The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 5

Here’s today’s boardwork in two pictures.

Can you guess what happened in class?

Board before the break
Board after the break

It was raining this morning as I went to school and it was miserable.

I commented on the weather as I entered the classroom, and the students agreed in unison, expressing their dislike for the wet weather. One student started voicing his worries about the weather for the rest of the week, saying that he was booked to do a Jack the Ripper walk in a couple of days. I took out my iPhone and checked my London Met Office app while eliciting the lexis ‘weather forecast’, and to his disappointment, it stated that there would be heavy rain showers every day till Saturday, with a tiny reprieve of a light rain shower on Thursday (shouldn’t we all be thankful for that!).

At this point, I asked students to move their chairs in the usual horseshoe, joking that I felt like they were judges on Xfactor judging me if they all sat in a straight line. A student asked what that was, and I said it was a singing competition on TV. Another student asked it that was like ‘The Voice’, a new TV show I know very little about, and I threw the question to the rest of the class. Another student asked if it was like ‘American Idol’. In the meantime, the Japanese students seemed rather clueless about all these TV programmes, and so I got the Brazilians to explain the concept of audience participation to their fellow classmates. While I fed in lexis such as ‘the one with the least votes’, ‘to get kicked out of the show’ and ‘the ratings are high’, the students told each other about the talent shows that also existed in their countries.

A Korean student then said that they get the British programmes XFactor and Britain’s Got Talent in Korea, and a lot of young people download the programmes because everyone talks about them and the newspapers talk about them too. I fed in the phrasal verb ‘to hype something up’, and highlighted that ‘hype’ could also be used as a noun. Here’s the example scenario I gave to clarify:

 

When the film Titanic first came out, everyone was talking about it and the media kept covering it.

There was a lot of hype about the film.

Some people watched the film and felt disappointed.

They felt that the film was less than what everyone had said.

They felt that the film did not live up to the hype.

 

I then asked students for other films that the media really hyped up and did not live up to the hype.

We ended up with ‘Inception’ and ‘Sex and the City’ (both part 1 and 2, I’m afraid).

I then elicited other object nouns they felt would collocate with the phrasal verb ‘live up to’, and they cleverly volunteered ‘expectation’.

I then prompted them further with this example:

I went to this language school because everyone said it was really good.

It had a good name.

But when I was there, I was disappointed.

I did not think the school was as good as its name.

I think the school did not live up to its r_______________.

After some more prompting, a student shouted out ‘reputation’, giving us a total of three object nouns that collocate with ‘live up to’.

I then asked students whether they were more likely to use ‘live up to’ with in a negative or positive sentence and we agreed that we are more likely to comment on something if it did not live up to our expectations.

Someone mentioned the 3D version of Titanic at this point, and I said that I had heard it was really good and worth watching. A student looked at me puzzled and said that he had heard quite the opposite about the 3D release, saying that there was not much 3D effect in it, except the moment when the ship crashed into the iceberg and the ice comes shattering into the audience. Another student grimaced at the mentioned of Titanic and didn’t seem impressed.

I was reminded at this point of a bar I was in recently that was commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic sinking by having their guests all turn up in 1920s outfits, and students seemed amused by that. I tried to elicit ‘fancy dress party’ and got ‘costume party’ instead.

Funnily enough, when I proceeded to write ‘fancy dress party’ on the board, a student asked, ‘But “fancy” also means expensive, right?’ The rest nodded.

Rather than brushing it aside by saying ‘There are many meanings of “fancy” but we are only dealing with one now,’ I decided to address the students’ confusion.

I first clarified that ‘fancy dress party’ was a fixed expression and cautioned students not to try and dissect the meaning of ‘fancy’ in the above phrase.

I said, ‘If I go to a fancy restaurant, what kind of restaurant is it?

The students said, ‘Expensive?’, ‘Elegant?’

I said, ‘Yes. What’s a word we use for “upper class”?

A student contributed ‘posh’.

I elicited, ‘What part of speech is “fancy” here?

Students volunteered, ‘Adjective’.

I drew a mindmap on the white board with ‘fancy’ in the middle circle.

I then asked, ‘Can “fancy” be a verb?’ and the students looked at me, puzzled.

What if I said to you, “Do you fancy a pizza?” What am I asking you?

(I figured it was a common enough question and since the students didn’t know it, it was time they did.)

After hazarding a few wrong guesses, I decided to put them out of their misery.

Equating it to ‘Would you like a pizza?’, the students then said, ‘Oh, it’s the same as “Do you want a pizza?”

Pushing this mid-int class further, I said, ‘It’s the same as “Do you feel like a pizza?”’

The students laughed. I realized the double meaning embedded in that statement.

So I explained, ‘Do you think I am asking you if you have the same feelings as a pizza?’

The students continued laughing as they said, ‘no’.

I then said, ‘Is it the same as “Are you in the mood for a pizza?”’

The students agreed.

I asked, ‘Does this all mean “Do you want to have a pizza now?”

