3, G. Gennadiou Street, Athens, Greece
+302103301202 +306974065437

Can you teach a Dogme Lesson on your Cambridge DELTA?

Teacher training and Development

Can you teach a Dogme Lesson on your Cambridge DELTA?

This post is written in response and as part of a twitter conversation with Martin Sketchley – @ELTexperiences on Twitter. His blog post on his own Dogme observed lesson can be found at the end of this post.
In the days before writing his experimental asignment for the DELTA course, Jonathan – my trainee of last summer – worried a lot about whether he should attempt this or not and whether a lesson plan was in order – in the days that ensued, I asked Scott Thornbury on twitter and this was his very kind response:


Doing a Dogme lesson


Jonathan, was properly flattered and smitten with the wonder of twitter and immediate feedback and started working up to this lesson 🙂


Eventually, he finished his assignment and lesson plan and you will be able to find it here and download assignment and ‘plan’, more of a diagram really

According to him, the lesson did not go very well. After he had completed his assignment, he wrote this very disappointed blog post
It truly did not matter whether the lesson worked or not; the reflection which follows a failed attempt to implement something new, something outside one’s comfort zone is perhaps much more valuable than an incidental and mechanically produced “success” – which can happen too, if you are experienced and versatile.
But here is Jonathan’s beautifully crafted diagram – it bears a lot of discussion why this lesson did not perhaps live up to its creator’s expectations. Jonathan himself has identified some of the reasons in this post lesson evaluation and discussion as well as in his blog post where he lets off a bit more steam!
Here is his diagram though – submitted as a nice alternative to column style planning.
Related Blog post
Martin Sketchley’s Unplugged Teaching Practice – Formal Observations

Forgot to mention that this post and materials upload was with the full consent of Jonathan Aichele – I felt it was not appropriate to post before his Module 2 results to were issued, but now that he has got through this Module with flying colours… well, the sky’s the limit and on to Module 3, Jonathan, right?


16 Responses

  1. I absolutely love this diagram from a techie, teachery point of view but I have to confess, like on Martin’s wonderful description, I fear that there is just too much thought.
    I’m not sure how to express this more elegantly except to say that “the art of dogme” requires a little bit more flow and little less pre-thought. I fear that if I walked into a classroom with this diagram I might (no matter how lovely it is at post-analysis possibly) get distracted and not allow the conversation to emerge. But who knows!

    • Thanks for comment, Karenne, although this post is not about what is and what is not dogme.
      Isn’t the diagram lovely!
      It looks to me like something that might work perfectly as a template of possibilities and eventual outcomes in any lesson almost!

  2. Jonathan Aichele says:

    Point well taken, Karenne. A lot of the pre-lesson planning associated with this had to do with the fact that it was serving as part of the Experimental Practice assignment for the Delta.
    Marisa and I thought that, as there was going to be no lesson plan proper, something would need to be needed to placate the dragons at Cambridge. 🙂
    Did you have a chance to read my reflection post on the matter? I’d be curious to get your thoughts on that as well.

  3. I agree with Karenne that there is too much pre-planning here–but at the same time I can see how this exercise would have been a great catalyst for reflection afterwards, so this kind of thing is definitely not time wasted!
    My own immediate reaction to this lesson is that it misses any real opening hook. While student generated topics are great to run with, I do think it is necessary for the teacher to provide *some* initial stimulus that is pre-selected and meant to be engaging.
    Of course, we don’t know exactly what this teacher did in the “Briefing” and “Negotiation” stages, but what I might have done is opened with some real content. That is, rather than open with a meta discussion on Ss’s experience with language learning, which is what I’m guessing he did here.
    In fact, a great place to start might be the “short provocative text” in the trainee’s contingency plan. Like a good conversationalist, it seems to me that a good Dogme teacher needs to engage Ss first with a good opener. Simply going in and saying, “Okay, let’s talk about anything you want. How about language learning? What do you think of your teachers?” might be a recipe for disaster (certainly would be, in my teaching context anyway).
    On the other hand, presenting a short piece, especially if it’s a bit controversial, generally leads to many opportunities for students to engage with and direct the content, and for the sharp teacher to then pick out emergent language items from.

