ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

By - Martin Sketchley

Unplugged Teaching Practice: Formal Observations

Earlier this month, I was getting towards the end of my Teaching Practice (as part of my MA in ELT at the University of Sussex) and decided to experiment as part of my final lesson.  I decided very early on during my Advanced Practical Teaching course to attempt an unplugged lesson.  The Advanced Practical Teaching is regarded as a DELTA equivalent qualification and is recognised by the British Council.  I have to create a portfolio for my course and reflect back on teaching.  Nevertheless, I have never attempted a ‘Dogme’ style lesson per se and I thought it would be a good chance to get some feedback on an unplugged approach from my tutor.  Obviously, I consulted more on “Teaching Unplugged” by Meddings & Thornbury (2009) and read verious articles and blog posts on the Teaching English website.

Prior to the lesson plan, I sat down and watched Thornbury explain the pros and cons of an unplugged approach for formal observations or as part of in-house training.  This was invaluable prior to writing and assisted with concentrating more on the rationale when writing a formal lesson plan.  The video that I watched is illustrated below:

Should I do a “dogme” lesson as part of my DELTA course experimental practice?

I decided to attempt the “Space Travellers” lesson recipe which is suggested within the “Teaching Unplugged” textbook.  As I had used technology quite effectively in previous lessons, I decided to turn the projector and PC off and have a ‘materials light’ lesson.  My lesson plan is shared below (for those that are interested) and I would be keen to hear from other ELT professionals that have attempted a Dogme lesson.

Dogme Lesson Plan
Dogme Lesson – Sussex University(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

I found the experience of a formal observation with my Dogme lesson challenging but incredibly rewarding.  The feedback that I received from my tutor as well as the support from my colleague was satisfying and I was pleased that it was positively received by the students.  The students were a strong group of Upper Intermediate level, a range of nationalities and of all ages.  Within the lesson plan, I attempted to lay the foundation for the lesson and worked out (as best as possible) all potential scenarios.  As the lesson focused primarily for students suggesting and communicating their opinion, I tried to look at possible language for providing an opinion, disagreeing, etc.  I had to consult with other material and provided the possible target language.  Once I completed the teaching practice, I had to write a self-evaluation and reflect on the Dogme lesson.  Again, this was a great chance to reflect on what went well and what could be improved in the future.  My self-evaluation is available to view below.

Dogme Self-Evaluation & Reflection
Dogme Lesson Reflection – Sussex University(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

As with a Dogme related lesson, there are a number of possible scenarios that could form during the teaching practice but there was one ‘critical incident’ that I was not expecting.  A lower level student walked into class a little late and I found out early on that she was not in the correct class.  She attempted the lesson but she was incredibly shy and my colleague directed her to the correct classroom.

Nonetheless, would I recommend other trainee teachers, or those completing the DELTA or equivalent course, to attempt a Dogme lesson?  Naturally, I would say yes but I would warn that an unplugged lesson can either work incredibly well or it could fall apart but for those that are experienced, or have prepared well in advance, this would present itself as a positive challenge.  This type of lesson combined with a formal observation (as well as being filmed – which I was in this case) is incredibly nerve-wrecking but highly rewarding.  I do believe that Teacher Trainers regard and reward teachers that wish to experiment as part of CPD with a DELTA or a related course.  Have you done a Dogme lesson as part of your training?  What was your experience?  Would you recommend others to attempt an unplugged approach to teaching during a teaching practice course?

I have decided to focus on an unplugged approach to my classes with my local language school in Eastbourne.  Today, I worked on the similar lesson as part of my teaching practice with my teenagers and my Upper Intermediate students were incredibly receptive.  The language that emerged during the lesson was incredibly (‘lactose intolerant’, ‘GM crops’, etc).  I hope with future practice and development that I am able to incorporate and include more of a Dogme approach to my lessons.  As Meddings & Thornbury (2009) suggest, it is best to include a little of Dogme often until students become more receptive to this approach.

Finally, there is an organised TeachingEnglish Seminar for 5 April 2011 (that I hope to attend) which features Luke Meddings that is arranged in London soon.  More information is detailed below:

Luke Meddings – 5 April Seminar – Spring Gardens(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();