All Because I Hoped I Didn’t Fall in Love with You

Before any of you think that this is an out-of-character blogpost that is going to tell all about my very exciting love life, I would like to first refer you to the two previous posts I had written about lessons with my wonderful Advanced class:

MLearning, Mini Whiteboards, and Emergent Stuff


Only in a Dogme Class

This is Part Three.

Taking on Phil Wade’s advice about using songs to motivate my class of young students, I told them to print out the lyrics of their favourite English song to share with the rest of the class.

To set an example, I then brought in my own – Tom Waits’s I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You. I did not anticipate that this would turn into three days of amazing conversations, language input, and critical thinking workshops.

To spark the conversation, I had brought in the lyrics of the above song cut up into pieces (supplied kindly by my colleague, Richard Chin). In the spirit of a bit of good ol’ bottom-up processing, students had to rearrange the sentences as they heard the song, gradually revealing the surprise ending.

We listened to the song again, this time paying attention to the storyline, using the questions ‘Where is he?’, ‘Who is he singing about?’, ‘What happens in the end?’

In open class feedback, we decided that the singer was in a pub and was trying pluck up the courage to chat a girl up. This led the conversation to things that we do in pubs and the difference in pub etiquette between their countries and the UK. Phrases like ‘Whose round is it anyway?’, ‘to sip, ‘to gulp’ and ‘to have no guts to-infinitive’ and ‘cheesy chatup lines’ went up on the board.

Franshesca, Gabriella, and Sophie's Group

I then got the students to close their eyes and visualize the main character as I played the song again. They were then given time to discuss with their partners and come to an agreement as to how they wanted the lead to look like. They were given poster paper to sketch out this man in the pub, and had to write a description of him and his history (how he ended up alone and lonely in that pub). Meanwhile, I was roaming around the class making myself available for any lexis that might arise or needed feeding in, e.g. stubble, bags under the eyes, creased checked shirt, dishevelled appearance, His career was going downhill, a derogatory term, She is freaked out (by him), etc., all went up on the board.


Richard, Johnny and Alessandra's Group

The posters went up on the walls of the classroom and the students walked around reading the descriptions pinned under the sketches and picking their favourite story.

Marco and Alejandro's Group

Then when the student sat back down, they were given the task to predict what would happen if he met the girl in the song again a couple of weeks later in the same pub. They then proceeded to write out the dialogue that they thought would take place between the two main characters of the song, and then performing it in front of the class. (Some of the stories were so funny, I could not stop laughing! One group decided that their main character would collapse on the spot and die of a broken heart…)

Evandro and Jacqueline's Group

If I had had more time, I would have got them to analyse each other’s dialogues and perhaps look at the appropriacy of what was said in the dialogues, and how they can reformulate the discourse so as to maintain face in the interaction. Students could have negotiated ways of saving face when asking a girl out and ways of rejecting someone politely. But my 3 hours were up and I reminded students to bring in lyrics of their favourite songs the next day.

(Part Four : To be continued tomorrow…)

Author: Chia Suan Chong

I am a writer, communication skills trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. I have been English Teaching Professional's resident blogger since 2012 and have a regular feature in their bimonthly magazine. My book Successful International Communication was published in Dec 2018.

14 thoughts on “All Because I Hoped I Didn’t Fall in Love with You”

  1. Johnny! Did you see your group’s poster up on the blogpost? You guys made me laugh so much that day…! It’s been so much fun teaching your class! You guys just have so much to contribute, YOU were the resources for those lessons!

    Hope you have enjoyed London and that you have a safe trip back to Peru!
    Keep in touch!

  2. I have really been enjoying this series of posts about your experiences with this group of students. I love the flexibility, the openness, the fun. Thank you for taking the time to write about them.

    I read the comment on the previous post suggesting that your success using a dogme approach with these learners is possible because it is an advanced group, because they are in England, and because you have access to the internet and was also interested to read your response that you have been told many times that you are only able to successfully use dogme because of the particular features of the contexts – these features being different each time.

    From these posts, it is obvious that you don’t wait for the context to be ideal but that you work to create the conditions necessary for a good language learning experience. It is obvious that you work to create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, that you’re working with the learners, that their contributions shape the conversation and the lessons – they’re not just performing to practise language – and that there are many opportunities to focus on and extend language knowledge, skills and understanding. It’s such a pleasure to read!

    I’m looking forward to part four 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words, Carol.
      You are absolutely right in saying that we should create the conditions necessary for language learning ourselves, and part of that is this ‘energetic antenna’ that I often talk about and cannot emphasise enough.

      The teacher is not only the mediator and facilitator of learning, but the mediator and facilitator of the relationships the students have with each other in the classroom. If the students do not have cross-classroom friendships and relationships with each other, and as a result do not care about each other, cross-classroom interactions would be extremely hard to foster. This will then result in a student-to-teacher pattern of interaction, especially in open-class lockstep stages. What we want is for students to be listening to each other, taking a personal interest in what each and every person in the classroom is saying, and responding by investing a bit of themselves in it. And the teacher is responsible for creating this atmosphere in the classroom. The teacher is the ‘energetic antenna’ of the classroom and conducts the energy, the atmosphere, and the dynamics of the class.

      It is therefore so important for proper getting-to-know-you activities on Day One of any course. I insisted that my students did activities like arranging themselves in alphabetical order of their names, of their countries, of the last movie they saw, throwing balls around the circle while shouting out their classmates’ names, etc, to first acquaint them to each other…then throughout the course, ensuring that I highlight interesting things about the students and making everyone take notice. (I suppose ‘How to be an Energetic Antenna’ deserves a whole post on its own, doesn’t it? hahaha)

      I truly believe that when people care about each other, conversation will flow. Authentic conversation that truly motivates a response.

      And when there’s conversation, there’s emergent language.

      1. I completely agree, Chia. The getting-to-know-you activities are so important.

        I was just thinking, the other day, as I was driving home, that to create the right learning environment, we not only have to build rapport with our learners, we also have to build community.

  3. At last, someone is showing how I teach. Thank god, it means I haven’t been doing it wrong. Years and years ago some schools ran courses like these for CPE+ some still do music/film studies but any class with the right stimulus and a couple of nice activities can really develop into something incredible.

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