And then my students said…

Many of you read my previous posts about my Advanced Dogme classes:

MLearning, Mini-Whiteboards, and Emergent Stuff

Only in a Dogme Class

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

I Left my Head and Heart on the Dance Floor

Wham! Vroom! And things that jet setters do…

On the last day of their course, we got talking about the differences between English classes in their country and the Dogme classes they had experienced in London. These were some of the things the students said.

‘In the lessons in my country, all the topics are from the book. This can be very boring.’

‘You can’t sleep in these classes. It is more dynamic!’

‘Learning and practising language are often separate in the book and in lessons in our country. Here, we learn new language and practise it all at the same time.’

‘In my country, it is often just about completing the exercises in the book. You can do that at home.’

‘Sometimes the teachers stick to the book and the topics are boring. And the same topic goes on and on for too long.’

 

‘We are advanced students. It’s good to have topics flow from one to another, like in real life conversations.’

‘It is really motivating for us to have videos like Lady Gaga. We would never do that in our country!’

‘Your class is really tiring! We have to speak a lot more than we do in other classes! And the topics keep changing so we have to pay attention!’

More about their coursebooks, here is what they said,

‘Some of the speaking tasks in the coursebooks are awkward, and we don’t know what to say about them.’

‘Many of the speaking tasks are split into different parts. (Students are referring to the different pre-task preparation activities e.g. prediction, listening, vocabulary/lexis pre-teaching, etc.) This is really constricting and annoying. It’s impossible to talk naturally.’

‘The teachers give us a very short period of time to do the task. It is difficult to talk about anything meaningful in that short period of time’

I proceeded to ask them if they knew the famous ‘If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would you invite and why’ task in their coursebooks ‘Cutting Edge’.

They said the teachers would usually give them 5 minutes for such a task. One student said,

‘It takes time to think about these task, and to discuss them with our partners. To do the task in this short time period is impossible, and the teachers don’t exploit the tasks fully.’

It certainly sounds like despite the attempt to include some TBL (Task Based Learning) into language learning, ultimately, teachers seem to give more importance to the preparation activities and the lexico-grammar exercises that come with the tasks. Language learning is clearly still seen as linear, and the true essence of TBLT (Task Based Language Teaching) not fully understood.

Of the topics and nature of these tasks some students said,

‘And these tasks are annoying. The topics are unreal and there is no relevance to real life.’

During this discussion, we started to talk about the way they believed language were learnt, and this resulted in a task whereby they had to come up with the top 10 tips they would give to others who have just started learning English. Here’s what they produced on their mini-white boards.

Silvana and Jacqueline
Sophie and Franshesca
Alejandro, Marco and Johnny
Silvana and Jacqueline
Marco and the best advice yet! (Did Johnny write that?)

Thank you, guys! It’s been a great month! I will miss you dearly!

Best of luck for the future!

xoxoxoxoxo

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Author: chiasuanchong

I am a freelance communications trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. With 13 years of experience training students from all over the world to communicate better in English (and in particular, Business English), I am also a professional blogger, materials writer and intercultural trainer.

18 thoughts on “And then my students said…”

  1. It’s wonderful that you had such wonderful lessons with your students in your advanced class but I’m still not convinced about lessons being better without a coursebook. I would like to challenge you to maybe team teach with me and we can see what the feedback is like after a month where I’ve used a coursebook and you haven’t. What do you think?:)

    1. Thanks Varinder, for your comment! I would certainly love to try that out with you! Only thing is, from a scientific and academic point of view, the research wouldn’t be quite rigorous enough considering the other factors that could affect the result e.g. the personality of the two teachers. But even for the valuable feedback, it might just be worth having a go at it!

      1. Yes, I know there are many variables involved and the feedback that we get may not be entirely reliable. I think we’ve probably discussed this before but it would be good to have a go – even fun! Let me know when you’re ready.