And the students got it.

A quick controlled practice was called for, so I asked, ‘How do you ask your friend if she wants to go out?’

The students replied, ‘Do you fancy going out?’ and ‘Do you feel like going out?

I said, ‘The weather is awful. You want to say no. How do you say it?

The students replied, ‘I don’t fancy going out,’ and ‘I don’t feel like going out.

I decided to leave more controlled practice for tomorrow and moved on to another meaning of ‘fancy’.

I included ‘I really fancy Angelina Jolie’ on the mindmap and asked students to deduce what it meant. After a few goes, they finally settled on ‘like’ and I added that  I not only ‘like’ her but would like to maybe kiss her or more… (I was appealing to overwhelming majority of men in the class here and was definitely not alluding to my sexuality in any way!)

We were now ready to go back to the topic that we had left to explore ‘fancy’ as students were clearly still interested in it.

I asked students, ‘What reality TV shows or talent shows are there in your country?’ and ‘What do you think of them?’

In groups of 3 or 4, students shared with each other, explaining the concepts of programmes like Big Brother, Survivor, and the Apprentice as they went along.

A Japanese student said that reality shows were not as popular in Japan, despite the one weird example of one where girls were put into a house and competed to see who could cry the most by collecting their tears in test tubes (I am not lying! Honestly!)

So I prompted her to talk about TV shows that were popular, or shows that colleagues would talk about at work. The conversation soon led on to popular soap operas and quiz shows. We talked about the origin of the expression ‘soap opera’ (They used to be day-time programmes targeting housewives and therefore featured many soap ads), before taking our 15-minute break.

When we came back, I told my two Korean students about the ad I had seen of a Korean cultural festival on the door near reception. I asked if they were going and the other students were curious as to what might be featured in such a festival. The two Koreans speculated that there might be some karaoke or some Korean food and drink, but I noticed that some of the students looking quite perplexed and so I asked, ‘Have you ever tried Korean food?’

Only the Japanese students replied in the positive.

I realized at this point that many of my students hardly knew much about their fellow classmate’s countries or cultures.

So I wrote on the board – Brazil, Japan, Korea, Iran, and said, ‘These are the four countries in our class. Apart from your own, write a sentence about something you know about each country. You have 3 minutes.’

As I monitored, my suspicions were confirmed. The students didn’t know much beyond the fact that Japan was famous for sushi and was where samurais originated, that Brazil had carnivals and Iran had oil.

After they had written their sentences, I put them in groups with students from countries other than their own, and they shared the sentences they had written.

Students were instantly keen to inform their classmates about their countries and tell them more than the superficial sentences that had been written.

As the levels of conversation and the decibels in that class increased, I heard the quietest student in that class passionately telling his fellow classmates about how sad he was about the missile that was launched by North Korea last week, and then explaining the reason for the North and South Korea divide. This student arrived in London not too long ago and was clearly having teething problems with dealing with a communicative approach to language learning for the past week. Like many students from the Far East, he tended to think carefully before forming a sentence, and preferred keep quiet unless he had something important to say. He now clearly did…

Using complex sentences and impressive lexical items like ‘Capitalism was led by the USA and Socialism was led by USSR’, he certainly surprised a few of his classmates with his level of English. I couldn’t stop smiling. This was the trigger I had been waiting for.

Open class feedback about the different countries brought the topic on to football, and we spoke about the rivalry between neighbouring countries. I told students about how the Scottish wore T-shirts that said ‘ABE’ (Anyone But England) in jest when England would play in the World Cup, and how the Irish would rather support Aliens if they played England. A student at this point asked, ‘Sorry, but the Irish people don’t speak English, right? They have their own language?’

This brought us on to a whole new discussion. I explained the attempts of the UK government to keep Welsh and Gaelic (Scottish and Irish) in the education system with varying degrees of success, and how many of the Highlanders, after the Highland clearances, no longer see Scottish Gaelic as their language, while although the Irish continue to see Irish Gaelic as their language, do not speak it as much as the Welsh speak Welsh. (see here for my post of Gaelic)

Seeing the interest the topic has generated, I asked the students to prepare something about their country as homework so as to share with the others the next day. Finally, a task. The task I have been waiting to set.

In the last 30 minutes of the lesson, I had students bring out the photos of adverts that they had previously taken on their mobile phones as homework, and had one in each pair describing it to their partners while their partners drew the advert on a mini-whiteboard.

Students then discussed the following questions:

What is the advertisement about?

Where did you see it?

Who is it targeting?

Why did you choose it?

In open class feedback, the partners showed the class their drawing and reported what they had been told about the ad while the mobile phones were passed around so that students could compare the original photos to the drawings and compliment fellow students on how well they have done.

With the huge amount of lexis to be revised, the task to be worked on, and only half the class having shared their photos of adverts, it certainly looks like tomorrow’s lesson has already been cut out for me.

Or has it?

With a Dogme class, you just never know…

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

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

and

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…)