Tag Archives: teacher development

iTDi + Shelly Terrell: Learning to go, webinar notes 1

At the beginning of March, I signed up for one of iTDi’s Advanced Teaching Skills Courses: Language Learning to Go, led by the brilliantissime Shelly Terrell, who is probably about as near to a living encyclopedia of apps, mobile learning, and the joys of Web 2.0-based learning as anyone’s ever seen.  Shelly and iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) have set the course up on a private Google+ community (the course is not free, but for what you get out of it, it’s a steal at $50) and during the week the learners (me and about 30 other teachers in various places around the world) have “missions” to complete, consolidated by weekly webinars hosted by Shelly and iTDi faculty member Barbara Sakamoto.

Continuing with my experiment in sketchnoting, I’d like to share some of the tips and tools we learned about in the first weekly webinar. I have to admit I’m struggling to keep on top of teaching work, association volunteering, incoming projects and preparing for IATEFL Harrogate (in just one week!), so I’m a bit late with the notes. You’re all busy, busy teachers too, so you know what I mean!

Anyway, here are the notes–hope you get something out of them! (Disclaimer: I’m no artist, so apologies for the AWFUL drawing of Shelly–it looks absolutely nothing like her!) These are from the webinar back on March 9, 2014 but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with the our “missions”! As you’ll see, we’ve already learned a lot in just the first week!

p. 1-2


p. 3-4


p. 5-6


p. 7-8


I’ll try to catch up and post notes from the other webinars if possible!

I’m really enjoying the course and have already started using some apps with a group of my clients, who have agreed to be the guinea pigs for the experiment. After seeing how engaging it can be to learn as a group on the Google+ community, I’ve set up a private Google+ for a group of 5 A2-ish level learners. I’ve also started giving “missions” for learners to do on Audioboo to help them practice their speaking skills outside of class. They can then post their Audioboo recordings to the Google+ community and comment on each other’s work. The group has just started, so we’ll see how they take to it. I’ll be blogging about that project as well in the near future, hopefully to encourage other teachers to try setting up something similar with their learners if they want to try!

And while working together in a virtual learning environment (VLE) is just plain fun, it is also based on sound theory. Here are a few resources that Shelly shared to help us understand how VLEs take advantage of social learning theories:

Howard Rheingold’s Peeragogy and Co-learning theories

Siemen’s Connectivism Theory

Vygotsky’s Social Cognitive Theory

To be continued…


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So, is that your real job?

It’s happened so often that it just doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I’ve come to find it amusing, in a bittersweet sort of way. You know, when you start off with a new client or group, you’re doing the first-lesson introductions and after you say “My name’s so-and-so and I teach business English to adults in companies,” you get one learner who asks innocently “Is that your real job?”

Now, surely they do not mean it as an insult and it’s doubtful that they’re implying that teaching English in companies isn’t in fact “a real job” (whatever that means). In fact, if they’re asking, it’s probably because they’ve likely had teachers/trainers in their past lessons for whom teaching English wasn’t their “real job.” After all, no one asks their doctor “Is this your real job?” simply because they’ve never come across a doctor who was just doing that job because they needed to do something to earn some money. Not the case for some English teachers.

Again, the learners aren’t to blame. It’s an innocent question that reflects their experience. The teachers aren’t to blame either. After all, when you land in a foreign country you may or may not speak the language. You may or may not have qualifications recognized by the system. You may or may not have training and experience in other fields that can be practiced in your new homeland. These problems apply to foreigners (native and non-native English speakers alike) teaching English in a country that is not their own. Unfortunately, in the companies I’ve worked for in France, I’ve never come across a French person who teaches English to other French people, so I don’t know if they too get asked “Is this your real job?” Wait, there was this one French guy I remember way back when I started teaching, in 2004 when I was a student looking for a job a bit better than flipping crêpes . He was French, teaching English to other French people. And he always told clients he was Canadian. But the whole native-speaker requirement to teach is a different question entirely, that I’ve ranted about in another post.

