Progress is slow when it comes to my Dogme for False Beginners course. I was away in the UK for a week and Jane Doe has had the flu. This week I haven’t even heard from her, sometimes gets like that with 1to1 classes doesn’t it?
However, I neglected to write up a summary of my notes on our latest class (which was three weeks ago!)
I took along some pre-prepared question cards that I had put together using the notes from our previous lessons. I felt that Jane needed a session in which she could revisit, recycle and pull together all the vocabulary etc. that we had covered so far during our course.
This time the lesson was held in her home. As it was the first time I had visited her place, the lesson started with a conversation based on her artwork which adorned the living room walls. This was rather good for going over some of the language that emerged during our visit to the art gallery in central Hamburg.
We then moved on to playing with the cards. The game is simple*:
-Pick a card.
-Answer the question/do the task on the card.
-Get it right, keep the card.
-Get it wrong, put it on the bottom of the pile (and do it again later!).
- Jane was very motivated to explain her environment to me. She was happy when she saw that I understood what she was trying to express. I had an opportunity to scaffold her language when she got stuck and to note some emerging language to work on later.
- The concept of chunking in English came up on one of the cards, which asked for the missing preposition in this sentence: “To begin _______ Picasso studied the classical masters”. We spoke about how important it is to learn chunks like this in one go (as often they do not make a lot of sense when you try to break them down, why on earth do we use ‘with’ here?!) This was a great success and she used the phrase a couple of times during the remainder of the lesson.
- Jane really appreciated the cards. She said they were a good idea. I think they are great as they exploit language that the learner has previously used. Personalisation is an excellent way to get learners to remember language points. As well as the repetition that the game employs. Repetition is the mother of retention, as they say!
- I still feel that the lesson lacks something, maybe a more substantial language point needs to be in there somewhere. She was trying to use much/many at one point during the lesson, but making mistakes, perhaps these are pre-systemic errors (because she hasn’t learnt the system yet and needs to be filled in). Should I have launched into that immediately? I noted it for a future session.
- Following on from the previous point, how does the dogme attitude work with deeper grammar points that the teacher might need some preparation time for?
- The trouble with not having a fixed time and place for our lesson means that other things (life!) tends to get in the way and we do not have a very regular pace.
I am going to email Jane and ask her when we can meet next. I will try to arrange a few lessons in advance so we do not have big gaps in the course. I will do some reading and think about how to get some meatier language into a lesson, especially one of the language points that have come up recently in class.
*I must credit this game to Karen Greany, a teacher in Geneva, Switzerland. It was how she used to follow up on the ‘monitor sheet’ which was what she called the form she used to make notes during each lesson. At the end of the lesson the monitor sheet was copied and discussed with the class. Everyone took their copy home and every few weeks Karen would prepare the question cards to play with.