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Back to Dogme: Stage Two: dealing with emergent language and experimenting
It’s amazing how time flies but at the same time stands still. It seems only minutes since I was writing last week about me and my poor, tired bedraggled students, as we all braved the elements to get to our Monday evening conversation class. Well, it’s Monday again, so welcome back to part two of the exciting journey into learner centred, conversation based teaching.
Plugging us back in again
Last week, as you may remember, the group told stories about recent trips they had been on, and one learner gave an impromptu presentation on marketing. I took quite a lot of notes during this and I promised I’d let you know what became of them. Well, first of all, I have to say that my teaching may well be learner centred, but in no way can it be described as unplugged. No, I must admit that I use technology all the time, and I am firmly convinced that it brings me closer to my learners and brings them closer to each other. I had written a few of the things they had said, and I selected six “utterances” to send to them by email a few days after the class:
“We had a good travel although I had to use a lot of suncream.”
“The traffic was absoltely dreadful….never again!”
“I really should have checked the traffic news before I left.”
“The worst thing was the travel by ship…it was really boring.”
“She didn’t have to spend too long in the sun.”
“We went for a travel in the mountains.”
I’m sure you can already see the pattern that is emerging here. But all I told my learners to do was:
a) to decide which of these were utterances that I had been really impressed with and which ones probably needed a bit more work on the language;
b) to see if they could remember who had said which utterance and what it was connected with.
So they duly arrived with their ideas, but the first step in this lesson, as a type of warmer, was pronunciation. There were a couple of words such as “mountains” that were causing problems, and my learners love to be drilled. There seems to be something very reassuring about a bit of backchaining, and it gets us into the mood. So, that’s what we did. After that we moved on to look at their ideas about who had said what, which became both a discussion, as well as a way of reactivating the discussion we had had last week. We revised the use of “didn’t have to” as meaning “not necessary”, something which had come up recently, quite quickly. We didn’t actually spend too much time on that as they really only needed to be reminded of it and asked to give a couple more examples.
Then we moved on to what was to become a major focus in this lesson. It was obvious that “travel” was causing a lot of trouble, so I had decided to look at nouns relating to travel (Most of these can be verbs too, which we also pointed out, but here we were using them as nouns). The learners had to look at the following nouns, made with the traditional, but excellent, shareware Hot Potatoes authoring tools, and match them to the descriptions:
They were then asked which of these nouns is uncountable (there was only one) and we stopped to think about the uncountable or countable nature of nouns which is reflected in travel and journey. So by this time we had been doing quite a lot of reflection on this language, all of which had come out of the previous lesson. It was time to move on to do some more experimenting.
Experimenting with Emergent Language
Most of my groups are used to working with my wiki, and I’m afraid the wiki has been made private as it has some confidential information like exams results etc. on it now, but I made a little video to show you the page I made for this group and the second exercise which is one way of extending a classic cloze activity to make it into something a little more personalised and meaningful: a springboard into personalised reflection and further discussion.
And that’s where we got to this evening. Of course, the learners can now go back to the wiki page whenever they want to, print out the exercises or download them to their own computers, and they are usually motivated to do that, so who knows what next week will bring? In any case this was just one example of how the emergent language from learner discussions can be extended in a meaningful way, experimented with and then built upon. Oh, and I almost fogot, there is of course a fun element. The first person to finish the matching exercise was awarded a chocolate rabbit,
because you never know with a learner centred approach, what sort of rabbit will emerge from the magician’s hat.