So where does the problem come from? Why is it that respectful, professional adults see nothing wrong with asking their professional trainer (who has been hired by their company to help them learn a skill that will make them more efficient in their job) if the job they are doing is their real job? Probably because English language teaching is a field with very low–even non-existant–entry-level qualifications. After all, I got my first job because I was American. That was the only credential I had going for me, but for the place that hired me, it was sufficient. In fact, for the next six years of my working life, the fact that I was a native speaker got me two other jobs in different places. Then I decided that if this was to be my “real job” I should probably get some training and qualifications.

And so, yes, teaching English to professionals is my “real job.” It’s my career. I know that and my colleague-friends in the ELT world know that, . But without going into the the details of one’s projects, qualifications, past experience and future ELT projects, there’s no way for a client to know if the trainer in front of them is a career ELTer or a “I couldn’t do anything other than teach English” ELTer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking new trainers who are still finding their way into the ELT world. I’m not saying all ELT trainers should dash to get a DELTA, a Trinity DipTESOL, or an MA in TESOL before knowing that the investment is worth it. I’m not knocking employers who give fresh-off-the-pre-service-program trainers their chance to develop themselves. I’m not even knocking those clients who ask “Is this your real job?”. Forgive them for they know not what they do, let’s say.

What I’ve got a problem with is the fact that a trainer with no experience and no qualifications (like me when I started in 2004) gets the same wage as a teacher with years of experience, proper training, and continuous investment in one’s professional development (where I was when I left my last company to go freelance, in 2012). The hourly wage was basically exactly the same.

Fortunately there are some companies out there that recognize quality trainers and are willing to pay salaries that reflect the investment the trainers have made in their career and the quality of the training they provide. I wish there were more companies like that. On the flip side of the coin, there are companies who offer the same salary (give or take a little) to all their trainers. If you want more money, you can look elsewhere, because there will always be some fresh face ready to take your place. Maybe the problem is there. Maybe that’s why clients feel it’s normal to ask “So, is that your real job?”

To finish, a bit of good reading on the same or similar topics from around the web:

TEFLing at 35: A life gone right by Ptefldactyl

ELT Community forum: Is ELT a real profession?

Sandy has a real job, thank you very much!: An interview between Barbara Hoskins-Sakamoto and Sandy Millin

Teachers Tread Water in eikaiwa limbo

The European Profiling Grid project website

And a disclaimer: This post is not meant as a mere rant about ELT conditions in various places around the world. I love my job, I’ve got good work, and a variety of interesting projects going on. Plus, I’ve gotten to the point where I know it’s my real job and I’m happy to invest time and energy to make it so. This post is meant to point out yet another absurdity of our profession that we as teachers can take steps to rectify by being proud of who we are and what we do. We are ELTers and yes, it is our real job!


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Qualification required: Native English speaker

Join our team of friendly gynecologists! If you’re female, we’re looking for people like you! A degree in medicine is preferred, but not required. Apply today and begin a new rewarding career!

Let’s hope we will never see job ads like that in the medical field. No one in their right mind would think that just being female will make you a good gynecologist.  So why do so many TEFL job ad writers think being a native speaker makes you a good teacher? Seriously. In the above announcement replace “gynecologists”, “female”, and “medicine” with “teachers”, “native speaker”, and “teaching English” and you’ve got the meat of far too many ELT job announcements.

This is a serious issue in our field, generally not among the teachers themselves (thankfully!) but among the people recruiting the teachers (and hence paying the salaries). For some reason recruiters, especially in private language-training centers, have come to confuse teaching qualifications and birth certificates. This is one of the biggest shames in our field if you ask me because being a native speaker is NOT a sign of one’s ability to teach the language well. It is not even a guarantee that the (native) English taught will correspond to the English that will be encountered outside of the classroom. I, for example, am American but the vast majority of my trainees don’t do business with Americans. They use English with Chinese, German, Indian, Scottish, and Brazilian suppliers and colleagues. My American-ness is not of any added value here. I don’t know much about those countries’ business cultures, I don’t speak with any accent other than my own American accent and my native English certainly differs from that of a Scot or an Indian. So why is it fair that I would likely be preferred over a Polish or Hungarian EFL teacher with similar qualifications? It isn’t fair. Period.

