by Małgorzata Bryndal
The learners that will participate in my Dogme lesson are all members of one language community. Despite the fact that they live in the UK, they don’t exercise their opportunities to practice their English everyday. The language barrier and lack of confidence has been a cause of their problems with finding employment and successful assimilation into the British society. They have embarked on the English course I deliver as part of their involvement in tackling unemployment and learning skills for life programme. Therefore, the content of their English classes must be socio-culturally motivated and heavily functional, to help them develop communication skills they require to survive in everyday life in the UK.
Their learning needs agree particularly well with Dogme ELT principles of student-driven input, socio-cultural view of language, fostering learners’ autonomy and building confidence. The fact that Dogme invites student to co-create the content of the lesson, means that my students will be able to lead the lesson into the language area they need, making it more relevant to them, and more ‘at-hand’ for their everyday errands and chores.
In the genuine Dogme ELT lesson, it is the learners (or rather the emergent language they produce) that set lesson aims and objectives. Therefore, to make this experiment worthwhile, and stay true to Dogme principles as much as I possibly could, I will prepare for the lesson bearing in mind Dogme planning strategies(1) and humanistic principles outlined below.
I intend to continue with the theme of Home hoping to focus more on vocabulary pertaining to household problems and relate that language area to the skills of speaking and, to a lesser extent, reading ( scanning for specific information) and listening (in the assumed context of making a phone call to a service provider and booking a service call (2)). Such focus of the session is motivated by the fact that these learners have quite a limited vocabulary range and would like to increase their word power (in terms of quantity and quality, i.e. pronunciation). Their poor vocabulary range affects their speaking skills and causes communication problems in real life. And so, by engaging my students in a range of activities that will foster a lot of language production in a friendly environment, I am hoping to help them improve their communication skills. The content of the lesson, although driven by the students, will be moderated by me to some extent. I will try to keep my profile low, but will exercise my authority to manage the flow of the emerging language and will pick on language areas that will seem most relevant to the topic, most problematic from the linguistic point of view (based on students’ actual performance), or most useful from the functional point of view.
Whatever language work will be done during class, it will be based on what emerges from the students as the outcome of the following three planning strategies:
- topics – language is always about something. Students will be engaged in a topic of household problems to which they all can relate and have experience of. The interest in this topic will be raised utilising one of Dogme ELT techniques, i.e. a teacher anecdote at the beginning of the lesson.
- texts – real language always takes the form of texts. The students will exploit the features of spoken dialogue in the activities including class survey, class discussion, reaching a consensus, and role plays. They might also explore other forms of text, should the emerging language lead to these.
- tasks – the successful management of learning involves providing a sense of purpose in classroom activities. The tasks students will be involved in are either life-like (role play) or real-life (searching for information, discussions and surveys). The tasks will be set, monitored and checked by the teacher to ensure their efficient and successful accomplishment, and to capture any other emerging language.
Dogme ELT’s humanistic principles combined with learner-centred techniques must lead to creating a classroom in which:
- a focus is placed on learner’s interest, experiences, beliefs and desires. This will be achieved in my lesson by letting the students contribute and lead classroom discussions, and validating their opinions and utilising the language they will provide (or request);
- language is an emergent phenomenon; coming from the inside of the learner, rather than external to the user . In my lesson, as much input, output and feedback as possible will be student-driven. I will facilitate the discussion or task achievement by scaffolding it with required language only if all other options (e.g. peer assistance, dictionary, prompting techniques) have been exhausted;
- a positive affective learning environment is created that enhances learners’ confidence, self-esteem and motivation. This will be achieved through activities set in the environment they feel secure in, interacting with people they are familiar with, with a lot of encouragement from the teacher, and due time given to praise good language production. I will lower my profile in the classroom and let the students take the ownership of learning by bringing in suggestions, contributing language and activity ideas. Error correction will be done with the whole class, rather than individually, in a form of a student-centred summarising activity at the end of the lesson;
- cooperative and interactive learning takes place . The activities in the lesson will foster cooperation (class discussions and surveys) and a lot of interaction (role plays, discussions);
- language is produced for genuine, meaningful communication or social interaction. The content of the lesson and the activities being student-driven will be particularly meaningful for the students, putting the emergent language in immediate use in a variety of contexts: searching for information, dealing with problems, discussing ideas with other students, making a phone call etc.;
- materials are not consumed, they are created. I do not intend to bring any photocopies into the classroom. If the there is a need for a specific type of material, it will be created by the student (e.g. a questionnaire) or the resources available in the library will be used. Anything ‘live’ and local is likely to be more relevant and memorable than published materials.
Bearing in mind that according to Dogme ELT principles teachers should post- plan rather than pre-plan their lessons, the following lesson plan, is in actual fact a retrospective look at what happened in the classroom during that lesson. The emergent language and what was subsequently done with it during class activities, constituted the basis for establishing the main and subsidiary aims for the lesson.
1. This could mean identifying clear lesson objectives (or re-formulating them) post-lesson, since if we truly allow the learners to take full ownership of their learning, it is difficult to predict where they will want to take the lesson that day, and what kind of emergent language we will have to deal with.
2. This however might change if the students wish to exercise other spoken text form.
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