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Dogme with A1 learners: Teaching Beginners without Materials

How can Dogme be used with A1 learners? Some ideas about working with low level learners without prepared materials.

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How can Dogme-style teaching be applied to teaching lower level learners?

A lot of teachers feel that there needs to be some kind of language input before learners are able to speak. What do we do when the students need input on so much before they can speak (mostly if they are really low level)?

I agree that there needs to be some kind of input. That could be Language Focused Learning where it’s about memorization of some vocabulary, or it could be a teacher-led presentation where vocabulary is clarified through drawings or pictures. I have a personal anecdote below of a time when I didn’t take advantage of a moment  that could have been exploited better. 

A missed learning opportunity with learners

I think a Dogme-like lesson with lower level learners would be better if the teacher could speak the same languages as the learners and the learners had at least 200-300 words in their vocabulary. Maybe if the teacher comes in with a few ideas for a kind of topic that can be personalized easily. I remember once that I was doing a live observation lesson on a Celta course with Elementary learners. I wanted them to be able to share their screens on Zoom. I really wanted them to just know how to share their screens for the future, but I tried to make it a bit more “communicative” by asking them to say what was on their computers. I thought it would make a nice icebreaker where I could kill two birds with one stone: break the ice and teach them how to use the technology.

I think that I just ran this like a normal ice-breaker and I didn’t respond to emergent language because I was on a Celta course with trainees observing me. Looking back at this, the students were really focused on different Apps on their screens that they use for studying vocabulary. Some of them wanted to say “I’ve been studying for X months” but they could only say “I study maybe is 4 months.” Maybe all they needed to say was “it’s been X months.” There were also talking about hobbies that they have that were realized in some way or another on their computer desktops (due to being inside all the time from Covid-19).

HOW I could have exploited the activity for learning

I suppose this must be “at the point of need.” The content and materials for this activity were provided by the students. All I needed to have done was to exploit the input from the learners better. For me this would have been the same as preparing for “delayed error correction” on Celta and typing up what they “did wrong” and how I could help them “upgrade” what they said. I believe that an experienced Dogme teacher might also have a few quick controlled practice activities that could be employed easily with emergent language (my Dip Tesol tutor told me this). Then, after a bit of feedback/work with emergent language, the students change partners and repeat the activity?

This might be an example of getting the learners to provide the learning material and content for the lesson. If lessons like this were continued, then I’m sure the teacher would need to think about what other activities could generate the kind of language that might be needed for covering/uncovering the syllabus. 

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