Day two at #iatefl from a downtown BsAs bus

10 04 2013

Starting this on the bus on the way home from the centre of town,

The 39 bus - from Corrientes to Carranza

The 39 bus – from Corrientes to Carranza

and no doubt won’t finish it til tomorrow morning, but wanted to try out making a post on my phone – after all, this is where our learners are headed, isn’t it?

Sandy has been a big help again today, easily my star of the conference.


‘We’ ‘saw’ the following talks together:

Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? – Leo Selivan
Bridging the gap by Ceri Jones
From preparation to preparedness – Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley

Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? – Leo Selivan

talk sounds fascinating, I love travelling back through the history of the language as he did at the beginning of his talk and this pie chart of the make up of English I haven’t seen before:

Where does English come from?

Where does English come from?

And for some strange reason I always enjoy telling my students that English is the biggest language in the world (for some other strange reason my Argentine students never believe me and insist Spanish has more words, not a problem I ever had in the Czech Republic).

And of course, the main point Leo makes about synonyms is crucial when it comes to vocab learning (well-timed, since I’m doing our CELTA session on teaching vocab this afternoon – one of my favourites) – synonyms are not the same.  This is something I’m a staunch defender of and always pick up our trainees on when they say ‘they’re the same’ to the students in class (a little demand high CELTA tutoring there, Neil?).  If they were the same then we wouldn’t have two words for something.  The reason we do have two words for something, or three or four, is because there are subtle differences between them (perhaps because the different social or geographic classes saw things differently back when the language was being molded (hang on a minute, language is always being molded (although perhaps nowadays it’s being moulded too?)).  And so they don;t differ in basic meaning, but as Leo points out, they differ in their collocations, register, colligations and semantic prosodies, to name but a few.  And this does need to be pointed out to students, as I will point out to our CELTees this afternoon.

Sandy reports only two practical ideas from Leo, collocation forks, which if I understand correctly go back to Lewis’ ideas in The Lexical Approach, and a website called Just the word, which looks like a useful reference page for teachers and students alike – demand high of yourselves by checking out collocations of words before you teach them (but remember to stay in the context in which you’re teaching).  My example nods to yesterday’s post about Day One at IATEFL:

I do like the visula simplicity of the little green bars, though I’m struggling to see why ‘cabbage at’ is just as used as ‘cabbage with’. Market forces I imagine.

Bridging the gap by Ceri Jones

is getting short shrift because I have some Academic Coordinating to do before pilates class, but seems worth a mention because the course book she is selling in the talk seems to be written on slightly more solid foundations than any others in recent years.  It seems to take into account the changing world and changing language around us and tries to be more relevant to learners by including them more in activities.  I imagine like most talks about course books she focused on the three best activities in the book, but hopefully that’s just me being cynical.  Definitely one to check out when it comes to choosing new books.  One activity she mentions that I am a big fan of is getting the learners to write a text before they read a similar text form the coursebook, they are then immediately comparing their own ideas and writing skills with those of the author, which makes the whole process more cognitive and affective.

From preparation to preparedness – Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley

This was one of the most eagerly awaited (and tweeted sessions) of the day and I picked up on the following:

This just made me want to be at the conference and at the session.  Whether or not the presenters were giving us good ideas, I’d love to have been there to see them try.

And this tweet makes me want to read these articles.  We should all be expecting the unexpected in our lessons – and enjoying it!  One of the things I loved most about our recent Delta Intensive was watching very good teachers (when the lesson went to plan) become even better teachers by changing the plan, adapting the plan and losing the plan depending on their students’ needs.

But unfortunately there weren’t too many practical ideas coming out of the session, except for this list:

Training teachers to improvise

Training teachers to improvise

Improvising teachers

Improvising teachers

Those last two are the ones I’m going to focus on more, since the others are hopefully already ‘just good teaching’, aren’t they?

Time to coordinate, so I’ll leave you with a few random thoughts on a few random tweets I favourited throughout the day:

Completely agree with this one, Mike.  I always try and set my self a new development goal each year (and normally manage many more along the way).  This year’s include blogging IATEFL :), writing a Delta Module One Live Online course and celebrating IH World’s 60th anniversary (hope you enjoy the free gifts, since many of them are from me).

This tweet too sounds like the kind of session I enjoy – practical activities that really work in the classroom.  How many were there?  What were they?  Do they really promote further fluency?  How can I find out?

I include this tweet because I don’t really get it.  Apart from people actually paying less attention to the speaker during conversations because they are distracted by their phones (although at conferences we probably concentrate more when we are tweeting / blogging during the talks?), speech itself isn’t changing, so how does the speaker envisage speaking activities reflect the more digital communication that there is?  Anyone who was there care to enlighten me?

This link sounded good so I’m sharing it with you.  Obviously I was intrigued by the Dogme / Demand High mix (’twas only a matter of time) so let’s see what it’s all about shall we? Not much D&D (un)fortunately, so little in fact I had to comment on it:

Hi Tom,
Very common sense if your students have the technology – sounds just like my kind of lesson and similar to one I shared yesterday in its use of whatever tech is ‘handy’.
Am interested in hearing how you made it Demand High though, since that doesn’t come out of your post and those dominoes don’t sound very Dogme (not that that’s a criticism).
But I hope your title and tags brought you a few new readers like myself anyhow ;) .

