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For last night’s class, I decided to go for a more deep-end dogme approach.  While sometimes I have a listening or reading text or some sort of lesson skeleton or speaking task, I decided to see what would happen without my usual supports.  The only material I had brought with me were a few slips of paper which the class had created and been using last class to practice comparatives; these said things like Chinese food | Costa Rican food.

Just-the-word.com

As I was chatting with the early students, one of them asked about how to use the word bitter (it had come up the previous class and was in his notes).  I thought this was a good opportunity to show the students a useful website for finding collocations (thank you @jemjemgardner !).  The stage went something like this:

  • Elicit word/phrase the students are interested in (from previous class)
  • Students predict collocations
  • Put word/phrase into just-the-word.com (on my phone)
  • Write up most common collocations and check predictions (see pic)
  • Look at corpus examples provided for further clarification
  • Students make sentences/tell stories from personal experience using the new collocations

Having never used a corpus site, I was pleased with how it went and the students’ reactions.  In the future I would also try another practice activity where the teacher writes up/reads out examples from the corpus but leaves out the collocation and the students fill in the blanks (the things we think of immediately following class…).

Comparative review

Next we moved on to a quick practice that got cut short last class (see Chris’ Class 12 summary for details) involving comparative phrases like a great deal more, way more, slightly more, etc.  The students already knew the drill and got right into it, debating enthusiastically and using the new language well.

During the activity, they often stopped to ask me how to say various food related adjectives including greasy, familiar, and chopped.  As a result, the focus for the rest of the class was a combination of food lexis and comparatives.

Extending their foodie range

As they hadn’t been having issues coming up with actual food items, I decided it would be more useful to look at lexis for describing food and meals:

  • Write categories on the board and elicit examples form class: Food groups, Ways to cook, Courses, Types of food, Flavours, Adjectives
  • Students brainstorm other lexical items and write them on the board
  • Class clarification with existing items and teacher inputs some other useful items

  • Practice #1   Favourite meal recipe
  1. students tell class their favourite meals
  2. students write recipes for each others’ favourite meals
  3. students check back with their partner to see how well they did
  4. debating whose meal was the best (using comparatives from earlier)

  • Practice # 2    Inventive desserts
  1. elicit 8-10 random food items onto board
  2. groups create desserts using all the items and share with class

Nothing like a wine and chocolate covered ice-cream sundae, topped with crispy fried bacon and zucchini…

Wrap-up

Amazingly, the two hours had flown by and we just had enough time to do an error correction auction.  I had remembered to bring in my little mini whiteboards (just laminated bits of card), and the learners used them to write their answers and wagers and before all holding them up at the same time.

Once again I knew that I hadn’t drilled as much as I probably should have, so we quickly went over the pronunciation of some of the lesson’s new lexis.

Musings

The more I do these completely unplanned dogme lessons, the more confidence I gain that I won’t be stranded mid-class with no idea of what to do.  It does seem though that for certain language points or for more in-depth receptive skills work, that a greater degree of planning would be useful.

However, I see no reason why some pre-planning, leading to “dogme-light” lessons can’t follow the same basic principles, which in the end is really the idea right?  As this project nears its conclusion, I can see my own thoughts on the topic gelling and I can imagine that I’ll probably end up with a stance straddling both deep-end dogme and dogme-principled teaching (“a meshing of Dogme and Guided Discovery” as Neil McMahon put it).  Reading back that last paragraph, I’m not entirely sure of its coherence, but maybe that’s an accurate reflection of my current thoughts…

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