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Introduction Why this book? The idea for this book originated during a workshop. A group of teachers were lamenting about the absence of a one-stop resource which covered a variety of contemporary approaches, techniques and methods for teachers wanting to experiment in the classroom. Instead of continuing to gripe, we decided to put our 26 years of ELT experience together to write this book. Who is this book for? Whether you are a new or experienced teacher, this book gives you five ways to experiment with your teaching. You may want to get out of a teaching rut, develop professionally, solve old problems with new solutions, or even just shake things up. For candiates doing the Cambridge DELTA, this book can be used to guide your Experimental Practice assignment and help you address the unique challenges and opportunities that each selection in this book provides. What is experimental practice? Also known as exploratory teaching or action research, experimental practice (referred to as EP in this book) is simply trying out something new for you as a teacher, and then evaluating what transpired afterwards. What special features does this book have? To get the most out of this book, go to the chapter that most interests you. Each chapter follows the same format with both theory and practical classroom application. Each chapter consists of: 1. History & Background 2. Experimental Practice

3. Sample Lesson Plan 4. Lesson Principles 5. Opportunities 6. Risks 7. Dos and Don’ts 8. Toolbox Why these five chapters? We surveyed Cambridge DELTA tutors in Europe, asking them about the Experimental Practice assignment in DELTA Module 2, and the choices their diploma candidates made. The top 5 experimental practice topics from the results (see charts below) were selected for this book. Alternative historical approaches such as Suggestopedia, Total Physical Response and the Silent Way were not picked as we felt these already had sufficient resources.


Fig. 1 DELTA candidates’ choices

Fig. 2 DELTA tutors’ recommendations

Now, let’s set out on an EP journey – take a Walk On The Wild Side with us!

Dogme History  &  Background   When  Scott  Thornbury  was  first  inspired  by  the  film  director  Lars  von  Trier  in  2000,   he  was  presumably  unaware  of  the  revolution  and  debate  he  would  start  in  ELT.  The  Dogme   movement  initially  took  its  core  ideas  from  Lars  von  Trier’s  "Dogme  95  manifesto"  which   vowed  to  move  towards  traditional  filmmaking  without  the  use  of  special  effects  or  props.   Thornbury's  creation  of  his  own  vows  of  EFL  chastity  came  from  witnessing  a  dependency   on  materials  as  a  teacher-­‐trainer.    As  a  result,  the  movement  began  as  a  way  to  wage  “war   on  material  driven  lessons”  (Thornbury,  2000).  Luke  Meddings  is  another  founder  of  the   Dogme  ELT  movement  and  after  nine  years  of  articles,  talks,  and  Yahoo!  Group  discussion,   Meddings  and  Thornbury  published  Teaching  Unplugged:  Dogme  in  English  Language   Teaching.  The  book  contains  a  description  of  Dogme  principles  as  well  as  activities  and   considerations  for  applying  Dogme  to  the  classroom.   In  Teaching  Unplugged,  the  basic  principles  of  Dogme  ELT  are  outlined:     •

Interactivity between the teacher and learners leads to co-construction of knowledge.

The most engaging material will come from the learners themselves.

Language is not acquired. It emerges organically given the right conditions.

If materials are used, they should have relevance for the learners.

The teacher’s role is to draw attention to features of emergent language and “optimize learning affordances.” adapted from (Meddings and Thornbury 2009, p.7) The principles  of  Dogme  are  not  revolutionary  in  and  of  themselves.  Thornbury  

plainly admits  this,  saying:  “There’s  nothing  very  original  in  Dogme”  (Thornbury  2005,  p.3).   It  has  roots  in  humanistic  education,  the  communicative  approach,  critical  pedagogy,  and   other  materials-­‐light  approaches.  It  also  ties  in  with  motivational  factors  discussed  by   Dörnyei  (2001,  p.  35),  who  advises  teachers  to  “let  [learners]  know  they  are  expected  to  be   curious”  to  increase  motivation.  Although  the  ideas  of  Dogme  may  not  be  new,  giving  a   name  to  this  approach  to  teaching  has  helped  create  a  community  of  ‘Dogmeticians.’  This  

does not  mean  that  they  teach  exclusively  in  Dogme  style,  but  they  do  recognise  the  value   of  consciously  integrating  the  approach’s  principles  into  their  teaching.      