  2. Hey Chia,

    Those are awesome comments! I’ve never tried Dogme but I’m familiar with the concept. Do you think it would work over the net, i.e. in a synchronous webinar-software like Adobe Connect or BigBlueButton where everyone can write on a shared whiteboard and talk via VOIP? I’m currently helping design a 3-month course that will be delivered in a blended mode, with asynchronous e-learning activities, in-class lessons using a course book and synchronous webinar lessons. We’re designing everything but the course book and it’s ccrrraaazzzy busy!!

    Cheers,

    Guido

    1. Hi Guido,
      That sounds really exciting! Dogme lessons delivered online using synchronous e-learning platforms!
      I definitely think it would work, but it could mean a much more stressful time for the trainers to improvise not just what is happening synchronously but also creating the asynchronous e-learning activities on the spot and changing what happens in the in-class lessons to adapt to the issues that arise through synchronous learning and vice versa.
      Do let me know if you need any help or any input. I’d be happy to explore this with you!

      Chia

  3. Hi Chia

    Love reading your blogs and this one is no exception. Great idea getting this valuable and inspiring feedback from the learners on the differences between their past experiences and your Dogme approach. It appears you really do manage to connect and bond with your learners..I thought that was my speciality but I think you have set anew standard…what’s your secret? 😉

    Till the next time

    Karl

    1. Thanks Karl,
      You are always so wonderfully supportive! Thanks for your lovely comments!
      So what are YOUR secrets to bonding with your learners?
      Fancy posting a ‘Top 10 tricks to bonding with learners’?
      Hee hee…

      1. Cracking idea about thee top 10 tricks. Being honest I have always managed to connect and build a great rapport with my learners. (Even eventually with the stubborn arrogant pig headed leaners who think they know best!), but when I think about it I don’t really know why or how I do it. To be honest I have never really reflected and thought about it. So BIG thank you for making me aware of this :-). Top 10 tricks is on my things to do list! Happy Sunday.

        Karl

  4. Hi Chia

    I think the best tip you could give a new student is: Motivation, not only to learn to English but to achieve anything in life, to find something that keeps you going…

    About your dogme classes, I already suggested that my Peruvian language school should put this into practice. That’s unlikely, though, since the use of coursebooks are intended to Basic and Intermediate classes where students still need grammar and can’t communicate fluently yet.

    Anyway, I miss your classes Chia, hope to see you again someday!

    P.D: I’ve subscribed to your blog via RSS, so I’ll be reading your blog as soon as you post 🙂

    Richard

    1. Thanks for your comment, Richard!
      I think it’s a common misperception that Dogme classes don’t include Grammar.
      The reason why there was very little grammar in your Dogme classes was mainly because all the students of your class knew and could use grammar very well and so there was no need to deal with any grammar issues.
      But trust me, when I do Dogme with lower level classes, grammar often comes up, like the way lexis did in yours.
      Of course, this means that the teacher needs to be fully informed about English grammar and the best way to deal with it with the specific students she is dealing with at that specific moment in time. Not an easy thing to improvise on the spot, so it is crucial that the teacher is knowledgeable, creative and sensitive to her students’ needs.

      I think the issue isn’t necessarily to ditch course books and go pure Dogme all together.
      It’s about making use of the course book effectively so that it best enables second language acquisition, and not just simply treat grammar or lexis in a linear ‘mcnuggets’ sort of way. Language learning is a complex process and the more teachers know about it, the more they can help students with it.

      And as you so rightly said, Richard, it’s all about motivation. If the teacher can motivate the students, that’s half the battle won!

      Looking forward to your future comments, Richard!

      1. Just a quick comments on the motivation topic. I am certainly not devaluing or dismissing the importance of teacher – learner motivation, but I in my humble opinion this kind of motivation is a lot less than ‘half the battle won’. The real energy, determination and lust comes from inside (the learner). This is the real motivation you need to tap in to. Sometimes the learner is clear as a bell and their motives are crystal clear to them. Other learn’s motivations are a little more hidden to them and the teacher, this is when a little gentle coaxing comes in useful. I find some awareness building discussions and questionnaires work well. However, if a learner does not have this fire buring inside their belly, you can try to motivate them as much as you want but it will be like flogging a dead horse.

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