Nowadays, native speakers no longer are the majority users of English. So why do recruiters specifically seek out native speakers over non-natives with equal qualifications? To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a way for recruiters’ to hide their own lack of knowledge of the field’s teaching qualifications. Between the CELTA, DELTA, Trinity DipTESOL, M.A.s in TESOL, and the whole gamut of sketchy “TEFL certifications” out there it’s no wonder that it’s just easier to slap “seeking qualified native speaker” on a job ad and leave it at that. The lack of clear professional qualifications within our field has led to an ersatz discriminatory qualification of “native speaker.”

I just ran a quick search for “TEFL job ads” and clicked on a few random ones that were posted on a few popular ELT sites. Here are some of the requirements I found (get ready to cringe):

  • Native-level intonation, accent, and pronunciation  (Which native accent?)
  • Requirements: teaching experience, degree in any field, British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Irish, South African or South American Passport holders (what a clever way of avoiding saying “native speaker”. At least it technically leaves the door open to dual citizens!)
  • We are looking for CELTA / TEFL qualified native English teachers to join our team
  • We are looking for native speakers of English to join our friendly teams
  • Qualifications required: Native English Speaker, some knowledge of Spanish

Of course some of the ads from which these examples are taken also mentioned teaching experience and/or teaching diplomas so at least they’re not stopping at “native speaker” as the only qualification. It’s the fact that “native speaker” is included as a qualification that irks me. Sure, arguments can be made that native speakers bring their cultural background and that they have intimate knowledge of their home culture. Sure but so do non-native speakers and if the learner is a French guy who is going to work mostly with Chinese businesspeople, what use–culturally speaking–is a teacher from England?

And I’m not claiming that ONLY teachers with recognized certifications or diplomas make good teachers. There are plenty of good teachers who got to where they are through experience, reflective practice, and participating in continuous professional development opportunities such as conferences, workshops, and webinars. It’s a damn shame that these people may automatically have their CV sent to the bin (or is that “have their resumé sent to the trash can”?) because they weren’t born in the right country.

TESOL France recently issued a message to employers who send announcements out on their Jobs List discouraging them from using “native speaker” in their announcements, explaining that trained, professional non-native teachers can be just as effective (if not more so) than native speaker teachers. This measure was unanimously applauded by the ELT teaching community on Facebook (which is rich in both native and non-native speakers 🙂 I hope other organizations who provide job ad services also practice this, even if they don’t yet have a formal statement on the issue. We as teachers can also be stewards for fair recruitment policies by addressing the issue with our hiring managers, by encouraging our schools/companies to seek out high-quality teachers who can show proof of their training and/or development, and by explaining why this is more important than the hollow requirement that one be a native speaker to teach a language.

I do have an idea as to why “native speaker” has wrongfully come to be seen as a qualification. It follows in the footsteps of why use of learners’ L1 became a taboo for much of the 20th century. But that, my friends, is for the next blog post!

P.S. There was a great post written recently on this same subject by Marek Kiczkowiak on his blog I see that it has been removed because it’s awaiting publication in the TESOL newsletter and in the Winter 2015 edition of the TESOL France magazine “Teaching Times”, which is fantastic. He says a link to the article will be published on his blog at a later date, but in the meantime, you can still read the many comments on the original post.


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Walk on the wild side and fly free!