Experimental Practice   Dogme  is  considered  a  natural  choice  for  experimental  practice.  It  appeals  to   teachers  who  wish  to  sever  their  dependency  on  materials,  and  those  without  access  to   materials  or  resources  due  to  technical  limitations  or  financial  restraints.    The  ultimate   experimental  practice  for  those  who  feel  they  are  constantly  at  the  photocopier,  frequently   relying  on  technology  during  class  or  relentlessly  handing  out  materials.  For  even  the  most   experienced,  qualified  or  skilled  teacher,  Dogme  can  be  a  challenge.  Some  find  the   experience  exciting,  thrilling  and  risky,  the  equivalent  of  throwing  away  the  rule  book.   Others  feel  it  successfully  develops  teaching  skills,  fostering  observation  skills  and  the  ability   to  rapidly  respond  to  emerging  learner  needs.     The  popularity  of  Dogme  for  experimental  practice  is  further  enhanced  by  the  buzz   around  the  movement.  Since  its  inception,  Dogme  has  attracted  the  interest  of  the  entire   ELT  field  and  has  been  both  praised  and  criticised.  Many  say  it  allows  learners  to  experience   “language  and  learning  in  a  profoundly  human  way”  (Meddings  and  Thornbury  2003)  while   others  lambast  Dogme  as  “winging  it  elevated  to  an  art  form”  (Ibid  2003).  From  both  sides,   however,  the  buzz  is  not  fading.  Dogme  has  maintained  its  vigour  with  years  of  articles,   talks,  Yahoo!  Group  discussions,  blog  posts,  tweets,  a  wiki  entry  and  a  book.    Rebels  love  it,   financially  strapped  teachers  adopt  it,  and  those  with  a  hatred  of  coursebooks  embrace  it.     Dogme  came  first  in  our  survey  of  DELTA  tutors  as  the  most  common  choice  for  the   DELTA  EP  assignment  by  candidates.  To  be  a  valid  choice  for  the  EP  assignment  however,   the  candidate  must  not  have  previously  experimented  with  Dogme.  Although  all  DELTA   candidates  have  doubtlessly  already  taught  unplanned  lessons  or  lessons  which  are   materials-­‐light,  the  rationale  and  research  behind  preparing  a  Dogme  lesson  differentiates  it   from  simple  improvisation.  True  experimentation  with  Dogme  allows  teachers  to  thoroughly   evaluate  and  reflect  on  their  teaching,  giving  the  DELTA  candidate  a  substantial  amount  of   material  to  assess  and  discuss.  As  Thornbury  himself  stated  in  2010  when  asked  about  the   appropriateness  of  Dogme  for  the  DELTA  EP  assignment:  “[Dogme]  certainly  qualifies  as  

experimental given  the  current  state  of  orthodoxy  is  to  work  safely  within  the  materials   paradigm,”  (Thornbury,  2010).                              

Sample Lesson  Plan   Note:  The  unpredictable  nature  of  Dogme  means  that  no  single  outline  would  accurately   reflect  the  diversity  and  choice  within  a  “typical”  Dogme  lesson.  Rather  than  provide  a  linear   outline,  a  flow  chart  representing  the  numerous  choices  available  has  been  provided.    

Lesson Principles   In  Teaching  Unplugged,  Meddings  and  Thornbury  qualify  Dogme  ELT  as  being   “conversation-­‐driven,  materials-­‐light,  and  focus[ed]  on  emergent  language”  (2009:8).  This   does  not  mean  Dogme  rejects  the  use  of  materials.  It  simply  means  the  direction  of  the   lesson  is  determined  by  what  emerges  in  conversation  between  the  teacher  and  the   learners.  As  seen  in  the  flow  chart  of  the  sample  lesson,  these  conversations  could  also  take   place  between  learners,  with  the  teacher  acting  as  a  facilitator,  helping  learners  to  