  4. Marisa Constantinides says:

    Thank you Karenne, Marcos and Jonathan for your comments.
    As indicated in the post, and in Jonathan’s response, this lesson was part of an assessment; as the criteria for assessing this assignment include a section on planning – see below:
    Part B: Specifications for Part B Experimental Practice
    Length 2,000-2,500 words (excluding the lesson plan but including the post-lesson evaluation)
    So, although my own personal choice would be a narration of what happened in the lesson rather than a plan, as Jonathan’s tutor, I had to find a way to help him include some semblance of a plan to satisfy Cambridge ESOL specifications.
    On another note, however:
    Dogme is not a dogma and even if it were, it does not follow suit that a teacher has to follow certain edicts to the letter – it’s an option, and as such, it was taken and implemented by a teacher according to his perceptions at the time, perceptions which may have by now changed. If the experience were to be replicated by Jonathan or any other teacher, I am certain it would come out very different each time!
    I like Marcos’ suggestion that the “short provocative text” might have been a very good alternative point of departure.
    As Scott himself suggests, it’s not a game for new players and I also think that Jonathan interpreted his suggestion about “bifurcating directions” very well with his flow diagram.
    We can debate, in retrospect, whether the directions were the appropriate ones; that is another issue for reflection, certainly.
    I think that Jonathan was very much aware of the fact that his limited contact with the particular group of learners had a lot to do with the lesson outcomes – in that sense, if you look at Martin’s lesson plan which has a very detailed class profile, you can see that there is a different type of group awareness that drives that particular lesson and much more of a pre-selected set of target language phrases which Martin anticipated might be of use to his learners.
    Does that cancel out that lesson as a Dogme experience?
    You might argue it does, but then, I fear that these arguments might fall on the side of dogma rather than dogme.

  5. tykendall says:

    My heart goes out to him on this one! I can totally relate to all the emotions he describes (I visited Jonathan’s blog).
    I have recently completed my CertTESOL course and I remember having a similar experience once. All my colleagues were quite happy to do PPP for every observed lesson, and I decided to be a maverick and do TBL. Of course, everybody suddenly wants to watch (more due to Schadenfreude I think than pedagogical curiosity). 🙂
    I too went through all the stages he describes on his blog, the fear, the anticipation, the dread…
    Similar to Jonathan the lesson went ok, not great, not awful. But I was given credit for being brave enough to try something new, cast off the PPP comfort-blanket and I did learn from it.
    I have downloaded Jonathan’s lesson plan and I think it is great to see somebody share their less successful moments as it is far more common to see people shouting about their victories…
    I would be interested to know if Jonathan intends on putting the recording of the lesson onto youtube/online at some point? I think he mentions it on his blog, but it may have been sarcasm 🙂
    I would just take the opportunity to throw my two cents in about dogme,…
    1. I think people get hung up on the “materials light” aspect and go overboard and think it means “materials forbidden”. I’m not sure to the extent Jonathan used materials its something I’ve come across before.
    2. Sometimes people try to run before they can walk. By that I mean that they make things overly complex for themselves, something I think Jonathan touches on in his blog. I know I’ve been guilty of it. I don’t think his pair-work approach was bad, i just think perhaps a pyramid discussion or a full-blown class debate might have worked better (and perhaps easier for Jonathan to catch emergent language).
    But I don’t know the specifics so this might not have been feasible. Just a thought.
    Anyhow, I think posts like this are fantastic! Learning from each other and developing, Thanks to Marisa & Jonathan for sharing!

