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