reformulate and  express  ideas  clearly,  and  drawing  attention  to  relevant  linguistic  points.  In   Dogme,  the  language  that  emerges  from  the  learners,  guides  the  lesson.  The  various  roles  of   the  teacher  and  learners,  as  well  as  how  working  on  emergent  language  shapes  the  lesson   can  be  found  throughout  the  flow  chart.     Note  that  although  the  starting  point  of  the  flow  chart  does  not  include  materials,   Dogme  does  not  have  to  be  materials-­‐less.  Materials  that  are  relevant  to  learners’  lives  will   encourage  dialogic  learning,  which  is  vital  to  Dogme.  Dialogic  learning  can  be  defined  as   “that  in  which  both  teachers  and  pupils  make  substantial  and  significant  contributions  and   through  which  pupils’  thinking  on  a  given  idea  or  theme  is  helped  to  move  forward,”   (Mercer,  2003).  Thus,  relevant  materials  could  be  introduced  during  this  opening  stage.   In  the  opening  stages,  the  lesson  is  based  around  conversation.  The  teacher  initiates   a  conversation,  materials-­‐mediated  or  not.  If  learners  have  something  interesting  to  share,   the  teacher  can  encourage  the  discussion  to  develop,  listening  carefully,  but  stepping  aside   to  allow  learners  to  talk.  The  teacher  helps  as  needed  to  scaffold  the  discussion.  If,  however,   learners  are  less  forthcoming  the  teacher  may  build  on  whatever  is  provided  by  learners.  To   try  to  spark  a  discussion  among  learners,  the  teacher  can  directly  ask  a  question  related  to   the  topic,  such  as  but  not  limited  to  “What’s  the  most…you’ve  ever  …?”,  “What  would  you   do  if…?”,  “What  kinds  of…  do  you…?”  (i.e.  “What  kinds  of  dishes  do  you  like  to  cook?”,   “What  kinds  of  problems  do  you  have  with  your  neighbors?”,  etc.)  Aim  for  open  questions,   which  are  more  likely  to  generate  conversation.  As  Meddings  and  Thornbury  (2009,  p.  35)   point  out:  “Asking  the  right  questions  can  help  to  nudge  the  conversation  into  new   directions,  and  this  will  encourage  people  to  extend  their  language  use.”   Another  alternative  to  encouraging  participation  from  hesitant  learners  is  to  get   them  working  on  language  earlier  in  the  lesson  as  indicated  by  the  light  blue  box  on  the   right  of  the  flow  chart.  Some  learner  groups  may  feel  more  comfortable  working  from  a   structured  activity  towards  discussion  as  they  ‘warm  up’  to  the  session.  However,  this   activity  should  be  built  on  the  conversation  that  has  already  begun.  It  may  be  a  dictogloss,   as  presented  in  the  flow  chart,  but  could  also  include  creating  a  questionnaire,  having   students  try  to  note  new  words  they  heard  in  your  story,  etc.  The  idea  is  to  set  a  task  which   will  allow  the  teacher  and  learners  to  notice  gaps  in  their  interlanguage.  This  will  provide   material  for  the  subsequent  parts  of  the  chart  in  which  the  teacher  takes  the  opportunity  to   extend  learners’  language.    

Learners may  then  begin  asking  questions  about  the  language  being  worked  on.   Sometimes  their  inquiries  have  nothing  to  do  with  the  language  at  hand,  in  which  case  the   teacher  may  opt  to  respond  briefly  and  respond  more  in  depth  in  a  future  lesson  (see  the   light  pink  box  on  the  flow  chart).  This  is  especially  useful  if  the  teacher  does  not  feel  they   can  provide  an  adequate  answer  on  the  spot.  According  to  Bill  Trusten  of  the  USC  Center  for   Excellence  in  Teaching,  this  honesty  “will  also  make  students  feel  comfortable  about   speaking  when  they  don’t  know  the  entire  answer.”   If,  however,  the  teacher  feels  comfortable  addressing  the  inquiry  at  that  moment,   the  language  can  be  integrated  into  the  lesson.  At  this  point  the  teacher,  ideally  together   with  the  learners,  begins  imagining  an  activity  practice  the  language  that  has  emerged;   perhaps  a  theme  will  also  have  emerged.  Meddings  and  Thornbury  remind  teachers  that   “paying  close  attention  to  details  of  form  will  build  confidence  in  your  unplugged  approach.”   Activities  will  necessarily  be  material-­‐less  because  they  are  included  as  the  situation   demands.    Thus  role  plays,  peer-­‐created  exercises,  word-­‐mapping  activities,  story  creation,   substitution  tables,  performing  tasks,  etc.  are  all  suitable.     On  the  left  side  of  the  chart,  we  imagine  a  class  where  the  learners  are  more   forthcoming  with  language.  In  this  case,  the  teacher  has  a  few  options  on  how  to  deal  with   learner  output:  begin  focusing  on  the  language  to  scaffold  conversation,  let  the  discussion   run  and  do  delayed  correction,  or  identify  a  theme  on  which  to  build  the  lesson.  Again,   these  stages  will  allow  the  teacher  to  identify  and  address  learner  difficulties  and  also   respond  to  learners’  questions  about  language  and  subsequently  decide  on  ways  to  re-­‐work   the  target  language,  as  teachers  should  not  forget  that  they  should  always  “aim  to  do   something  with  the  language  that  emerges  in  class,”  (Meddings  and  Thornbury,  2009:  p.  60).   At  the  end  of  the  lesson,  after  the  tasks  have  been  completed,  it  is  important  to   allow  time  for  learners  to  reflect  on  what  happened  and  what  has  been  learned  (see  yellow   boxes  in  flow  chart).  This  helps  them  see  how  the  seemingly  “unpreparedness”  of  Dogme   indeed  leads  to  learning  opportunities.  It  also  allows  time  for  the  teacher  to  record  what   happened,  what  language  was  addressed,  and  make  notes  to  ensure  continuity  between   lessons.  Before  ending,  the  teacher  and  learners  can  discuss  where  to  go  next  in  the   program.  This  is  also  the  opportunity  to  invite  learners  to  bring  materials  and  ideas  for  the   following  lesson.  As  Nunan  (1988:  p.  20)  states:  “Important  in  planning,  presenting,  and   evaluating  outcomes  will  be  joint  consultation  and  negotiation  between  teachers  and  

