Dogme in the Mind of a Teacher: Memory Techniques


(Note on the image:  Some people tie strings on their fingers to remind them to do something)

I’m finally posting another lesson on dogme, so this is a post lesson plan again. Rather fortuitously, it ties in with Kalinago’s current dogme blogging challenge on scaffolding.  You’ll notice the sections where I used the conversations to build on the students’ vocabulary, grammar, and learning strategies.

This lesson was done a few days ago with a group of 3 private students I have who are at an intermediate/upper-intermediate level.

As we all ordered our coffee and doughnuts (yes, teaching is tough :) ) one of the students started talking about a training she had received that day on how to remember things better.

Decision:  Everyone seemed interested and it’s a very useful topic for language learning as well.  Let the conversation play out and see where it goes.

The other students and I were quite curious about the training so we had a nice discussion on the subject for about 10 minutes.  During the discussion we slowly built up vocabulary related to the topic like short-term/long-term memory, mnemonic device, chunking, etc.

Decision:  The student who had done the training had been doing the lion’s share of the speaking in the activity so I wanted to open it up more to the other students and the conversation was slowing down, so it seemed like a good time.  In the previous lesson we had looked at suggestions and recommendations using the present subjunctive (e.g. I recommend that you be here ten minutes before the meeting starts).

I asked, “What about you two?  Do you have any recommendations or suggestions regarding memory tricks?” hoping to prompt some language from last week.  Sure enough the students remembered the structure without further prompts.  There were a couple slip ups but one of the students who was listening always prompted a correction.

This set the discussion off for another 15 minutes as we talked about other memory tricks & tips we used along with examples our teachers had taught us as children.

Then one student chimed in, “My grandmother is always calling me and she uses a picture of the Turkcell logo because I work there.”

Decision:  “She’s calling” is a typical Turkish mistake because present continuous is used where English speakers would often use present simple.  To drive home the point of why choosing the correct tense is important and to probably introduce something new, I decided to make a small divergence here and look at the language.

I wrote 2 sentences on the paper.

She always calls me…
She’s always calling me…

I then asked the students to look at them and ask what the difference in meaning was, if any.  They responded that the 2nd sentence was incorrect.  I said that actually both were correct.  I asked them to give some example endings for the first one.

They came up with “She always calls me on Mondays/after work/before she goes to bed.”

I then gave three examples to end the 2nd one:  “She’s always calling me at the worst possible time/when I’m in the shower/when I’m in a meeting.”

I then asked the students to determine the meaning of these sentences.  They responded that the sentence carried a negative meaning.

We then talked a bit about the meaning of present continuous with always for annoying habits, the importance of choosing the correct tense in this instance, and came up with a number of examples from our lives.

Decision:  Include a story from my life as it builds rapport and is good for a laugh.

I included the sentence “My wife is always setting her alarm for earlier than she gets up and hitting the snooze, so she’s waking me up two or three times instead of just once in the morning.”

This prompted a whole bunch of responses on annoying habits friends, relatives, and co-workers had.  This all lasted about 10 minutes.

Decision:  That bit of the discussion was running its course and I wanted to connect the previous discussion to language learning.

I said, “Alright, going back to the memory tricks, what was some of the new language we used regarding it” so as to review and consolidate new vocabulary we’d already covered.

Then I asked how what we had discussed concerning memory connected to language learning and study techniques.  We then had a whole discussion on chunking, the importance of context, relevance and even course books :) . This discussion continued for about 15 minutes and we had a really good look at different study techniques, learning strategies, and how I/we tried to incorporate these ideas into my/our lessons.

The last 5 minutes we talked about the lesson and what had been learned in terms of language.

In the end, the entire lesson lasted for 55 minutes.

Reflecting on things learned/practiced:

1)  Vocabulary relating to memory

2)  Lots of listening and speaking practice in the form of a conversation, telling stories, and explaining how to do something

3)  Review of the present subjunctive with “suggest” and “recommend”

4)  Introduction of present continuous for annoying habits

5)  Discussing effective learning, study, and memory techniques

6)  Review of the methodology behind our lessons.

Related Posts:

Dogme in the Mind of a Teacher:  Banking

Unplugged Lesson Plans

Kalinago Dogme Challenge 3

D is for Dogme

The Dogme of Dogme

Sources for Teaching Unplugged

Further Dogme Links


  • By Eric Roth, October 22, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

    Sharing studying techniques and memory tricks is a great discussion starter, especially with folks proud of their memorization skills. I also like the way that you naturally followed up by expanding the discussion to include annoying habits. Sharing pet peeves – and teaching students how to effectively express their annoyance and complain – is a very rich subject.
    Thank you for sharing your lesson.

  • By turklis1, October 22, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

    Glad you liked it Eric :)

  • By Karenne Sylvester, October 24, 2010 @ 10:33 am

    This is a super lesson – I really enjoyed how it goes in and out of focus, concentrates on giving them real langauge and in context and I agree very much that talking about and sharing memory techniques helps learners in the long-run!


  • By Ligaya D. Honofre, October 25, 2010 @ 1:10 am


    I am writing to tell that I am sharing this with my co-teachers. To scaffold is quite a meticulous technique and it calls for skill on the part of the teacher, specially so that you build upon the schema (of previous lessons learned/ prior orientations) your students have acquired. It is highly interactive and as a constructive approach, you also challenge their imagination and critical thinking; simultaneously making use of behavioral reactions as you scaffold. Great sharing!

    I will just share a little anecdote while in the airport in Turkey, on my way to pay my sister a visit in Ankara. I was trying to be friendly, since I was a stranger in the place and asked a woman beside me. She snobbed me, and of course I told myself, she may have not understood me (I was talking in English). I learned from my diplomat-brother in law that traditionally they would hate to speak any other (except their own) language.

  • By turklis1, October 25, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    Hi Ligaya, glad you like the scaffolding.

    As for your story, actually Turks are usually incredibly friendly towards visitors and guests. Maybe she just didn’t understand.

  • By David Warr, October 25, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    Hi Nick, I think this shows more than anything that if you have a good knowledge of English, and I’m really thinking grammar, then you can just dip into it all the time as things crop up and you think yeah, we can look more closely at that particular point, and spend valuable time on it. In spirit with the current hot topic, have you got photos of any board/paper work?

  • By turklis1, October 25, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

    Welcome back David. I’ve thought about that point a lot – do you need to know the grammar first? – but I came to the conclusion that the answer is no. Most proficient level English teachers will recognize a difference there although they may not know the rule behind it. I see this all the time with trainees or new teachers. Usually randomly, something will come up in class – the most usual prompt being a student question – and they’ll focus on it. Then they work through examples and try to help the students understand. Oftentimes you’ll get “well instead of x, I’d use a, b, or c.” Even though it’s not a grammar rule, it amounts to the same style of teaching and I think is equally effective for students.

    As for boardwork, I don’t have any pictures. My handwriting is quite terrible and I’d be embarrassed to post it :P

  • By David Warr, October 27, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

    Yes, I agree with you Nick, knowing what is correct and how and where it is used is most important, not the terminology.

  • By Ligaya D. Honofre, December 17, 2011 @ 8:11 am

    Scaffolding is a technique I also use when teaching a new concept to my students. It is indeed highly effective when used while the students are at their peak of interest. Their ideas flow spontaneously, with each one contributing. My role as a teacher is to align the ideas to the objectives of the lesson.

Other Links to this Post

  1. How do you scaffold? — — October 22, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

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  3. Scaffolding « Doing some thinking — October 25, 2010 @ 4:59 am

  4. Dogme Challenge #3 – Affordance « Authentic Teaching — October 26, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

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