I thought today that I should finally post again and so, rather than a long report on a training session, I’ve opted for a shorter description of something equally as successful and important: an unplugged lesson.
Out there in the interwebz, there’s a lot written about Dogme, but it often tends to be in the form of for and against posts, or theoretical debates. There’s not so much about concrete examples of classes that I know of (though English Raven is good here – he even has a couple of videos; The Dogme Diaries is worth a look for some examples of classes; and Dale Coulter has a section of Unplugged ideas). This makes sense to a certain extent: you can’t exactly write boxes of lesson plans for Dogme classes. The closest we’ve got is Teaching Unplugged, which does an excellent and much-needed job of filling a gap. Anyway, I’ll try and post reports of my classes which take this form more often to try share some ideas.
So just what happened there?
The group has 6 adults (L1 – Spanish) registered, but only 3 showed up (and one of them 25mins late). The class has just started an upper int book and so is at the beginning of B2. We started, as you might expect really, with conversation and I fed in lexis as and when it was needed. The beauty of this, for me, is the diversity of this lexis in a flowing, natural conversation. Here’s some examples
“An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”
Apatheist (n) (rare)
“Come to life”
Perfect (v), Perfect (adj), Perfection (n)
Identify with sb/sth/a cause
A pretty eclectic mix of lexis then. Why? It followed the conversation and what the learners wanted to express, hopefully making it all the more memorable.
It’s all work work work
As the conversation turned towards jobs and how busy everyone is, I started to notice a lack of lexical range in terms of describing the responsibilities of the their respective jobs. There were repeated utterances of chunks such as *”I the responsible of…x” or *”I’m in charge for…x”. Thinking along these lines, I then decided to focus on helping the learners expand this area.
I wrote my job on the board and asked them to guess my top 5 responsibilities. They were remarkably good at this, I have to say. I think my job – Teacher Training Coordinator – must be pretty transparent. The only one they didn’t guess was… teach English! What that says about what happens in that room is for you to decide…
After this, I asked them to write a list of their own top 5 work-related responsibilities. They then said their job and the others guessed. This was quite good fun and they got quite into it, continuing the conversation. This was repeated until we’d guessed them all or been told them if we couldn’t guess and the discussion moved on to who’s job seemed most difficult or which responsibilities were shared by everyone, etc.
Returning to the board, I wrote “I’m in charge for logistics” (a sentence I’d noted down earlier) and asked if we could improve it. Lots of prepositional guesses later and we got the correct form up – “I’m in charge of logistics”. I then asked if there were any other ways we could express this and they were able to tell me “I the responsible of logistics”, which we adapted to “I’m responsible for logistics/organising logistics”, highlighting the option of a N or a Ving after “for”.
I then fed in some other ways of expressing more or less the same meaning. These were (not written exactly like this on the board)
- I manage/coordinate/run/organise logistics (+ N)
- It’s me who/I’m the one who organises ( + 3rd person verb form)
- It’s my job/responsibility to organise logistics (+inf.)
- I have to organise logistics (+inf.)
This gave us a nice lexical set of around 10 chunks of language, which we examined for pronunciation issues too (stressed words mainly). The learners copied these down and then I asked them to write 5 sentences about their jobs, using their list of responsibilities and the new language. I asked them to focus on language that was new to them, or interesting in some way, or that they wanted to learn. They each produced 5 sentences which we shared as a class and I had only 1 correction to make, which we did together at the board.
Having done all of the above, I then moved the topic on to responsibilities at home, telling them that I don’t have very many (I do live with a chef, after all…). This had them outraged as they evidently have more. I asked them to write a top 5 list but not to say what they were. I handed out strips of paper and they had to write one sentence on each, using the new language and the domestic responsibilities they had. Once they’d done one, they handed the sentence to me for correction. I kept the strips of paper. Again, there was only one correction to be made, which surprised me.
After having collected all the slips of paper, I read them out at random (I’m the one who takes the trash out every week; it’s my responsibility to cook during the week, etc.) and we tried to guess who’d written it. This was a bit easy with only 3 learners, but fun nonetheless. We discussed each one as it came up and asked follow up questions.
Finally, I gave the sentences back and asked the learners to write them in their notebooks for future reference. This all took 90mins and we took a break. I recorded the new language to revise in a future class.
This was, in my assessment, an enjoyable and useful class for the learners. They participated fully, spoke at length and worked with some new lexical chunks expanding ways they already knew to express things they wanted to express. Sure, it wasn’t the most demanding language, but it’s applicable in more situations than described here and it was based on a topic which came up in the natural ebb and flow of conversation.
So, what do you think? Is this a good example of Unplugged Teaching? Would you have done it differently or at all? How could it be improved? Would you try it?
Did I say this would be shorter? Oops..