Personalised Question Cards or Dogme for False Beginners Part Three

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!).

Plus points:

  • 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!

Minus points:

  • 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.

What’s next?

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.

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5 Responses to Personalised Question Cards or Dogme for False Beginners Part Three

  1. karen says:

    Why thank you my dear Roya … I am glad that you found it useful. I like your idea too and I completetly agree with personalisation. It is the way to go with 1to1s. Also re your minus point – I think if you had launched into an explanation of much/many, it might have taken away some of the enjoyment, you were right to note it down for the future. I have to say I still use the monitor sheet whenever possible, students appreciate it but I must admit feeling rather frustrated at times. So now I ask them to choose some of the words from the sheet (vocabulary part) and make sentences with them. Some do and some don’t …. you know how it is. Great work on the blog by the way!

  2. Hey there Karen!

    I think you are right about leaving the grammar point until later…

    Thanks for visiting 🙂

  3. karen says:

    Just another idea with cards, this is really for bigger classes. I used this to review vocabulary seen in lessons (this can be definitions/synonyms/antonyms/phrasal verbs etc).
    Choose coloured card (green) for the word and another colour for the definition (yellow).
    Divide the class in half and give each team a colour (green team and yellow team), ask the teams to find their other half (word = meaning or antonym hot # cold)
    When they have found each other, check the answer is correct, give them a marker to write a sentence on the board.
    When all the sentences are on the board, ask students to read them and correct if necessary.

  4. I would recommend purchasing “Learning One-to-One” by Wisniewska (which I reviewed last year … or was it the year before that? I can’t remember). Anyhow, it is a wonderful book and it gives offers wonderful ideas and teaching plans for the one-to-one lesson. A link to my book review:

    Anyhow, it is great to see personalisation for language learning. I have not taken any language courses myself and have tried to self-learn Korean (and a bit of Romanian now). It is a long process but should I be taking a one-to-one lesson, I would like to have it personalised for myself, focus on conversation and develop vocabulary (rather than grammar structures).

    With regards to your minus points, the use of much/many might be a fossilised error and rather than explicitly teaching this grammar point, perhaps get the student to purchase “Grammar in Use” and get them to review grammar as homework. Make a note of the errors (as you have done so) and example utterances and then at the end of the month, type it up and get the learner to self-correct themselves or review as homework. Don’t feel you have to focus on a grammar point each lesson, perhaps work on developing authentic interaction and scaffold language that the learner might require. At the end of each month, recycle language that has emerged. I would recommend “Teaching Unplugged” if you don’t have it as well as “Uncovering Grammar”

    Finally, I think it is good practice to meet at a regular place to offer continuity for the learner. Why not visit various places once a month (as a treat for you both)? You could in the meantime, just meet at a coffee shop or elsewhere. I look forward to any updates soon.

    • languagelego says:

      Thanks so much for an insightful response. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. I particularly like the point you made about developing authentic interaction. Very important. I just got hold of a copy of Teaching Unplugged, so we’ll see how that impacts on my teaching.

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