Wandering free or Dogme for False Beginners Part Two.

Personalised question cards for language recycling

Personalised question cards for language recycling

Last time I blogged I mentioned a new student who knows exactly what she wants from her course. Full of ideas each week she makes a proposition and so far I’ve been happy to follow her lead. It’s been a bit of a dogme experiment for me, to see whether and how the dogme attitude fits with me and of course, more importantly, my learner.

So where has this taken us?

Lesson 2 – At a shopping centre.

We actually went to the shopping centre! In fact we met there (handy for covering and practising language for making arrangements). We met outside a clothes shop and there Jane Doe (name has obviously been changed, although I do have her permission to write about our course) said that she would like to spend half our lesson looking at things in shops and the other half trying to remember what we looked at and therefore reviewing the vocabulary. Good plan! So off we went.

Plus points:

  • Jane told me she is a visual learner. So learning vocab in an environment where she is surrounded with the actual items is great! It’s like reverse realia*, you take the learners to the things, not the things to the classroom.
  • Our talk is natural, we point things out, express what we think about the clothes and use adjectives to describe them. I like this a lot. It’s not like the constructed reality in the classroom where teachers tend to be the commanders and learners the foot soldiers who must carry out orders: ‘Now match the words to the pictures of clothes’ When would we ever say anything like that to anyone in real life?!

*I just made that up!

Minus points:

  • I think we spent a bit too long in the shops! Oh and I bought something (oh dear!).
  • A lot of talking and not much taking notes. I had a small notebook with me, but found it a challenge to write and walk and look at clothes and teach all at the same time! Gave up pretty quickly. Maybe I need a clipboard?
  • We sat on a bench and tried to do a round up, but many things that we had covered while walking about didn’t make it into Jane’s notebook.

Lesson 3 – At an art gallery.

At the end of the lesson 2, Jane explained that there was an exhibition that she would like to see. Art is one of her passions and she said that she would like to be able to talk about it in English. So, we made arrangements to meet at the gallery in the centre of Hamburg for our next lesson.

When there, she took the opportunity to buy her ticket in English (I suggested she try knowing from experience that the cashier was bilingual). This time, I was much more diligent about making notes as we walked around and conversed. Lots of scaffolding was required, as was providing and noting emerging language. It was a real pleasure though as the exhibition was clearly something Jane cared about and she was very motivated to express her thoughts. I sincerely enjoyed myself and believe she did too.

We spent about an hour in the exhibition and then went off for tea and cake. I’m not sure if I’d count that bit as part of the ‘lesson’ but we did continue to use English and made small talk.

Plus points:

  • Similar to last week in that we had a environment which gradually teased out language in a natural way. Lovely example of intrinsic motivation, the pleasure of doing a task for its own sake (Thornbury 2006:137).
  • I took a lot of notes this time (didn’t get a clip board yet…still not sure about that!). In a gallery you tend to stand in one place for a while so I found it easier to write.

Minus points:

  • No real opportunity to recycle language from last week in the shopping centre.
  • Could do with working on some structures like comparatives and superlatives, not really possible in this set up.

What’s next?

We are going to meet for a more ‘desk bound’ lesson next time, my suggestion. I feel that there is some consolidation to be done. We have covered a lot on our wanderings and there are things that definitely need revisiting.

What’s the plan? I have made up some personalized question cards, based on my notes from the last 2 lessons (you can see them in the picture above!). I hope that she will find it fun going through the cards… Then for the rest of the lesson I believe I will continue as I have started: I will follow Jane’s lead.

Have you ever had lessons like these? Do you have any tips or suggestions?


Thornbury, S. An A-Z of ELT 2006 Macmillan

This entry was posted in Case Studies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Wandering free or Dogme for False Beginners Part Two.

  1. Kathy Fagan says:

    I want a student like yours!

    I also find myself struggling to keep good notes, especially when I’m listening actively (don’t like to take my attention away from the student for more than a word or two now and then). I was considering recording some sessions. maybe make different recordings for different activities so it will be easier to find what you or the student want to refer to? It could also be fun to go back after some time and listen to old recordings … Notice improvement!

    Please keep sharing, I enjoy your posts, Kathy

  2. languagelego says:

    Hello Kathy!
    I’m glad you find these posts interesting, as a new ELT blogger I was afraid I’d just ramble on to myself… 🙂
    Making recordings is a very good idea, how does one do that nowadays?! I’ll see if my phone has that functionality…

  3. eslkathy says:

    Yes, some phones do (mine doesn’t 😦 ). I have a little digital recorder that I have NOT been taking advantage of. More comments to come on my blog — thanks for the inspiration! -K

  4. Pingback: Personalised Question Cards or Dogme for False Beginners Part Three | languagelego

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s