The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 1

I love the place I work for!

I went to work today and found out that the DOS team had not allocated the class I’m meant to teach because they wanted to ensure that I get the perfect number of students in the classroom (it would be difficult trying to do this teach-off with only 2 students).  So, we waited for the new intake to be processed, interviewed and put into levels, before I was told the best class to take. I cannot express enough about how grateful I am for the support this little challenge is getting from everyone!

For a recap of the premise of this challenge, click this!

These are the things that I found out today:

  1. The level is Mid-Intermediate A. The class:  daily Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 12noon. I will be going Dogme with this group for 2 weeks.
  2. The coursebook I am up against is one of the best coursebooks in the market – Lindsay Clanfield’s Global (Macmillan)…yes, it’s time to panic!
  3. There are 5 students in the class at the moment but the DOS team is adding a few more in tomorrow so that I get an optimum size (which I believe is about 8 -10).
  4. Here is some brief information about the students:

Student A

Japanese female, IT Systems Engineer, in London because her husband has been transferred here. Needs English for day-to-day survival.

Student B

Iranian female, potential undergraduate in Management and Marketing. Wants to study at an English university.

Student C

Japanese male, film graduate, in London because he loves the art scene in Europe and dreams of travelling around the world after 6 months of English studies.

Student D

Korean male, ex-salesperson who has quit his job to come to London and wants to do a Masters in Business Management.

Student E

Brazilian male, marketing manager who needs English for his work.

The lesson started off with some self-introductions, as I probed the students for the above information. The following questions are things I always ask my students on the first day…

Where are you from?’

‘What do you do?’

‘How long have you been here?’

‘Why did you decide to come to London to study English?’

‘Why do you need English?

As they answer them, I ask more questions to expand on their answers…partly for my needs analysis, and partly because I am just curious…

After talking to different students and dealing with lots of emergent lexis about what they do in London, Student A said she had been here for a month, but it was her first day at IH London. Naturally, I followed up by asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last month?’ but her answer clearly showed her lack of understanding of the question. So I quickly clarified and asked her if I was asking about the past month or the coming month. We, as a class, established that I was talking about the past month, and Student A answered, ‘Shopping, staying at home and talking on Skype to my family and friends in Japan.’

Sneakily, at this point, I asked the class, ‘What was the question I asked her? Do you remember? Tell your partner.’

Although I had just asked the question a couple of time just moments ago, the students struggled to formulate the question, which clearly showed that they hadn’t got to the stage of noticing the grammatical form of the present perfect continuous yet. I drew the timeline for the present perfect continuous on the board and Student B said, ‘What did you do last month?’ while Student D said, ‘It’s continuing until now, so it should be ‘What were you doing last month?

This was the information I needed to know where they were at with their knowledge and usage of grammar and allowed me to plan the scaffolding on the spot as appropriately as possible.

So, I wrote ‘What did you do last month?’ and asked the concept questions:

Is this talking about the past, present, or future?’  (past)

‘What is the first verb in the sentence?’ (did)

So where in my mind am I? Am I imagining myself in the past, present or future?’ (past)

Is this connected to the present?’ (no)

This was further clarified with a timeline.

I then set up a scenario: Student A sees me in class and asks me out to lunch. I say ‘I have eaten’.

What is the first verb in the sentence?’ (have)

So where in my mind am I? Am I imagining myself in the past, present or future?’ (present)

Is the second verb in the past, present or future?’ (past)

We establish that ‘I have eaten – so NOW I am not hungry’ suggests that the second past verb is connected to the present, and we label this ‘Past in the Present

I have eaten
Subject First verb in the present Past (from point of view of the first verb)

This was further clarified with a timeline and lots of jumping around the classroom.

I then set up the scenario: Student A decides then to ask me for dinner tomorrow. She says, ‘Let’s meet at 3pm!’ But at 3pm, I _______ ______ ____________.

Students agree that the first verb ought to be in the future and choose ‘will’. They then agree that the verb ‘work’ should be signaling the present (at 3pm tomorrow) and there should be ‘working’. With a bit of prompting, we decide that ‘I will working’ is not correct as the modal ‘will’ must be followed by an –ing form. A student cleverly suggests ‘will be working’.

We then labelled the above ‘Present in the Future’

I will be working
Subject First verb signalling the future Present (from point of view of the first verb)

I extended the scenario: I then say to Student A, ‘How about we meet at 5pm? I don’t know exactly what time I will finish but I know that I will finish before 5pm. I might finish at 4pm or 4.30pm. I don’t know. But I know that by 5pm, I _____ ______ _______________.

Students agree that the first verb is still in the future and quickly say ‘will’. They then discuss and agree that ‘finished’ should be in there somewhere because it is something that is the ‘past’ from the viewpoint of 5pm the next day. However, ‘will finished’ did not seem right. Eventually, a student suggests ‘will have finished’.


We labelled the above ‘Past in the Future’.

I will have finished
Subject First verb signalling the future Past (from the point of view of the first verb)

We go on like this, giving new labels to the tenses they already know, revising them while clarifying the underlying meanings of the different aspects and highlighting the importance of the first verb in indicating where the speaker’s mind/imagination is at.

Now, the students are ready for the present perfect continuous…

I take them back to the original context: Student A came to London on the 2nd of March. I want to know about her actions until now. The hint ‘until now’ suggests that my mind is in the present, past or future?

My students suggest that I should be standing in the ‘present’ part of the classroom but looking back at the ‘past’…but the ‘past’ would continue till the ‘present’.

We thus work out that ‘I have been shopping’ is the ‘Continuous from the past into the present’.


I have been shopping
Subject First verb in the present Past (from the point of view of the first verb) Continues to the first verb


At this point, Student A said she has been going shopping in the supermarkets. We started to look at the difference between ‘to go shopping’ and ‘to do the shopping’, highlighting that ‘doing the shopping’ involves groceries and is not often the most enjoyable activity for many of us. I mentioned that I prefer to do my shopping online as it reduces the hassle of carrying all the heavy bags home, seeing that I don’t drive.

This led the conversation to online shopping, and a student mentioned how she didn’t like to shop for clothes online because she couldn’t try them on. I then said that I liked shopping for my tops online in shops that I am familiar with, but hesitated to do so with trousers because they might need alterations. If the trousers were too long, I would need to have them __________.

We looked at making verbs from adjectives e.g. short – shorten, fat – fatten, wide – widen; verbs from nouns e.g. length – lengthen, strength – strengthen; and adjectives describing functions using those verbs e.g. whitening toothpaste, fattening foods, bone-strengthening milk (always with contexts and example scenarios, of course). We then talked about the difference between fattening foods and fatty meats, and the conversation led to the types of healthy or unhealthy foods they ate.

I didn’t explain to them the nature of this teach-off/experiment, for fear of skewing their opinions and feedback…but as it was important to do what I always do in my normal classes, I spent the remaining 6 minutes explaining to the students my method of teaching (Dogme) and how I don’t use coursebooks, and they agreed to it (I didn’t force them, I swear!). I also highlighted that we would be covering lots of grammar and lexis (I pointed to the board at the point) despite not using the coursebook, and that it was essential they brought a notebook with them everyday so as to make notes of what they cover in class as they would be tested on them the next day.

I walked out of the class smiling and feeling really optimistic about the teach-off.

I love the place I work for!

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