Teaching Unplugged by La-Salete Moreira

The following post was written as a summary of the session with the same name which took place at IH Portugal's training day.

The session was delivered by Lee Mackenzie, the DoS from IH Aveiro, and was based on the premise of using the teacher and the student as the source materials for the lesson. This approach focuses entirely on the student and his/her interests, and the teacher’s ability to activate students’ knowledge without following a specific course book or syllabus. The teacher follows the student’s pace and choice of topics and doesn’t impose a pre-determined structure. The aim is, therefore, to encourage conversational communication among the teacher and the students. All language used should be ‘real’ and have a communicative purpose. Consequently, grammar should arise naturally during the lesson and not be the purpose of the lesson.

This approach is based on the “Dogme 95 Manifesto”, a filmmaking movement that started in 1995 by the Danish directors. This movement upholds that the art of filmmaking should exclude the use of elaborate special effects or technology. This philosophy was later adopted by EFL experts turning it into a language teaching methodology. It became known as “Dogme EFL”.

Throughout the whole session, Lee Mackenzie demonstrated this methodology by eliciting opinions and points of view from all the teachers about different topics, most of which were chosen by the teachers.

We enjoyed this session a lot. It was interesting to learn about this methodology and how we can implement it in the classroom. From the students’ point of view, they feel in control of their learning and more motivated. From a teaching perspective, it cuts down on preparation time (which is great!) but it also keeps you alert as you never know what could happen in class. This approach will really keep you on your toes! Like many teachers who attended this session, we believe that it is easier to use Dogme EFL with higher level students and, particularly, in a one-to-one situation.

Furthermore, as teachers, we also face certain constraints that impede using this approach exclusively, one of them being the fact that our students buy expensive course books and expect (or their parents do) them to be used in the lessons, while the choice of topics for discussion is another. Choosing appropriate topics, both in terms of students’ interest, command of the language and age, requires thought and attention in order to avoid using “PARSNIP” themes in our classes.

To sum up, the session was useful to discover and exploit another teaching methodology which is much more than just an open conversation class. It involves a structure that allows students to become independent in their learning and promote their critical thinking.

Interested in knowing more about this topic? How about adding these articles and sites to your reading list?

https://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/attachments/20_steps_to_teaching_unplugged.pdf

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/teaching-unplugged

Teaching Unplugged

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