learners.” This  joint  decision-­‐making  gives  learners  an  active  role  in  building  the  course,   often  leading  to  higher  motivation  and  investment.    

Opportunities   •

Discourages a  dependency  on  resources,  props  and  technology;  unplugs  by  using  the   learner  as  a  resource  

Enables successful “tuning in” to learners; avoids rigid lesson plan adherence

Provides opportunities for creative learner engagement; uses various stimuli to initiate learner talk (images, drawings, stories or props within the classroom)

Focuses teachers  on  exploiting  language  which  arises;  shapes  emergent  language   through  scaffolding  

Offers learners  more  responsibility  over  classroom  content;  furnishes  learners  with  a   valid  voice  

Develops teaching  skills  for  coping  with  the  unknown;  empowers  teachers  and   boosts  confidence  

Increases conviviality in longer Dogme courses; increases participation and enhances rapport (Rebuffet-Broadus 2013)

Drives teachers to discover their limits; exposes future professional development opportunities

Enhances material evaluation through objective criticism; discourages blind obedience to text books

Stimulates spontaneity  through  interactivity;  engages  and  inspires  learners  and   teachers  without  materials  

Risks   •

Failing to explicitly describe the rationale behind Dogme; misunderstandings caused by vague or unclear explanations

Assuming learners can co-construct lessons; those not used to being solicited may not respond or participate

Struggling with  learner  expectations;  anticipating  materials  (handouts,  videos,  texts,   etc.)  and  coping  with  ‘unconventional’  teaching  

Not giving Dogme enough time; having to attempt several sessions before learners take the initiative

Interpreting Dogme as laziness or indifference; learner motivation issues due to the teacher’s apparent apathy for preparation

Failing to  exploit  emergent  language;  conversation  classes  without  direction  or   content  

Experiencing awkward  silences  during  class;  uncomfortable  non-­‐teaching  moments   which  encourage  negative  backwash  

Battling problems with pace; learners moving at an unpredictable pace which forces spontaneous and skilled improvisation

Allowing individual learners to dominate; neglecting to use classroom management techniques within a Dogme framework

Wrestling inner  demons;  extending  teacher  wait-­‐time  and  handing  over  control  

Dos •

Experiment with different seating arrangements to stimulate discussion. Place chairs in circles, triads or a U-shape without tables. Sit around the same table with learners, or have learners grouped at smaller individual tables. Removing

physical obstacles provides opportunities for increased eye contact and encourages enhanced discussion. •

Prepare a repertoire of adaptable, material-less activities to scaffold and support emerging language and vary lesson pace: mind maps, task-based activities, role plays, drills, dictogloss and learner-created quizzes or exercises. Equally, prepare to respond to different types of content; grammar, lexis, chunks of language, pronunciation, issues of cohesion and discourse features.

Encourage learners to take copious notes. Since there are no handouts or materials, this is the most straightforward method of recording classroom content. Also allocate time at the end of each Dogme lesson for additional note-taking if necessary. These notes can then be used to discuss and consolidate the lesson. Alternatives would be to record the lesson and photograph whiteboards.

Ask for learner feedback at the end of each Dogme class. This can be done anonymously and in the learners’ L1 if necessary. This gives all the learners the opportunity to provide feedback, including those who feel too shy or lack the confidence to voice their opinion. If carried out face to face as a group, this is also an opportunity to reward learners with praise for providing input.

Analyse and reflect on every Dogme class. To ensure language can be reviewed, reworked and remembered, note language that emerged, how it was worked on and how the learners responded. Also, note ideas for the next class to ensure continuity, and make sure any unanswered questions from the learners are answered in the next session.