    • Ty,
      Thanks for your comment and for recognising this post and Jonathan’s consent to publicisize it in its proper light.
      As I said over at Jonathan’s blog right after his lesson, “And surely, the success of the assignment is not in the teaching but in the reflections – and lessons that it has taught YOU!”
      There are probably more lessons to be learnt by something that didn’t quite go as planned or anticipated and there is a great need for more of those to be discussed, not necessarily to clarify what is dogme and what is not…

  6. Jonathan Aichele says:

    The ‘contingency plan’ was indeed something I had up my sleeve in case the plenary selection of a topic fell flat on its face. To broach the issue with the learners I initially explained that I had not pre-selected a topic, but had brainstormed some possibilities on my own, which are represented on the diagram as topics 1-3. I gave the class a few minutes to discuss in pairs if they wanted to discuss one of the topic I brainstormed or another topic of their own selection (the purple box on the flowchart). In the end they elected to go with the topic of their experiences learning English (#1).
    In the end, the provocative text was not needed. They selected the topic and had more than enough to say about it. This was quite an interesting result for me, as I full expected to use the text–I thought there was no way the plenary negotiation of a topic would work.
    And that, I think, is worth a moment’s consideration!

    • Thanks for the explanation, Jonathan, and sorry if I came across as overly critical (as it seems to me now on second thought). I’m actually quite impressed with the thought you gave to this pre and post lesson.
      Regarding opening with the negotiation vs. the provocative reading, you’ve made me wonder if I don’t tend to take the easy way out sometimes in the classroom by providing too much ‘leading’ content right away… Worth a moment’s consideration for sure–thank you!

      • Jonathan Aichele says:

        No worries, Marcos, you weren’t being overly critical. I just saw the opportunity to fill in a few pieces of information which you couldn’t have known.
        All the best!

  7. Jonathan Aichele says:

    Thanks very much for your reply. It’s nice to know someone else out there has gone through a similar sort of pain! 🙂
    “I would be interested to know if Jonathan intends on putting the recording of the lesson onto youtube/online at some point? I think he mentions it on his blog, but it may have been sarcasm”
    There is in fact a video. I labored for a long time deciding whether or not to upload it for public consumption, as the sharing of mere words on the lesson was tough enough as it was–posting the video would be downright scary!
    Unfortunately, it’s not even an option for me right now. I’ve just relocated to rural Borneo and the internet connection here isn’t capable of managing anything beyond basic web browsing.
    Still, one day the video may yet peak its head out into the light… 🙂

    • Jonathan. Thank you for sharing the diagram. It is much appreciated. Like yourself, I was able to record my Dogme lesson and am now starting to think about uploading to YouTube to share for other teachers.
      I found it incredibly rewarding experimenting and leaving my comfort zone in the classroom. My tutor was very supportive and helped me with selecting the most appropriate Dogme task. I chose a debate to reinforce an earlier lesson and am glad that I chose it.
      I would always recommend trainees undertaking the DELTA or equivalent to do one experimental lesson for self development. I have learnt more that reflection and the rationale are more important for planning a Dogme lesson than whether it was successful or not. Glad to find your blog and will add it to my blog roll as well as Marisa’s.

  8. Diarmuid says:

    The diagram is fantastic. If only more lesson plans looked like this…
    As for the lesson itself, I think you experienced the risks inherent in making dogme too much of a commodity. When all is said and done, dogme is very unglamorous and is more likely to provoke a response along the lines of, “Oh. Is that it?” Because all it really is is saying and doing. Not an awful lot more.
    Am really impressed with the plan and with the reflection. More impressed still with the openness and sharing. Thanks.

    • Hi Diarmuid,
      Thanks for your comment here – have been following the great discussion over on your new cantankerous blog… I love it!
      But haven’t felt like contributing much – so much has been said already by so many different parties that even Scott and Luke themselves in full Dogme regalia make comments that no one listens to.
      The crown has mysteriously disappeared and is being seen adorning different heads each time – all with very definitive views of what dogme is and what isn’t.
      In a post I wrote ages ago, I made a small comment about parallels in the teaching approaches and the sources and origins of methods and trends, referring back to C.Candlin & M. Breen’s book “The Essentials of the Communicative Approach” (1980)
      I see a lot of similarities there and I think they are worth exploring

  9. Hi Marisa and Jonathan,
    Pleasure to read this – such a grand portrait of a thinking teacher. Thank you for sharing so much!

Comments are closed.