Skip to content

Lesson 12 – Teacher anecdote

February 9, 2012

Here’s a report of a lesson that shows how you can use your own life as a resource for developing interesting Unplugged lessons.

Situations like this one could, of course, be made up for the purpose of classroom use. Unfortunately, this particular one happens to be true!

Intermediate business group
60 mins
4 learners

1. I start by telling the story of my neighbour whom I’ve never met. He (?) keeps me awake at night with some ungodly levels of snoring. This person’s bed seems to be positioned right on the other side of my bedroom wall which makes the situation all that much worse (walls in Japanese homes are thin!). I tell them that I’m sleep deprived, really fed up and in need of some advice.

2. Students pair up and make a list of possible courses of action (I ask them to let their imaginations go free here).

3. These are elicited to the board, scaffolded and drilled with attention to some interesting features of phonology.

4. Back in their pairs, students rank the ideas from most to least advisable.

5. The pairs come together, show each other their lists and are then asked to negotiate a final list as a group. As always with a speaking task, I give them some useful language for reporting and negotiating before they start (you can see this in the bott right of the board). I point out that this task has many characteristics of business meetings, which helps to focus them on the language they use.

6. I elicit their rankings to the board and there is some discussion about appropriacy and the various levels of danger associated with each suggestion. I’ve never met the snorer after all – what if he’s a yakuza who doesn’t take kindly to having his wall banged on?


7. The concencus is that I should have a word with the owner of the building, who should in turn go and pass on my complaint to the guy nextdoor.

8. Students make new pairs and write out a dialogue for the hypothetical confrontation between the landlord and the snorer. The situation calls for lots of cautious language and polite requests, which again closely mirrors their business needs. I go round inputting a lot of language at this point to individual pairs.

9. Unfortunately we ran out of time here but next lesson we will be finishing the dialogues, acting them out with plenty of work on pron, followed by a language focus on the meaty language that came out of their scripts.

10. Can’t wait for next week!

Real-life problem solving has so much potential and can be extremely motivating because it gives a genuine reason for communication.

It was also interesting in this lesson just how relevant these tasks were to their business needs, at least in terms of functionality. As can hopefully be seen from the procedure, there are plenty of opportunities for instruction and learning (it’s far from being just a chat!).

Apart from anything else, learners love hearing about their teachers’ lives. We are objects of endless curiosity! What is going on in your life right now that you could adapt into an engaging Unplugged lesson?

  1. I also discovered that students LOVE giving advice to their teachers. Yesterday, I had my one of my students (4 person class) lead a discussion on a topic of her choice, which also happened to be an common interest of the whole class – Hiking and Backpacking. The conversation picked up dramatically when I asked for suggestions about where I could go if I had never been before. They could have talked for 3 more hours about it, but class ended. I think bringing a story where you need advice is a good idea, especially if it’s a “I’m not from around here…what should I do?” situation.

    • Hi. Thank for your comment. I also find that advice, like problem solving, works every time for the simple reason that the communicative situations are genuine and real to the people in the room.

      However, as a colleague pointed out the other day: “you wouldn’t want to do that in every lesson.” Indeed you wouldn’t. In general though, I’m starting to use a lot more stories in my teaching. It stemmed from my reading around YL teaching. Stories inspire the imagination and, due to their narrative structure, contain all the features of natural discourse that are often nowhere to be found in text books. The Dogme take on this, for me, is to use stories from people in the class, retell them, scaffold the language, provide all the discourse markers and cohesive devices that are missing and so on.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. Nice write up and a great idea. Think I will try this one out next week. Did you have a word with the owner of the building?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Dogme training session – before « An Experiment with Dogme

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: