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Lesson 8 – YL Dogme

October 8, 2011

I’ve seen a number of posts recently asking about Dogme with YLs. The immediate problem that YL teachers face is that classes cannot usually be ‘conversation driven’, meaning that inspiration has to be found from elsewhere.

How can you do this with, while trying to stay ‘materials light’?

This is a lesson that I did with a group of 40 junior high school kids aged 11-12. It’s based on a lesson designed by a colleague, which originally included a a language presentation element.

However, I felt that it could all be done ‘unplugged’, based solely on the experiences of the people in the room.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year had a tremendous effect on the national psyche, but it has been especially traumatic for kids, who now have to perform regular earthquake drills in school. It’s a very real element of their lives and the perfect basis, I thought, for a Dogme lesson!

Lesson 1
– Elicit the idea of earthquakes
– Remind Ss of their last drill and ask what they’d learnt to do in an earthquake
– Set them brainstorming ideas in groups
– Feedback to board, translating/reformulating their ideas into do/don’t statements (e.g. Don’t go back inside, go to a high place)
– Drill
– Ss copy language into notebooks
– Clear the board, then give them a dictation exercise (or similar) to reinforce language, which is quite challenging
– tell Ss that in next lesson they’re going to make an earthquake advisory poster which will be displayed in the school
– Ss work in pairs to sketch some sample ideas for posters

Lesson 2
– revise language from last lesson
– Ss choose their favourite idea from last lesson and make their poster

Even the weaker Ss were involved and engaged in this lesson and although the conversation took place largely in L1, the English that emerged was focused and meaningful for them. Perhaps this is why language from this lesson appeared to be especially well retained in subsequent weeks.

Here’s a sample of the work they produced. I find their imagination inspiring and their artwork must have created in them some very strong positive associations with English (one of the most challenging things to do with high school classes).

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  1. Wow unplugging the YL classroom, and with 40 of them too. Good work. Love the posters, thanks for sharing. Are you looking to make it a regular thing with your young learners? I think it would be really useful to a lot of people to see if it can be done on a regular basis.


    • Thanks Adam. Well, it’s not really viable for me to do it regularly because I have a syllabus to stick to. Or rather, I have the Japanese teachers’ lessons to support. Although I can see the potential. There’s been quite a bit of discussion about Dogme YL on the discussion board recently. It’s clear that it’s even harder to convince people about the viability of Dogme with YLs than with adults… Though there have been some great ideas.

      I need to think more about this, but rest assured I will!

  2. They seem to be engaging well in your class with, as you say, such a traumatic experience. Well done.

    • Thanks David. You know it’s surprising how quickly after such an event they can start treating it with good humour, as you can see from the posters!

      Great blog, I visit it often!

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