Book cover - walk on the wild sideIn case you missed the announcement from the round last week, I’m happy to announce that our first book was published this week ! I say « our » because it is the fruit of a joint collaboration between Jennie Wright (who runs the fabulous TEFL Helper blog) and myself (who runs this blog, but you probably know that already).

Before getting into the book itself, just a quick word on the launch. When we posted the news to Facebook and Twitter, we got so many messages of congratulations from colleagues around the world. We really felt how much the wider teaching community supports each other’s efforts and it was an awesome feeling! Thanks a lot guys (and gals)!

So, the book…

Inside you’ll find five chapters, one for each selected experimental area : Dogme, lexical chunking, corpora, translation, and CLIL. Within each chapter, you’ll get the history & background of the approach/method, lesson objectives, a (beautiful) sample lesson plan, the principles and explanation of that lesson plan, a list of dos and don’ts for testing the approach/method, opportunities and risks that come with it, and a toolbox packed with resources for finding out more. All that for about the cost of large fancy Starbucks! Sure it’s got less caffeine, but it’ll last longer and you can’t spill it while on the bus!

Where did the idea come from? It’s pretty simple and is really just another story of necessity being the mother of invention. Jennie and I were doing our Delta module 2 together at ESOL Strasbourg in 2012. When we got to the experimental practice assignment, our trainers showed us all sorts of resources for exploring possible experiments.Wouldn’t it be great to have a single go-to reference with resource lists, an overview of experimenting with a particular method, and a bit about its background? And wouldn’t it be even better to have a compilation of a few possible experiments laid out like that to be able to compare and choose? “Oh, we could write that book!” we thought. So we did!

As for the cover, that’s the fine work of designer Mark Bain. The cage is open. The bird is free. Imagine the metal bars as the rut that we all get into at some point of our teaching careers. We start relying on the same old exercises, going through the same lessons and slowly we create our own cage. Then one day, we decide we’re tired of being locked in. We want out. So we experiment, try new things and shake ourselves up a bit. The cage door flings open and we’re free, just like the bird you don’t see on the cover. We’re out of our comfort zone and walking on the wild side!

Experimental Practice in ELT: Walk on the wild side is available on all Amazon sites and on Smashwords.


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2013 IATEFL conference in Liverpool: Blog post round-up

To make it easy to find all of the posts from the 2013 IATEFL conference in Liverpool, here’s the linked list of posts published on this blog :

Steven Bukin’s The Flipped Classroom – From Theory to Practice

Nicky Hockly’s Mobile Literacy & ELT 

Mike Hogan’s Becoming More Successful Workplace Communicators While on the Move

Cecilia Lemos’ Reflections from a Recovering Recaster

Colin MacKenzie’s 59 Seconds to Professional and Personal Development

Pete Sharma and Louis Roger’s Dealing with Differentiation 

Barry Tomalin’s “Make Meetings Work”

Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley’s “From Preparation to Preparedness”

Catherine Walter’s How to Give a Presentation at an International Conference

Lindsay Warwick’s Flipping the Classroom and Student Attitudes

See you next year, for the 2014 IATEFL conference in Harrogate!


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Liverpool calling: Report from Associate’s Day at the 2013 IATEFL conference


Support WMIS!


Associations need to associate. That was the underlying message from today’s Associate’s Day event at the IATEFL conference in Liverpool . As the representative of TESOL France, I attended the all-day session with two other TESOL France representatives: president Debbie West and vice-president Jane Ryder.

Throughout the day, attendees got tips and inspirational stories on how to look beyond the borders of their own teaching association (TA) to join forces with neighboring TAs. Kati Tama of IATEFL Hungary showed us how they use to create an intranet site for their TA to better curate information and announcements relevant to their members. She  also presented a virtual conference model to really bring virtual conferences to life for attendees at the online satellite events. For example, this week, members of IATEFL Hungary will enjoy pre-conference events, streamed videos from Liverpool, and a post-conference party complete with a sing-along of Beatles songs. This type of online viewing event can really help create the energy of being there in person for motivated teachers who for some reason or another can’t attend events in person.