Don’ts   •

Don’t waltz into class and blindly wing it without a copy of the Dogme flow chart and a list of possible activities to use. Dogme lessons require teachers to be highly attentive, prepared to set up and manage different types of

material-less activities, and to think quickly to maintain pace. This requires not only a lot of energy and confidence, but solid pedagogical knowledge.

Don’t let your class become a simple chat. While Dogme classes are conversation-driven, they are not merely conversation. Within the Dogme classroom, it is important to move away from simple conversation to focus on emerging language, give learners the chance to digest new forms, and also to clearly differentiate it from a conversation class.

Don’t be afraid of making decisions. Dogme does not mean simply letting the learners run wild or dictate every aspect of the class. The teacher also plays an important role in deciding how and when language is scaffolded or supported, when an activity needs to be stopped or extended, or how the classroom and activities are managed.

Don’t feel that emergent language has to be dealt with immediately in the lesson in which it surfaces. Sometimes complex questions arise which cannot be answered by both the learners and the teacher. Rather than forcing a (possibly wrong) explanation, acknowledge its complexity and provide opportunities to work on that language in the next lesson.

Don’t feel obliged to continue with an activity that is evidently not working or failing to facilitate learning. If something is clearly unsuccessful, admit it with a little humour and try something different. Keep a list of successful and unsuccessful activities and approaches, noting what happened and why. Involve the learners by asking what went wrong and what would work better.

Toolbox     1. The  original  Dogme  article:  Thornbury,  S.  (2000).  “A  Dogma  for  EFL.”  IATEFL  Issues,  153,   p.  2.     2. The  definitive  Dogme  book:  Meddings,  L.,  Thornbury,  S.  (2009).  Teaching  Unplugged:   Dogme  in  English  Language  Teaching.  Delta  Publishing.      

3. The video  in  which  Scott  Thornbury  addresses  choosing  Dogme  for  the  DELTA  EP   assignment:     4. Dogme  evaluated:  Wade,  Phil.  (2012,  February  12).  EFL  Experiment  2:  The  ultimate   Dogme  criticisms  and  responses.  Retrieved  from­‐experiment-­‐2-­‐the-­‐ ultimate-­‐dogme-­‐criticisms-­‐and-­‐responses/#comment-­‐299     5. The  Dogme  Yahoo!  group:     6. Current  Dogme  trends:     a) Parry, J. (n.d.) “The Future of Teaching Unplugged (aka Dogme 2.0)” Retrieved from b) Akyol, B. and Meddings, L. (2013, April). “Unplugged and connected: Where ideas meet.” Paper presented at the 2013 IATEFL Conference, Liverpool, England. Video retrieved from c) Gaughan, A. and Orde, I. (2010, April). “Simplifying initial language teacher education.” Paper presented at the 2010 IATEFL Conference, Harrogate, England. Video retrieved from   7. Dogme  followers:     Dale  Coulter:   Anthony  Gaughan:   Luke  Meddings,  co-­‐founder     Christina  Rebuffet-­‐Broadus:   Chia  Suan  Chong:      

Chapter References   Dörneyei,  Z.  Motivational  Strategies  in  the  Language  Classroom.  Cambridge:    

Meddings, L.  and  Thornbury,  S.  (2009).  Teaching  Unplugged:  Dogme  in     English  Language  Teaching.  Surrey,  England:  Delta  Publishing.     Mercer,  N.  (2003).  The  educational  value  of  ‘dialogic  talk’  in  ‘whole-­‐class  dialogue.  New     Perspectives  on  spoken  English  in  the  classroom:  Discussion  papers,  73-­‐76.     Retrieved  from     Nunan,  D.  (1988).  The  Learner-­‐Centered  Curriculum.  Cambridge,  England:  Cambridge     University  Press.     Thornbury,  S.  (2000).  “A  Dogma  for  EFL.”  IATEFL  Issues,  153,  p.  2.     Idem.  (2005).  “Dogme:  Dancing  in  the  Dark?”  Folio  9/2.  3-­‐5.  Accessed  May  25,  2013.     Idem.  [Scott  Thornbury].  (2010,  July  27).  Doing  a  Dogme  lesson.  [Video  file].  Retrieved     from     Trusten,  Bill.  (n.d.).  Teaching  tips  from  the  USC  Community.  Interacting  with  students.     USC  Center  for  Excellence  in  Teaching.  Retrieved  from      


Labs version of Walk on the Wild Side