In my previous post I gave a detailed description of my platonic relationship with Dogme. Today I can confidently claim that it happened; I’m almost certain that I’ve taught unplugged and I can pretentiously announce that it was a brilliant lesson. The lesson I’m talking about was materials light (I had only brought a set of Rory’s Story Cubes), it was conversation driven and the language which emerged during the lesson had not been planned in advance. We didn’t focus on any particular structure and I didn’t restrict the students in any other way as far as language was concerned. I did have a few lesson objectives in mind, though. My students were supposed:
- to practise creative writing
- to practise peer feedback by reading each other’s mini stories and commenting on them
- to discover for themselves what areas of writing and language in general they needed to work on
However, I had no idea what the stories would eventually look like. In other words, I couldn’t foresee what language and content the students would come up with.
I entered the classroom with one set of Rory’s Story Cubes. I showed my students the brand-new orange box, which immediately captured their attention. I opened it and took out the nine cubes, which I held in my hands so that the Ss couldn’t see them. I went on to ask several question in order to incite more interest in the classroom (occasionally rattling the cubes to evoke the Ss’ imagination and curiosity). I elicited the following answers:
What’s in in my hands? – Cubes
How many cubes are there? – Nine.
What do you do with the cubes? – Throw. Roll.
What’s on each of the cubes? – Pictures.
How many pictures are there on each cube? In other words, how many sides does each cube have? – Six.
There’s a different picture on each side of a cube and there are no two identical pictures in the box. How many pictures are there if each cube has six sides and there are nine cubes in the box? – 54
I praised the Ss for being smart and good at maths 🙂
I gave Ss a piece of paper per pair. I asked them to predict what pictures there might be on the cubes. They were supposed to come up with six words.
Then I gave each pair one cube. Their task was to look at all the sides and tick any words in their list that they found on the cube. Then they sent the cube to the pair on the left and got one from the pair on the right. This went on till all the Ss had seen all the cubes. I didn’t insist on precise answers – I let them see what they wanted to see (some saw an alien while others considered the same picture to be a boy or a mask). Most Ss guessed 4 or 5 out of six words. At this stage I provided all the vocabulary they wanted to know, i.e. unknown words for images on the cubes, such as magnifying glass, lock, electric bulb, etc. plus vocabulary they knew passively but couldn’t recall (tent, lightning, alien…).
I asked each pair (there were 7 pairs altogether) to grab one cube and roll it at least six times to get six different pictures. They wrote all the words down. Their task was to tell a mini story using the words in no particular order. The next step was to write the story. There was plenty of space on the board so I asked them to write the stories there. This proved to be handy for the follow-up activity – peer feedback – because everybody could see all the stories in one place.
The first pair read their story aloud. When they finished, we applauded to show our appreciation. We tried to come up with some positive feedback first. Then I asked all the class to spot any mistakes in the story and correct them. I didn’t point out any more mistakes myself; I left it exclusively up to the Ss.
Finally I asked them to look at the corrected pieces of writing and tell me what areas of grammar or vocabulary they think they need to work on in the future. The main problems seemed to be missing articles and the -s ending in third person singular verbs.
We finished just when the bell rang. What a perfect timing for a Dogme lesson!