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Lesson 6 – Exploiting the coursebook

September 20, 2011

Today I felt like I needed to use the book. Not because I really wanted to, you know what I’m getting at.

Unit topic is food, and begins with a survey – how often do you cook at home etc. Pretty dry stuff, but knowing my learners I knew it’d engage them.

I wanted to try running Dogme from the stimulus of a topic.

So I started off with a few photos of English pub food on the IWB. I knew they’d know what it all was, but it got them going beautifully.

Next, the survey. Ss have 5 mins to look over the questions and ask any language questions (there is some meaty language embedded in the questions).

Rather than do it straight, Ss are assigned a partner and asked to predict what their answers would be. “Let’s see who was able to guess most accurately.” Familiar topic + personalisation + element of competition = great mix.

Ss pair up and administer the questionnaire. They’re encouraged to add information/detail and told they’ll be reporting back to the class.

Class discussion on interesting findings. It’s worth spending time on this – this kind of process helps everyone get to know each other and bonds the class. Some feedback on language and deeper examination of some idiomatic language from the questions.

20110920-213344.jpg

Lots of patterns and substitutions elicited, which generates more class discussion.

Discussion on healthy food evolves and I ask Ss to work individually, then in pairs, then in groups to rank their top 5 healthy foods. A lot of incidental language for comparatives and opinions comes out at this point but I let it go and save it for feedback at the end. (I want them to practice the language that’s come from the survey.)

The book is history by this point, so whilst they’re preparing their final list of healthy foods to present to the other groups I hastily rewrite the discussion questions I’d planned on using later.

Ss present their rankings and some debate ensues.

I put some discussion questions on the board designed to be open and let them respond to the topic, provocative, but still leave room to use the language from earlier.

1) Do you think it’s important for families to sit down and eat meals together?

2) What would you change about your eating habits in a perfect world?

3) Describe your best ‘food memories’

Groups discuss, I circulate trying to feed in the language from earlier. They pick up on some of it…

Feedback on content and language.

Interesting aspects of this lesson for me: learner centred class that evolved from a topic and task in a coursebook. Although I’d set out to ‘use the book’… I couldn’t really see it through!! But it was good that they got to use the book for the survey at least, and it just goes to show that coursebooks can be exploited in Dogme teaching .

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Level: advanced +
Ss: 9
Time: 90 mins
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11 Comments
  1. Chris Ożóg permalink

    Really enjoyed reading this. Just found the blog and will be stopping by regularly. I like the fact that you managed the whole class from the topic in the book. Using the book is the lot of many a teacher, and so it’s good to see that you managed to have the class that you wanted and the learners seemed to appreciate from this initial stimulus. I have long argued that the book and Dogme are not necessarily incompatible and, when it comes to language, often use the book as a ready-made controlled practice of what comes up (quick flick through… “er turn to page 76 exercise 5”). Skills work can be equally as successful – predicting, writing their own Qs, etc, can spice up dull skills work in the likes of FCE Masterclass and allow for a largely Unplugged lesson in which the book becomes the homework, for example, and the conversation and emergent language take centre stage.

    And you weren’t using Objective CAE, were you? It’s the only place I’ve ever seen “linger over a coffee” or similar and it still strikes me as odd…

    • Hi Chris

      Many thanks for taking the time to get in touch.

      The book was Clockwise Advanced. This particular chapter was actually not too bad. However, I struggle with even the best coursebooks at the moment, as I can’t justify basing a lesson around language that someone else has chosen for my group. This is especially pertinent for advanced+ classes as they have invariably ‘see it all before’.

      I think your concise explanation of coursebook use in the above comment really hits the nail on the head.

      The only consideration may be the extent to which the controlled practice/homework from the book becomes abstract practice of language, which is not ideal. But I think it’s the best compromise I’ve seen so far, because the coursebook is simply a reality.

      Good stuff, and let’s continue the dialogue!

      Oli

      • Chris Ożóg permalink

        Hi Oli,

        Just realised you’d replied as I didn’t get the expected e-mail. Anyway… I agree with what you say above with the abstract practice of language. However, a focus on form is an essential part of Unplugged Teaching and, if there is no alternative and the students have bought the book and there’s a controlled practice in there, then I’m happy to use it if it’s suitable (and as we know, many aren’t).

        Of course, I would much rather have learner-centred activities to practise language points. One of my classes enjoys writing their own gap-fills for each other, for example, continuing the topic of the day but with the focus on simply manipulating form, which they need to do sometimes (worked very successfully for some 3rd conditional practice yesterday). They then get to ‘correct’ what their peers have put in the gaps (often leading to interesting discussions about the form amongst themselves – they don’t even feel the need to involve me sometimes, this group…) and the feedback in very very learner-centred and within the overall context of the conversation.

        As I said before, enjoy the blog and am seriously impressed by your productivity as I never seem to find the time to sit down and write anything. Keep it up!

        Chris

      • Thanks for your ideas Chris. A few people have mentioned the productivity things. My solution: get an iPhone! You can download the wordpress app and write everything up on the train home. I also take the board shots from it, and also often make videos/recordings and upload them directly to YouTube for use in the lesson.

        Seriously, if it wasn’t for that I’d never do it!

  2. Linger over a coffee? Not one I’ve heard too often either. The first collocation to come to mind with linger is a bad smell, enough said really.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blow-by-blow accounts of your lessons. I also agree with you and Chris in the sense that Dogme and the book aren’t necessarily incompatible, it’s just a little extra thought is needed to try and make things personal and work with the language which emerges.

    The coursebook is the reality. Whether I like it or not, I need to use it sometimes. Like you, I find it best to use it at the start, otherwise the cogs start turning and I find it hard to see it through and end up setting a few exercise in the unit for homework. You seem to have struck the best compromise in this lesson, using some stimulus from the book, letting things run a little bit, addressing emerging language and extending. I wonder if your learners noticed any difference between this lesson and a ‘pure’ Dogme lesson?

    Dale

    • I wonder if they do… My groups who I do ‘pure’ Dogme with probably would notice the difference.

      As for ‘linger’… It’s a case for using corpuses I reckon! I think you’re probably right about ‘smell’ coming up top.

      But here’s the problem about using the book. You choose to use it for the reasons we have discussed, but then you have to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. This particular coursebook spread was trying to introduce idioms and expressions using food, but it was very tenuous indeed. Some of them I’d literally never heard of before.

      I like to think of it like this… At this level (C1) a lot of the language Ss will come across is going to be of more receptive value than productive. As long as you don’t get them trying to overtly produce it, or spend too much time on it in class, it’s all good input.

      But having said that… That seems like a good argument for not using the coursebook in the first place!

      Circles!!

      Maybe the Cobuild coursebook is the answer – only ‘real’ language.

  3. Another great post Oli. I keep forgetting my camera in my lessons, but again your pictures really help to see into your classroom and show just how much language your students are generating.

    Good read.

    Adam

    • Thanks Adam.

      My solution: get an iPhone!

      You can photograph any boardwork you want, and write up your blog on the WordPress App on the train home!

  4. Great stuff, Oli. I find food is such a powerful topic that can be used in so many ways; it can branch into health & lifestyles, culture, poverty, etc. I’m looking forward to more dogme reviews!
    Incidentally, didn’t anyone spot the missing ‘t’…?

    • You got me … ‘daugher’ !!

      At that point in the class Izumi was talking about her feelings for her daughter, and the room was transfixed – a very nice moment. Even if they had spotted the mistake, I guess it might have seemed inappropriate to pull me up on the ‘t’ 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback!

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