Hmm, Dogme? Very young learners?

Hmm, Dogme? Very young learners?

March 10, 2012 18 Comments

What am I thinking about at the moment? A quick glance at the previous posts list on my blog would suggest younger learners. An accurate guess. In fact, the last six months has been a roller-coaster ride learning experience of teachingchildren ages 7-10 – an age for the most part alien to me until coming back to Italy.

Here it’s big business, young learners. While numbers in business and general English are falling, there has been some quite substantial growth in the number of younger learners whose parents or schools are taking the initiative and signing their children up for class. In short, it’s an area of teaching that an EFL teacher in Rome would be a fool not to start specialising in.

If you’ve glanced at my blog since its inauguration February last year, you may be aware that I’m part of the Dogme crowd, a dogmetician. You may have also asked yourself as I have, “but does this guy do Dogme with his younger learners too?”. Not yet, I respond.

“Does this guy do Dogme with his younger learners too?”

Of course, that’s not to say that it would be impossible. Nevertheless, it appears rather necessary to err on the side of caution.

With very little experience of low levels at young ages, it would seem of paramount importance to to understand your environment before embarking on a Dogme journey. Absolute folly, some would say, “younger learners need structure”, “activities and worksheets add the all-important balance that settles”, “songs and rhymes make lessons more fun and interactive”, “learning styles and student preferences need to be catered for”. Well articulated arguments and very convincing, each one.

These are well articulated arguments, and convincing ones

You might ask, what have you been doing then?

Lesson structures: including feedback routines, classroom layout, stir-and-settle activities.
Different activities to appeal to a variety of learning styles
Techniques of using flashcards to teach vocabulary
Using well-designed materials well: one sheet per one-hour lesson, preferably
Using songs, chants and jazz-chants
Drama and miming activities
Helping students with different problems: behavioural, pronunciation, word formation (without using their more formal names).
Classroom management: giving positive and negative feedback on behaviour
Functional language for the classroom.

In this post, I suggested that a newly qualified teacher could and even should try a Dogme lesson. By no means am I planning on retracting anything. I do however think it is important to add that this post dealt with adult classes. Anyone experienced with both will agree with me that they are two completely different kettles of fish. Preparation is important.

I suggested that a newly qualified teacher could and even should try a Dogme lesson. By no means am I planning on retracting anything.

Last Monday, a Dogme lesson happened in my 8 year-old class of Quinta Elementare. I’d like to share it with everyone. I think it’s important to note that before the lesson, I had a plan and materials that I fully intended on using.

1. Last week students had cut out and stuck in pictures of furniture to make their bedrooms. Seated in a circle, I used a student’s book to review the vocabulary from the week before. First with pictures, then spelling the words on our backs, then lip reading.

2. When in the last stage, a student said, “I’m in my room, I sleeping”, another asked me from the same group “how do you say gioacare al wii in English?”. At that point, I decided on running with this language for a bit.

3. I split the class into four groups. Two groups were to wait outside the room (A + B) (there’s a hall-monitor to look after them outside) The other two thought of an action they do in their rooms (C + D). Groups C and D could ask me in Italian for the action if they needed it. Once decided, representatives from group C and D mimed their actions separately to students from A and B. One by one, each student came in, watched the action and copied it. Another student then came in to whom the previous student mimed the action. At the end we guessed the actions.

4. Sat students in groups of 4 and we mimed actions in our rooms together. I moved around helping with various difficulties and noting down some of the actions. I also made an effort to model the present continuous, which I would say 75% of students started using.

5. We then moved to the board and recalled the actions we had mimed. I wrote “I’m in my room” on the board and wrote the actions given to me by students:

“I’m in my room”

“I’m getting dressed”

“I’m playing on the computer”

“I’m looking at my A.S Roma poster”

“I’m reading my favourite book”

“I’m watching television”

“I’m playing on my Wii”

“I’m sleeping in my bed”

6. I then asked students to go and draw themselves doing three actions in their rooms they’d designed the lesson before and write what they are doing. I then gave them the question “what are you doing?” and they shared their actions with each other, asking the question and responding. I circulated helping students that had more difficulty with prounciation, using some cuisenaire rods to show the different words.

7. I had written a chant in the meantime and had some cuisenaire rods with me. At the end of the lesson we sat in a circle and sung the following song, with different coloured rods for (I’m) (watching) (television) for example.

The chant was:

In my room, In my room!

What are you doing?

In my room, In my room!

I’m getting dressed!

In my room, In my room!

What are you doing?

I’m sleeping in my bed!

In my room, in my room!

What are you doing?

In my room, in my room

What are you doing?

I’m playing on my Wii!

8. We finished the lesson by filling out our behaviour chart. All smiley faces for lots of English used. Students left the classroom still singing out chant

(copied from:http://languagemoments.wordpress.com/tag/teaching-english-through-songs)

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