From time to time I’ve decided to throw up a dogme lesson plan. Like most of what I consider to be dogme lessons, this plan was written after the lesson was completed. It is, in fact, a post-plan. As a teacher, I always come to class with something prepared to do, but quite often I chuck it out the window as something else comes up.
These posts will be an attempt to show how I come up with the lesson as it happens.
Materials Used: None
Time: About 3 hours
In Turkey, students tend to slowly filter in to class during the first hour as being on time is not much of a concern here. Many of my classes, therefore, start out with general conversations or light activities that people can slip into as they arrive.
About a half hour into class a reasonable number of students had arrived and one of the students was telling a story about a problem they had at the bank the other day. Everyone was pretty interested in the story.
Decision: Do a lesson on banking. I decided on this because 1) a number of the students worked or studied banking & finance, 2) it was clear from the conversation that banking vocabulary was weak or unknown, and 3) the students had brought up the subject and were expressing interest.
I thought a good way to do the lesson would be a role-play as I like drama and real life situations.
First (after the student finished telling their story and questions died out), we brainstormed a number of terms that the students should be using like deposit, withdraw, interest rate, signature, etc.
One student started adding words like stock and share-holder and…
Decision: Stop it there as that would be getting off track of the direction the lesson was taking and complicate things too much, especially since many students wouldn’t know those terms and situations even in Turkish. Also, I wasn’t at all confident with that language or those situations in English either and so I doubted my ability to help create an effective lesson in that direction.
After the brainstorm session, I left all the words and phrases on the board. Students then became bank tellers and customers. The bank tellers pulled their chairs to the front of the class and stood behind them as customers formed lines in front of the tellers.
The activity ran for about 8 minutes. I noticed that the students were using a lot of the language we had come up with, but that their general language was very informal. I wound down the activity and everyone went back to their seats.
Decision: Focus on formal language, particularly things like indirect questions, modals, and if clauses. The students obviously had less experience with this and needed the practice.
We now did a bit of feedback on the first part of the lesson. Students asked questions and we added some more language that they needed to the board. We then discussed the formality of the situation and talked about the language used. The students decided that they needed to use more formal language. We brainstormed again and put up example phrases like “Could you tell me your customer number, please?” “Do you mind waiting a minute while I…“ “I was wondering if you could tell me…“ and “If you could just sign right here…”
Switching tellers and customers, the activity ran again. This time students were using much more appropriate language. Again, I helped out students when they got stuck, pointed out minor errors, or commented when students became a bit too informal.
The activity ran for almost 15 minutes this time. Students that weren’t involved in a transaction chatted in line with their fellow customers.
After this activity, I initiated a feedback session and students discussed what they liked about the activity or didn’t, who did a good job, what was easy or difficult, questions they had, etc. While this was happening, I boarded a lot of language, both good and bad, that had come from the students. We talked about the nature of the language, why certain language was good or bad and we discussed corrections in grammar, vocabulary, and register.
After a break, I thought we could work on complaints at the bank as that is basically what started off the lesson. I started by giving an example of a lot of problems I’d been having with Internet banking lately. My plan was to have some students come up with complaints, others be tellers who would decide on a particular emotion to react with, and others to be managers to be called in to help out.
After I told my story though, a number of other students started complaining about Internet banking as well. Still others didn’t trust it and were very curious about those who used it and whether it was safe or not.
Decision: Scrap the original plan and allow an open class discussion. The students were obviously highly interested in the topic and to stop it and move on to something else would perhaps be de-motivating. The students were still recycling much of the language we had been practicing and they were all actively involved in the discussion.
My job was simply to support students in the language they were using if they got stuck, especially regarding vocabulary, and to get them to self-correct some areas of language that we had been working on lately or that particular students were having problems with.
The discussion ran for a good 30 minutes. This time I dictated a number of sentences back to them where they used vocabulary that was too general or structures that were a bit too simple. They copied the sentences down and then had to work in pairs to find ways of improving the sentences using more specific vocabulary we’d covered that day or by making the language more structurally complex. Changes were then discussed as a class.
Including the rather open ended chat in the beginning and breaks, the entire lesson took a little over 3 hours.
So what do you think of the lesson outcome, decisions made, etc? Is this similar to how you run a dogme lesson or different? What would you change or have done differently? If you’re not familiar with dogme, does this lesson help you understand the approach better?