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Lesson 7 – A black comedy (pure Dogme?)

September 29, 2011

Tomoko comes in first and starts telling me about a trip to the theatre at the weekend and a rather black comedy that she saw.

It was tough for her to explain and the challenge clearly frustrated her. I listened as she told me about the story, scaffolding her language, making notes and involving the other Ss as they arrived, inviting them to ask questions to catch up on what they missed.

By the time she had finished, she looked like she wanted to forget the whole thing – she really struggled to get to the end of her story. The other Ss obligingly told her that ‘even in Japanese this would be difficult to explain!!’

It was a clear learning opportunity and I set about reconstructing the story in mind-map format on the board, re-eliciting words and phrases she had wanted to use, or that I had fed in.

They were gripped. I think Tomoko felt a little guilty/embarrassed that the lesson was developing around her story!

The board photo tells the story. Word classes and patterns were elicited, some drilling and phonology work, and a few other bits and pieces. This all took 15 mins or so.


When we finished, Ss took it in turns to retell the story to the group (only 3) using the language from the board, while others listened/monitored and occasionally corrected mistakes. I didn’t interfere much.

The board was then wiped clean, books closed, and the story-telling repeated, one by one. Their performance was astonishing. They all retold the story almost perfectly, recalling all the lexical items and phrases (of which there were at least 15). And this from a group that on the whole really struggles to retain language.

With more time I would have done more work on expression, but I was already thrilled with such a good outcome after 60 mins.

Ss were delighted and rather shocked at what they’d achieved.

The lesson felt very rounded and balanced in terms of Iearner input, language work and practice, and I’m growing in confidence as I become more experienced in deciding the direction of the lesson from minute to minute and choosing the most appropriate activities.

  1. Sounds frigging terrific! I wonder if it was a case of marvellous students or a fab teacher…No doubt, a bit of both! Well done, Oli!

  2. Anthony Gaughan permalink

    Like this: your board work makes it easy to imagine the flow of the lesson!

    • Thanks Anthony. In hindsight a timeline might have been more appropriate, but the mind map worked well to focus them on the lexical dimension.
      Big fan of your blog!

  3. Hi Oli,

    Sorry it’s taken awhile. Couldn’t agree more with Anthony about the board work. I’m always very conscious of having my back to the students and spending to long at the board, I’m getting into the habit of encouraging them to keep talking while I’m there with gestures or follow up comments. I think you have captured perfectly the time to jump on a learning opportunity and fully use it to engage the students. As always a good read.


    • It’s a danger, for sure. I try to have clear meaning and form focused parts of the lesson. Going to the board can be a good way to vary the pace and focus the class after a long period of discussion, particularly when they know what’s coming – ie a dissection of what they’ve been talking about.

      Some Dogme type activities do require time at the board, but I don’t think it’s a problem providing it doesn’t go on unreasonably long.

      Last year I went through a phase when I intentionally didn’t use the board at all. It was interesting, but ended up bringing home to me just how powerful it can be for Ss to see their language come alive on the board. Strange, not usually how you think of language coming alive (written down), but with some nice board work and a post-meaning focus it can be a very effective consolidation tool.



  4. Beautiful board work, as the others have said. Thank you for your comments about my blog. The new tool I’ve mentioned, I can envisage it being used like how you’ve used your board in this lesson. The idea is that learners can type and move words around, and all have a copy of the efforts which they can add to for homework. Your ideas would be most welcome.

    • Thanks for the compliment David. I like your idea. I have IWBs at work and can envisage getting learners to piece together word plants as a retrospective focus on language in the closing stages of a Dogme lesson.

      If this can be done in an IWB-friendly drag-and-drop way that would make it especially suitable as a whole-class activity. Otherwise, it would have o be teacher-lead I suppose.

      Ss could certainly be set it as a HW task, but not sure if mine in particular would do it. I can anticipate them preferring to keep notebooks – everything in one place etc…

      As is the case with all these things, the interface will have to be 100% idiot-proof if people are going to want to come back it regularly. I’m sure you’ve thought of that.

      How about an iPhone app? That could be really successful here in Japan where every man and his dog has one!

      Keep me posted! Good luck

  5. Thanks for the feedback, truly appreciated.

    • Hi David
      I tried it out today on British Council computers, and unfortunately it won’t run because the systems will not install Silverlight. This may not be the same in other centres, but it’s likely to be a problem. Maybe a different platform? Just a heads up!

  6. Mark permalink

    This is great, and it’s amazing how much language work can be generated from student chat at the start of class. Of course,it’s not always as easy as you make it look! Well done! It’s not hard to imagine a fitting writing task as homework – write a synopsis of the play, for example.Saludos from Mexico.

    • Thanks Mark. You’re right, it’s not always easy, and honestly for every lesson like this one there is another that’s far less inspired. Generally, if the students are on form, most of the work is done already… just a few nudges here or there.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

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