The Heart of Dogme


I love dogme.  Not just because I believe it’s an effective teaching approach, but because it makes my classroom come alive, makes it breath, makes it real.  Dogme reminds me that classrooms can be real places where people interact and build relationships, not places where they come only to acquire information.

Karenne’s latest challenge asks why dogme is materials light.  Dogme is not materials light because it doesn’t favor materials (like course books), it’s materials light because it’s about the people in the class and the language they use to connect with each other.  With passion, I join Mark Andrews and say classrooms are a community, and should be approached as such!

When Scott first wrote on dogme ten years ago he asked from the heart, with this mountain of materials and resources, “Where is the story?  Where is the inner life of the student in all this?  Where is the real communication?”  EFL classrooms were and still are putting materials at the forefront of the classroom rather than the student and that’s where “we lost the plot.”

This is the true reason I am a dogmeist.  This is why dogme can be used with or without course books, with or without tech, while teaching grammar or while having a conversation.  What dogme is really advocating is that we put the relationships of the people in the class at the front and center.  Not the material.  Not the technology.  Not the subject knowledge.  Dogme’s original vows of chastity and its current guidelines are merely suggestions gently helping us remember this.  If we’re not sure how to go about this, dogme offers us what seems to me like a pretty good place to start.

Where, I ask you, is the pulse of the course book?  Can you feel the breath of the IWB?  These things are merely objects, tools to be used to mediate our interaction with each other.  But if used too much, they can become obstacles rather than aids.  By stripping away the chaf, we can find the true life’s blood of our classroom in the souls of the individuals present.

Like most teachers, I try to get feedback from students periodically on my classes.  After I finished my last Upper-Intermediate class here is the word-for-word response I got from a 16-year-old girl.

What did you like about the class?

When I first started to the course, I was expecting to find a class with a serious atmosphere and a teacher who teaches grammar or uses books’ stupid texts and exercises all the time. I was so glad when it turned out to be a fun class after my first day. The way you teach is definitely excellent. I mean, you were making us speak as if we were sitting in a cafe, chatting with a few friends, and you were teaching without using books, writing someting the board and expecting nothing but taking notes from us. Most subjects were fun, too. (Thanks Yaprak :) ) [Emphasis mine]

This is the atmosphere I aim to create in my classroom.  It’s an atmosphere where the students view each other as friends, where they feel relaxed, and where they feel like they can talk about anything. It’s a classroom that helps us remember we’ve come together for a common purpose and we can take each other by the hand and find the way together.

Relationship & Trust Building Activities:

Circle of Trust

Trust Falls

Human Knot

Tank Game

More Posts on Dogme:

Unplugged Lesson Plans

Dogme in the Mind of a Teacher:  Memory Techniques

Dogme in the Mind of a Teacher:  Banking

An Emergent Curriculum

The Road to Teaching Unplugged


Other Links to this Post

  1. Material world — — November 1, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

  2. Sense and memorability « language garden — November 2, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

  3. Light Coke and Learning? – Dogme Challenge #4 « Box of Chocolates — November 5, 2010 @ 8:23 am

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