Representatives from TAs in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka shared stories of how they worked together to coordinate Peer Support Reviews, which was described as “looking critically at what our TA friends are doing to encourage best practice.” The TESOL France delegation (and many other attendees, I’m sure) were beyond impressed with how much these awesome TAs had achieved despite obvious challenges they must deal with in these countries. It really hit home when the Pakistani delegate told us “Once, we did only have four people come to our event because of bombings in the city.” The teachers in these countries, especially their TA members, deserve a huge amount of respect. Suddenly problems common to classrooms typical of classrooms in the developed world—late students, technology failure, noise next door—seemed extremely trite.

One important session of the day was devoted to brainstorming on ways to improve IATEFL’s Wider Membership Scheme (WMS) and Wider Membership Individual Scheme (WMIS). These programs give teachers in under-funded countries the opportunity to join IATEFL and attend the conference at subsidised rates. Challenges obviously exist in such programs, as there always seems to be more demand than money, but that’s why the Associates dedicated part of the day to collecting ideas on how to make the program as efficient as possible.

Attendees in Liverpool can do their part to reach out to their fellow teachers in countries where funds are all too rare by purchasing a WMIS badge at the registration counter with a £2 donation (of course larger donations are also accepted!)


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Lesson 6: Judgment Day!

The lesson started with the same error correction as in lesson 5 and everything went smoothly—student corrections and explanations, with a little teacher intervention as needed to clarify.

Then came the big question. Will we continue using a Dogme approach during the 2nd half of the semester?

I put 5 questions on the board to get students thinking about the approach:

  1. Describe your vision of a Dogme approach.
  2. What is your opinion of it?
  3. Say one thing you like about it.
  4. Say one thing you don’t like about it.
  5. Do you want to continue using this approach for the rest of the semester?

The questions were in English, but I let students know that they could respond in French or English. The important thing here was the information and if they felt too limited in English, French was ok.

After about 10 minutes, I asked students to discuss their answers in small groups then as a class, taking about 10 minutes total. I, however, would leave the room during this time so as to let them express themselves more freely about their feelings towards the approach.

Of course, I glued my ear to the classroom door. I couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying, but it sounded more like English than French! I left them be and headed toward the coffee machine.

10 minutes were up so I popped my head in. “5 more minutes, 5 more minutes!” they shouted. So I slipped back out to wait until a student opened the door to let me back in.

Here’s a condensed version of what they reported:

The postives:

  • Students bring their questions to the class and the professor helps them with them.
  • It is easier to memorize the rules and explanations because they have to find them on their own and work out the explanation.
  • They like choosing what they want to work on, because the class centers on their difficulties
  • They enjoyed being able to vote on the format of the final exam
  • Lots of opportunities to speak to each other.
  • Speaking is easier because they feel comfortable with each other

The criticisms:

  • They would like to go faster through some of the grammar—it takes a long time to work out the rules on their own
  • More interaction on a specific topic would be nice, maybe divide the time more evenly between working on language and working with language
  • Needs more focus during the student-created explanations. It’s not always easy to understand the correction.

I’m glad they feel comfortable about speaking and I have noticed that overall the students are more forthcoming than in some of my other classes. I’m not sure if this is due to the students’ personalities or to the approach, because there are also a few shy students who voluntarily contribute rather little.

As I imagined, we have been spending too much time talking about the language and not enough actually conversing. I think we’ll start lessons with a more topic-based discussion rather than a grammar-based activity, which has been the case.

Their feedback shows that this approah works for this group of students, but the first few weeks haven’t been perfect.

Grammar focus has been a bit too dominant and I need to include little grammar bubbles, but as they come up and as needed. Or as that golden opportunity for a meaningful discussion of the language strikes. Or at students’ requests. However, the lessons need now to move towards a real exchange of ideas, with communication at the core.

