When I think of dogme, what first springs to mind is the type of teaching where, ideally, all the resources and the content of the lesson are provided by the students. Although I’m by no means a pure Dogmetist, I regularly love to indulge myself in teaching Unplugged.
Handing it over to the class can result in an enormous wave of creativity and genuine, meaningful conversation, not only in the actual lesson but later on with other classes too. The key is to let yourself inspired by your students.
The other day, a 13-year-old Jane was eager to share a personality test she had come across on the internet. We had a couple of minutes left of the lesson and it was before Christmas anyway, so I thought it may be a great way to wind up. So she enthusiastically marched to the front of the class and told the following story:
Imagine a very tall banana tree. Under the tree, there are four animals: a lion, a giraffe, a chimpanzee and a squirrel. The animals decide to compete to see who can get a banana from the tree first. Who do you think will win?
If you’re curious to see the results, you can watch this video, which I’ve just found on YouTube. Or you may well think about the answer yourself and wait till the end of the post. 🙂 To cut it short, each answer, i.e. animal, equals a different personality trait. Anyway, Jane elicited some answers from the class and after a short discussion, she revealed the results.
It was fun and everybody loved it, but I immediately realized the activity had a much greater potential. So the next day, I shared it with other classes. By the way, I’m not a great storyteller but I did quite well with this one (it’s very short after all). Needless to say, each and every time, the story provoked different reactions and different language points emerged, depending on the students’ age and level of proficiency.
However, the trick is not to reveal the results immediately. Obviously, there is no correct answer, even though at first sight, some alternatives appear more logical than others. So, let your students tell you what they think and see what happens. Remember that you’ll keep them in suspense and fully engaged as long as you keep the answers a secret. But even later on, once your students are familiar with the results of the test, you will definitely hear some interesting ideas. Most likely, there’ll be words of disagreement or doubt, which is highly desirable and beneficial at this stage. Based on my experience, with advanced classes, you’ll probably end up having a serious, deeply philosophical debate while with younger learners, it’ll be just a light-hearted chat.
Here are some of the questions you might want to ask after you elicit the answers (before you reveal the results, which you can see below the image):
- Why did you choose this particular answer?
- Why did you dismiss the other options?
- What do you think your answer will reveal about your personality?
- What will the other answers reveal about people in the class?
- In the other class most people chose ‘answer 1’ but here most of you agreed on ‘answer 2’? What do you think this might mean?
- If your answer was the lion, you are a fighter.
- If your answer was the giraffe, you are a logical thinker.
- If your answer was the squirrel, you are an optimist.
- If your answer was the chimpanzee, you are a deep thinker.
Now, I have lots of follow-up activities up my sleeve, but that would be another longish post. So, until next time ….