Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Dogme One-to-One: “Weekend Plans”

Teaching one-to-oneThis afternoon, I was planning to teach a pair of learners (one female Brazilian and a male Spanish learner) for an hour and a half.  The coursebook for this afternoon class that I decided to refer to as “Outcomes Intermediate” and decided to start a new chapter for a new week.  The teacher from the previous week had got up to Unit 9, so it made sense to start on Unit 10.  Chapter 10 is called “Going Out” and as you can guess is all about making plans, giving directions and talking about the previous night, so the plan for the lesson was to talk about the previous weekend with the students: what they did, where they went, etc.  However, one of the students did not turn up and I was left with a learner who I had not taught only once before – the male adult learner.

When I entered the classroom, we both said hello to each other and we sat down.  I started the conversation naturally by asking the learner what he had got up to over the weekend.  He told me for some extended period of time that he had been to London and visit all the sights and sounds of the city.  During the five minutes, I was making notes to scaffold language, improve pronunciation issues or correct any errors.  For the next few minutes, we looked at some language to improve the learner’s fluency and I made some notes of popular tourist sights in London.  After the discussion of the weekend, the conversation naturally turned to speaking about plans for this coming weekend.  Again the learner was keen to head back to London again and I made a mental note of this, so that I could exploit this in due course.

Before the lesson, I printed out a webpage from Trip Advisor about my local area, Eastbourne, so that we could discuss this.  We looked at some of the recommendations and spoke about whether the student had visited any of the attractions. Funnily enough, the learner hadn’t visited any of the attractions so, on the spot, I asked the learner to think about where he may decide to visit in the future over a weekend.  He was quite keen to visit the Cuckmere River, which is between Eastbourne and Brighton, as well as Rottingdean, which is very close to Brighton.  This point during the interaction led me to mention to the student that I used to visit Rottingdean every week to play at a jazz workshop and the conversation took another lead.  The student then spoke about the concerts he had been to in the past and how he spent sometime in London shopping for CDs and bought various “compact discs” of “Pink Floyd” and another rock group which I forget.  The conversation then went back to concerts in Madrid and other places in Spain.  So, I decided to see where this conversation would lead and mentioned the best places in London to see a concert – the O2 Arena or The Royal Albert Hall.  I mentioned to the learner that my very first concert I went to was in Huddlesfield to see “The Eagles”.  The learner shared his experiences and we scaffolded some music related language (band leader, guitarist, etc).

Nearer the last 30 minutes of the lesson, I finally got to the coursebook and we started the unit.  We looked at vocabulary related to artists, museums, and music – determine the odd one out activity – and then we looked at question and answer links.  The learner managed to complete the activity.  We decided to pass the discussion activity due to the extensive conversation which took place earlier so we decided to agree some homework for the week.  We both jotted down some ideas and I reminded myself what the learner had mentioned nearer the start of the lesson, that he was planning to visit London this coming weekend.  So, I told the learner to visit the Trip Advisor website and plan their own weekend using this site.  The learner agreed and then I said, to enhance this try to write down your plans by hand or computer and then give it to me in a few days.  Again the learner agreed.  The learner then said that he wanted to present his “Weekend Plans” to practice his speaking activity.  I said that this was a wonderful idea.  We packed our things up and I finally asked the learner whether they would like to focus more on the coursebook, do much of the same today or do something different the following day.  The student said that he was happy to practice speaking and was content with his grammar but would also like to focus on listening and he tried to explain a Spanish joke in English and wrote down it on the whiteboard: “I have a brick in my ear“.  I am incredibly pleased the learner was keen to share some humour but I would have taught him the expression “speaking to a brick wall“, but I had no time left – something to consider for tomorrow.

It seems to me that Dogme-esque moments are more common and practical when teaching one-to-one and teachers are able to react, focus on a point or save for a later time.  I found myself during the lesson noting down language, sharing experiences, grasping threads of conversation to exploit and scaffolding language on the whiteboard.  It was wonderful experience and it was so nice to be able to guide the conversation where I wanted it to go.  I have been thinking more and more about recording my classroom interaction with the learners to share with readers and perhaps see the moments that I am able to exploit situations so that the teaching can be guided down to another area.  What do you think?  Would you like to see more language teaching clips on ELT Experiences?  Have you ever recorded your learners with a video recorder?  Would you give me any advice?


  1. I’m always interested in seeing others teach, so watching recordings is great. I think when it comes to recording there is always going to be a tendency to act unnaturally because the camera is there, for both the teacher and students. So I would suggest having the camera in the class for a few lessons before you want to actually start recording so that everyone can get used to it. Sandy Millin also wrote about her experiences taping her classes here http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/watching-myself-teach/ if you haven’t seen it already.

  2. ElienK

    I think it’s great to record a lesson. You can see how you (and your students) behave which is great if you’re looking to improve yourself. Not to mention that others can watch you and get some tips or ideas out of it. But I do have to agree with David Harbinson; it can cause awkwardness so it’s important that you ask for consent first. I remember a teacher who wanted to film us without asking first which caused a lot of discomfort in our class. But i’d say; if you’re students are all for it, why not do it?

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