Do you remember the first time?

Recently, I saw a tweet from Alexander Guzik on twitter, announcing to the world that she had done her very first Dogme lesson,

Alexandra Guzik ‏ @AlexandraGuzik

Took my first steps in Dogme world (first attempts to do it at the lesson)!!! Love it!!! #dogme#eltchat

I retweeted and then asked if she would like to contribute to my blog and share her experiences. And here it is. My very first guest blog, and hopefully the first of many. Thank you Alex and I hope the question at the bottom of you post gets answered.

She asked if it was Dogme or my first fifteen-minute Dogme-like experience.

For the last eight months I have seen Dogme as something mysteriously wonderful. Twitter buzzing with discussions of teaching unplugged, all the amazing blog posts and natural curiosity made me eager if not to dive in with the method, but to try how it might have worked with my students. Actually I dream to get my head round it, hence I am a proud owner of the book ‘Teaching Unplugged’, which, to my shame, I have never happen to read attentively enough to acquire the knowledge and embark on a new way of teaching.  I am also terrified to do Dogme as first of all I am not a native speaker and secondly it is my first year of teaching after CELTA.  However, gradually I am coming to the moment of being ripe for a full-length unplugged lesson. My first step was done – fifteen minutes conversation driven.

That had to be a typical planned lesson with my intermediate students. But only three of eight turned up. The absent five were ill, away on holiday or were kept longer at school (I work in private sector). So I ran out of my plan much earlier. That was the moment of no hesitation. I had no backup, but a great wish to do (try to do) Dogme.

We had a silent conversation about weekends past and coming, in which a few mistakes were made.

I opted for the silent work for a couple of reasons: one of the students is a timid girl and she feels more confident when writing, and it is much easier to obtain a good example of students’ errors when having a script. And in case Dogme didn’t work, I could use the conversation the next lesson.

In five minutes, the conversation was over and I picked out a mistake – Indirect speech (I believe grammar might work much better than vocabulary for non-native teachers when Dogme)!

I copied the sentence ‘Our teachers said if we want money we should work at weekends.’ We remembered the rules of reported speech and corrected the sentence. I wrote ‘My mum said “I made sandwiches for dinner.”’ Students converted the sentence in reported speech. Then I asked them to remember who told them what before the lesson. Then they swapped their sentences and transformed them into indirect speech. There it came to the word order when transforming questions. We practiced more in reporting questions, picking real questions they have been asked recently. We had a short discussion mostly about school. The students are having exams in May and the only thing that occupies their minds is school, teachers and tests. That was the end of the lesson.

As homework I asked them to write a report of a lesson where reported speech was unavoidable to be used. In a while I would like to make a video where the students as pretend journalists would report on their interview with somebody (not sure who, time will show)

Right after the lesson I asked myself if it was Dogme. So, is it?



4 thoughts on “Do you remember the first time?

  1. Alex, rather than worry about whether it was dogme or not – I’d commented before on one of Adam’s post that what’s more important is for something you did to work with your students and not become obsessed with labels – I’d ask myself two questions. 1) Did the students react positively to the experience? 2) What can I do to make the ‘shy’ student speak?

    Sometimes I’ve noticed that supposedly shy students are not that shy in a different class or when they are with friends, etc. We need to get closer to these people. Find out their interests, their passion; their weakness, their strengths. Would she be more confident talking in pairs, for example? Is she afraid that people may laugh at her accent or her mistakes?

    I believe that if you could make her feel comfortable, she’d start to speak up. Good luck!

    • Thank you for the comment, Chiew!
      The first question you advise is of paramount importance indeed. In fact, the question I always ask myself when planning and after the lesson ‘Did the students learn something new today, while enjoying the lesson, of course?’ If the answer is ‘Yes’ I’m generally satisfied with the lesson. The following question is ‘What should I do to encourage and help them use the new language actively’ That’s the question I sometimes struggle to answer. That’s why I am keen on Dogme as very often it provides students with the language they are likely to use at least at the lesson when telling their news (telling news is our tradition). Real life context is not so real at the place where I live. English is not commonly spoken here.
      Why I ask myself, whether or not it was Dogme, is just because sometimes I can’t define what Dogme is.

      The shy girl. I usually have a good rapport with my students. This girl is not an exception she likes sharing her news and ideas, but only when she is asked and in a few words rather than developing conversations. She never volunteers any information aloud and she is hardly ever confident when speaking. That is why silent conversation seemed as a possible way of having her really talking not only answering. Though even there she only answered questions. The topic of the conversation struck the chord and she gave quite an emotional answer.

      Thank you, Chiew, for stopping and commenting. Your comment made me remember of the main purpose of a teacher in the classroom. However I do my best to keep the core values of our work in my head.


  2. Hi Alex,

    Firstly, sorry for taking so long to reply. Secondly, thank you for adding your thoughts to my blog and you are more than welcome to come back.

    I just wanted to say well done for taking that first step and trying something new in class. It takes a lot to go off plan and react on the spot to the students needs. It doesn’t just have to be Dogme, it could be any approach as long as it’s relevant and the students are learning from it.
    Chiew hits the nail on the head, when he says it doesn’t matter about the name, just as long as you providing for your students needs, which you clearly are.

    Looking forward to hearing about more of your exploits in the classroom and you are more than welcome to share them here, Dogme or not.

    • Thank you for your offer, Adam. I really appretiate it.
      I would seize the opportunity to share with more of my thoughts and reflections. The great teachers’ opininions are of great importance to me! I hope that I would be also able to be of any use to you and other teachers from Twitter and not only.

      Thank you again for letting me into your blog and taking one more step in ELT world, Adam!


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