Dogme with large middle school classes, WHY? Part 3

This is the third and final post of this series on dogme in public schools. For those of you who’ve missed the previous posts and would like to catch up: Part 1 & Part 2.

Considering the demand for standardized testing by many institutions of education, dogme may seem like an unhelpful approach to teaching our students. However, the number one attribute of dogme, its adaptability, is precisely what lends itself so well to just such an environment.

Dogme asks the teacher to focus on the students in the classroom. The experiences, histories, opinions, and interests they bring to class are exploited by the teacher to help students generate genuine language.

The trick is finding a way to open up the classroom to personalized student expression and marrying that with the language points to be taught.

Dogme’s adaptability is precisely why it is useful in a public school context. A teacher can adjust any lesson to incorporate a “watered-down” version of dogme that allows one to focus on certain language points while also opening up space for students.

The EPIK example

In Korea a great number of teachers have been brought in through a program run by the government. This program is called EPIK (English Program In Korea). I am one of these teachers and my experience is akin to the majority.

In my situation, I see my middle school students once a week and have a certain lesson, from a course book, with key expressions I am meant to cover in my class. However, the students in each grade change level every 6-8 weeks (of which there are 4: high, int, low, beg. I do not teach beginner classes). Some weeks classes are lost to holiday, or “cultural training”, or “safety training”. In such cases I may not see a specific class for two or three weeks at a time. It is my 45 minute block that is solely dedicated to speaking. At no other time are they asked to vocally generate English. The students, quite justifiably, have great difficulty building on their previous work.

By using dogme “lite” one is able to focus attention on the key expressions they will have to remember for their tests as well as recycle previously learned language and structures

Example.

In a typical middle school classroom role play, students memorize specific lines and recite. It is boring for them. It is boring for me. They know a good bit of language already. I am there to coach them. I am there to help them practice and refine their skills. Keep it simple. I give them language chunks they need, help them generate personalized chunks and then trust them to run with it.

Open it up!

Last week the key expression was on advice.

Following is an example of taking one key expression, helping students generate genuine language chunks, and then motivate them to carry a conversation as long as they can. Then they practice it. Then they demonstrate it, usually with a bit of acting.

(from last week’s 3rd grade high level class on advice)

1)      Hey 지영, what’s wrong with you

2)      I fought with my friend and now she is angry.

1)      Why did you fight?

2)      She like my boyfriend.

1)      Oh, that is a problem

2)      I know, what should I do?

1)      If I were in your shoes I would write her a letter. (key expression this week)

2)      Good idea, thank you

 (from a recent 2nd grade intermediate level class on directions)

1)      Where is your favorite PC room?

2)      It is in 반여동1

1)      What next to PC room?

2)      Next to PC room is grocery store.

1)      Where you buy snacks?

2)      In PC room.

Bringing students lives in to the classroom adds interest. That interest is precisely why they have a better chance at learning and retaining the language they use.

In the end, I am a coach. Students here already have a wealth of vocabulary and grammar knowledge. I only teach one small speaking section of the course book. By utilizing dogme I am able to cover the objectives of the course book, grab student’s interest, and help them express themselves. Through this process we practice, practice, practice, thus refining their skills. Just like any athlete, skills mastered today may not be retained tomorrow. The only thing that will ingrain those verbal skills for the long term is practice, and I, as a good coach, must find ways to motivate in a positive way. Through dogme, I am able to do that.

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