Which is just what we’ll get a chance to do—they voted unanimously to continue Dogme for the next 6 weeks!

Lesson 5                                                                                                                          Lesson 7


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Almost halfway there and where will we go next?

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?

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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Dogme


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Lesson 2: Two simple tenses that are anything but

After an encouraging first lesson and positive responses on my “Will you do Dogme with me?” questionnaire, it was time to get into the nitty gritty of a semester of unplugged teaching.

I have to admit that I’m not really comfortable yet with waltzing into a classroom of 12 students with NOTHING prepared. Last night, I thought through a lesson catalyst: Write a few things I did this past weekend (celebrated my 5-year wedding anniversary, went to an exhibit on Italian immigration, jogged for an hour and half) and invite students to do the same. Then we would board some ideas, see how they related to bigger issues, and decide which topics would be most interesting to talk about. Big issues from my activities could have been relationships, immigration, and healthy lifestyles. After that, I would see where the students would take the class.

Perhaps the good news is we never got to that.

We started off by looking at their homework from last lesson. Amazingly, everyone had done it! I took this as a positive sign that they had actually engaged in the last lesson. I’ll have to see if this enthusiasm is real or if they were just afraid that I would collect their homework…

So, students compared their English translations with a partner, then in small groups to write a collective version. This led to three collective versions, which students then compiled into a single classroom version. As Ss worked on their collective versions, I went around asking about any variations between students. Preposition issues and a few tense questions came up—they were noticing!

We divided the board in two and one student wrote the class version. I wrote the original version from last week. There were only a few differences, but sufficient opportunities to address emerging language: present simple vs. present continuous; past simple vs. present perfect simple; American vs. British spellings (traveled vs. travelled); the Oxford comma in lists; work AT vs. working ON, for which the DELTA was a good example—If I’m working on the DELTA, what’s my job? If I work at Delta, what could my job be?


The biggest issue that came of the discussion was the thorny past simple vs. present perfect simple. French learners (and I’m sure they’re not the only ones) have real problems with this because the French passé composé tense is used like the English past simple, but looks like the present perfect simple. So French Nous avons testé un nouveau resto hier translates to “We tested a new restaurant yesterday” but looks like it should translate to “We have tested a new restaurant yesterday.” See the problem?

Remedy: I asked them to think of a famous person, still alive, that they knew fairly well. Silence. So we narrowed it down—celebrity or politician? Celebrity! French or American? French! Man or woman? Woman? Any suggestions now? Vanessa Paradis! Maybe my initial request was just too broad and no one wanted to look like they were dominating—helping students narrow down choices may be a good thing sometimes.

Short Vanessa Paradis bio and comparative columns

So we brainstormed a short bio of Vanessa Paradis, with blanks for the verbs that Ss filled in as a class. This gave the grammar a context. We then made columns of past simple and present perfect simple sentences to compare the two tenses.

Ss grouped together to try to find an explanation, which they shared with the class. Two groups had on-target explanations, using words that maybe I wouldn’t have used but that may have been more accessible to their peers. Someone from each group even went to the board to draw timelines and explain their ideas.

One group, however, came up with an explanation that I wasn’t sure what to make of: past simple=activities that everyone can do: She was born in 1972; she got married in 2003, etc. and present perfect simple=activities that are more rare or not for everyone: she has released one hit song since then; she’s had three kids (yes, most people have kids, but not THREE kids).

I have to admit that I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t want to discourage them too much, but clearly the explanation was askew. I thanked them for the effort and pointed out that the choice in tense really depended on the time and how much we knew about when/if the action finished.

And we noticed time had run away. Class was over. We hadn’t touched what I had planned the night before. That was fine by me. Next week, maybe we’ll go back through the tenses and I’ll invite the students to create some activities to reinforce what emerged in today’s lesson.

Lesson 1                                                                                                                           Lesson 3


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Lesson One: Thanks Oli and Luke!

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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