Dogme and Technology

Dogme ELT the bookDogme ELT is a "materials-light" methodology and also a very active discussion group.

The discussion group has got a bit hijacked of late in futile debates between the advocates of technology and its detractors but Graham Stanley now suggests a way forward in his Dogme 2.0 for ELT wiki, with a call for "vows" that would outline technology's place in Dogme ELT… Can you (and how…?) use technology and remain "faithful" to Dogme…?

(In case you wonder, Dogme ELT had "vows" when it was first set up back in 2000, as did Lars von Trier's Dogme 95 film-making, from which it took its name).

Dogme has been defined as being "conversation-driven, materials-light, focused on emergent language"; all of those things strike me as being "right" and the challenge is how to stay with that and still use technology — without the technology taking over the conversation, and becoming the focus of attention.

One of ways that can be achieved, I think, is that the learners should use technology to create and communicate, not merely to consume… as I've suggested previously.

A similiar definition of Dogme comes from the blurb on a new book on Dogme, Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching (Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury, Delta Publishing, 2009): it's a "materials-light, conversation-driven philosophy of teaching that, above all, focuses on the learner and on emergent language" (my italics).

It's not nearly so well known as some of the ELT publishing giants, but Delta Publishing has got some really great books for English teachers

Resource books for teaching young learners

Some of the excellent titles in the OUP resource book series

In the technology session we had on our teaching very young learners course this week, I mentioned the books in the superb OUP resouce book series for teachers of young learners.

Among the titles we have in the library (not quite the complete series) are the following, with the age groups they are intended for given in parenthesis:

  • Art and Crafts with Children (4-12)
  • Assessing Young Learners (6-12)
  • Creating Stories with Children (4-14)
  • Drama with Children (5-12)
  • Games for Children (4-10)
  • The Internet and Young Learners (7-15)
  • Projects with Young Learners (5-14)
  • Storytelling With Children (7-14)
  • Very Young Learners (3-6)
  • Young Learners (5-12)

Sample pages, activities, etc., are available online (registration required).

Clearly, not all the activities are suitable for very young learners, but I can most highly recommend the series…

Sure, you can find great things on the Internet, but you've got wonderful things in books, too!

10 books for teaching young learners

Someone on our post-CELTA support group asked the question the other day… Did anyone have suggestions on how to spend a £500 budget (!) on books for the staffroom for those teaching young learners?

These would be my suggestions, with the cash left over being spent on giving each teacher their own personal copy of the first…

A skill you can teach yourself
First a supremely useful skill, which will entertain and teach your young learners, and will save you ever again having to waste your life stealing pictures from Google-is-Evil:

A bit of theory…
Then a bit of theory, with plenty of practical ideas in these three books too:

  • Teaching Languages to Young Learners, Lynne Cameron (CUP): Essential background reading, you don't want to teach young learners without being familiar with what's in this book [Amazon]
  • Teaching Teenagers, Herbert Puchta and Michael Schratz (Longman): Definitely my next choice. In my experience, one of the vital things about teaching kids is your attitude to them: this book changed my attitude to kids, radically so [Amazon]
  • How Languages Are Learned, Patsy Lightbown and Nina Spada (OUP): One that all language teachers should read [Amazon]

Books full of practical classroom ideas…
And then five great resource books in the superb Oxford series:

  • Drama with Children, Sarah Phillips (OUP), [Amazon]
  • Storytelling with Children, Andrew Wright (OUP), [Amazon]
  • Art and Crafts with Children, Andrew Wright (OUP) [Amazon]
  • The Internet and Young Learners, Gordon Lewis (OUP) [Amazon]
  • Writing with Children, Jackie Reilly and Vanessa Reily (OUP) [Amazon]

I put drama and storytelling first in my list there deliberately, with arts and crafts next. One of the most frequently asked questions on our support group is "Can anyone suggest games for young learners?".

But, at least in my own experience, I've found that drama and stories and making things are often in the end more engaging, more entertaining and more language-rich than most "games".

Oh, go on then, there's also a Games for Children in the same Oxford series…

The power of story telling

Once upon a time…

Another one I didn't have to search for, as it came to me via my RSS feed: an article on storytelling by Mario Rinvolucri on my favourite ELT site,

Story telling, Mario says, is "a uniquely powerful linguistic and psychological technique in the hands of a language teacher" and suggests various story-telling techniques that a teacher can use.

One of the most frequently asked questions on our post-course support group must surely be "Can anyone suggest games for younger learners?". Yes, here, here and here, but is it games or stories that will really engage your young learners?

For slightly older learners, ones that can already write in English (though it doesn't have to be at a particularly high level), don't just stick to story-telling, I'd say, but get your learners to enjoy story-writing

To learn more about story-telling, there is also the excellent Storytelling with Children, by Andrew Wright.