I’m the Responsible of this

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.

Reflection

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..

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12 thoughts on “I’m the Responsible of this

    1. Chris Ożóg

      Hi Chiew.

      Thanks for your comment and the reminder of the Dogme Diaries, which I’ve even read and completely forgot about! Sometimes I wonder about myself… I’ll amend the post to include it. I didn’t know the Sharon Hartle one, so will investigate. Thanks for the heads up.

  1. Hi Chris,

    If I were one of those learners I’d feel very satisfied with that lesson. Those are indeed very useful chunks. Above all the “I am the one who” (+third person) and “it’s me that” (+third person) chunks, which play an important part in spoken discourse and I’ve never (although never say absolutely never) seen them in EFL material. Great stuff.

    Where I think teachers benefit from reading accounts like this is the substance of the lesson. It’s easy to be misled into thinking that a Dogme lesson consists of hours and hours of talking that magically come together at the end for language input. Little extension activities like making a top five list, ranking and guessing the content of other people’s lists help things move along.

    Really enjoy the blog and thanks for the mention

    Dale

    1. Chris Ożóg

      Morning Dale,
      Cheers for the comment. You’re right about the extension activities. This is where scaffolding the conversation comes in and it really helps with working on the language you want to. When I first started with Unplugging, I had the problem of just expecting some magic to happen, which is a misunderstanding of how things work. I now have a bank of tasks, shall we say, which I can use as and when the situation demands it. I’m always looking to develop further though and like to experiment (oh, look, “like + inf”. – not an “-ing” in sight – whatever will ALL elementary coursebooks do?) with new techniques, ideas and activities. I look forward to reading about someone else’s class and stealing theirs…

      Chris

  2. Hi Chris,
    Interesting post, I really enjoy reading about your dogme experiences. Sounds like the lesson was a success all round.
    Though I understand that teaching unplugged is all about letting the students take the lesson in the direction which most interests them, I’m just wondering how much planning you did beforehand. Did you expect to talk about responsibilities and did you have those activities in the back of your mind or were they a reaction to what came up?
    Looking forward to your next instalment!

    1. Chris Ożóg

      Hi Becky,

      Thanks for your comment. In answer to your question, no I didn’t plan for it at all; it was simply the direction that the lesson took from the initial conversation. This makes some teachers really nervous, I think, especially if they feel they don’t have activities at hand to just throw out there to meet the needs of the developing situation. The thing to do in this case is to have a think about what might happen – what conversation topic is likely to generate what language – and have some activities that you could potentially use ready. For example, I don’t ever go into class without strips of paper, as these can be used for a multitude of things.

      And are you still a Muscovite?

      Chris

  3. Debbie

    I enjoyed reading this and could really relate to it as it is exactly what I like to do in classes as it is meaningful and useful language. I am going to be more confident in how I do it and will use some of your tips like writing on strips of paper and guessing the writers. Lovely!

    1. Chris Ożóg

      Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad the strips of paper idea seems useful to you. I, for one, am rarely in a class without strips of paper. Who could ever have known they could be so useful…

  4. Very nice. I usually have blank cards for vocab but it looks like I’ll be brining along strips from now on too!

    I wouldn’t change anything but was thinking about what else you could do if you had wanted to extend it. Maybe a role play for a job interview where the class comes up with an imaginary job and the two ‘applicants’ have to fight for it by outdoing each other regarding their past job experiences and responisibilties?

  5. I think this is a good example of unplugged teaching. I especially like where you come upon an area the students don’t lot of range in – describing job responsibilities – and expand on it. It’s useful to the learners, highly contextual, at their level, and interesting.

    I wrote up a number of dogme lessons quite a while back. Here they are:

    http://turklishtefl.com/2010/10/22/dogme-in-the-mind-of-a-teacher-memory-techniques/
    http://turklishtefl.com/2010/05/26/dogme-in-the-mind-of-a-teacher-banking/

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