Dogme Revisited

I know I promised myself I would revisit a talk from IATEFL every week, and it’s not that the inspiration from IATEFL has dwindled away, not at all;  it’s just that I didn’t realise how much time blogging took and how little time I’d actually dedicate to it.  Maybe monthly is more do-able than weekly.  Of course the math doesn’t add up as I got closer to 52 ideas than 12 from the conference, but I guess that will make me realize which ideas really have stood the test of time.One idea that has really been sticking with me and I keep revisiting in my lessons is Dogme.  I can’t believe I haven’t given it any proper attention until now.  I am not a converted dogmatist, not by any means, but I think it’s a term to describe where I was going in my teaching before I knew the word for it.

I have used Ken Lackman’s Conversation Activated Framework several times with my students and always with much success.  (See previous post.)

So I was interested to re-visit some of the other talks I went to on Dogme.

First, I looked at my notes from Luke Meddings and Burcu Akyol’s ‘Unplugged and Connected’ talk, but was a bit disappointed.  Maybe because my hopes were too high–this would be my ideal teaching scenario, integrating technology with unplugged teaching.  Everything Burcu expressed about teaching and technology I thought was spot on.  I like the idea of using technology to promote learner autonomy, interactivity and engagement.  I loved that she didn’t overwhelm us with tools, but gave us three useful ones:  Evernote, Scoop.It and Linoit.  I’ve been using for awhile, but I haven’t had time to try the other two out.  I like the idea that these tools could be a record of what we do in class rather than a coursebook because I think students do want to go aw from a course with something, even if it’s something they never look at again.

Then I looked at my notes from a talk that has been in the back of my mind because it really sums up the way that I feel about Dogme:  ‘Of course!  Using a coursebook AND engaging with emergent language’ by Rachael Roberts.  I don’t really get what the big debate is about and don’t see why it has to be all or nothing one way or the other.  Rachael brought up a good point by asking the quesiton:  who just uses a coursebook without teacher/student interaction?  I think a teacher who does that is going to be a ‘bad’ teacher, even if (and probably especially if) they follow an unplugged approach.

I absolutely loved the video she showed us, Q&A from Storycorps, and I think she’s got a point.  Materials add a richness to our lessons that student conversation alone cannot capture.  Materials can add variety and engagement, but more importantly expose students to motivating and relevant language in context.  Materials can scaffold learning and provide opportunities for noticing and practice.

Q & A from Storycorps

Rachael recommended three things to provide opportunities for emergent language:  make things engaging, encourage noticing and restructuring, and repeating and recycling.

In the question and answer session following the talk, Chia made a good point.   She said, ‘good teachers use the coursebook as a springboard for other things.’  I think the debate isn’t really about dogme versus coursebooks, but about us trying to arrive at what makes a good teacher.


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