I’m a big fan of Wily’s and would love to have been at his talk – he really is an authentic teacher and always makes you think.  If I have time I’ll try and get more of a taste of his and Katy Davies’ talks to comment on tomorrow, because they sound like to of the talks of the day.

Work beckons.  What do you reckon?

A couple of comments on ‘Five against One’ by @bealer81

6 10 2012

An International House colleague, Adam Beale, finishes off his second year of teaching and heads into his third with a couple of pertinent blog posts and much promise of an exciting new project for the year ahead:

I think I’m looking forward to your blogs this year even more than last years – hopefully we’ll get lots of adapted materials out of you to share on the IH platform! And will you be presenting for us at IHTOC3 – ?

Adam, interesting reading and a lovely way to bring the project to a close – really enjoyed following it all the way through.

That you finish with a comment about emergent language and a formula is great too – I have many doubts about Emergent language and I love formulas. I think the Dogme movement are confused when they speak about emergent language, what they really mean is interlanguage. As I understand it, emergent language is the result of the process, therefore your formula could read:

interlanguage + input = emergent language

I’d be a lot happier with this formula, but it’s also one that’s been around a lot longer then Dogme…

The London 2012 Olympics

22 07 2012

This week sees the beginning of the Olympic Games in London.  Why not get your students into the mood by doing some Olympics related activities in the classroom?  The idea of this blog is to provide a space for us to share ideas and resources we create around IHWO so that we can motivate and inspire our students to learn English as well as enjoy the way London hosts the Olympic Games.

Please do add your ideas and resources to the platform both as files and here as comments.  I’ve been brainstorming a few ideas to get you underway.  Hope you like them:

Olympic Activities

Present an Olympic sport:


Students explain to classmates how one of the Olympic sports / disciplines works.  Great for developing vocabulary and research and speaking skills.  When giving their presentations, the classmates can be making notes, filling in a chart (to later compare sports) or thinking of follow up questions to ask. 

            Olympic history

Students present the Olympic history of a sport or discipline.  How long has it featured in the games for?  When was it first included?  Who were its most famous winners?  What Olympic stories are most connected to this sport.  Listeners can fill in a chart or ask questions or decide on the most Olympic sport / best presentation. 

            Olympic timetable

Students present the where and when and how to watch this Olympic sport, aiming to make it as attractive an event to the other students as possible.  Listeners can choose one event to watch, fill in an info chart or decide which presentation was most successful.  


Present the athlete


Students choose a favorite athlete to present to the class, giving a summary of their careers to date and previewing their possible participation in the games to come.  Listeners can rank athletes in order of interest of decide on the best presentations.  or ask follow up questions on each athlete.  

            Career in pictures

SS can post a blog about an athlete, describing their career highlights and accompanying it with pictures from the web.  Students then comment on each others’ posts, asking follow up questions about their careers or making simple comments on the pictures posted. 

            Daily Olympic journal

 Students choose an athlete to follow throughout the games and each day / class/ week write a journal entry as if they were that athlete.


Present the country

            Top three athletes

Students research a country’s Olympic team and choose three athletes to focus on.  These can be presented as an article, a blog post, a picture presentation or a short speech.  

            Top three teams

As above, but focusing on teams rather than individuals (e.g. the women’s football team, the cycling team, the yachting team). 

            Gold medal possibilities

Students write a summary of a country’s best medal prospects.  The class can keep a log of each student’s recommendations as the games progress – did they win the medals predicted? 

            Country background /  Country history

 Students choose a country to write or speak about and can summarize their background or history, either sporting or entire, perhaps focusing more on lesser known or smaller countries. 


The host country

There are myriad articles available on the internet about all of the topics below and many more.

Students can each choose an article to read from the internet on the given theme and then in class they discuss the information in their articles, comparing and contrasting their research or giving each other tasks to do based on their texts (e.g. use of Englsi closes or reading comprehension tasks).

            Games preparation

            The bidding process

            The Olympic village

            Security arrangements

            The Olympic torch

            The Opening Ceremony


The Olympics


Each group can present a summary of a previous Olympic games 


Students discuss what the Olympics mean to them and debate their value to society in the modern world.  


How will the Olympic movement continue beyond 2012?

Students could prepare a pitch for their countries/cities to host the Olympic games.  


I’m sure there are millions of other activities that can be done using the Olympics theme and making the most of all the written and spoken materials that there is out there on the web.  but I hope some of these ideas help you to incorporate the excitement of the games into your lessons and help your students learn some English in a fun way.  

Happy Olympics everyone!


No Man’s Land – Finding the Middle Ground in the Dogme Debate

16 02 2012

No Man’s Land – Slides from Montevideo 29/2/12

Macmillan Montevideo

On Wednesday 29/2/12 I had another go at No Man’s Land at the Macmillan Montevideo Conference 2011 held at the Anglo.  It was interesting to see how the talk changed as a result of  having a different dialogue with a different audience – Montevideo was much less impressed with Dogme than Buenos Aires was and quite a few members of the audience were brave enough to call themselves Textbook Traditionalists at the beginning of the talk, although we all ended up as Dog-maurauders at the end.  The talk was also shorter, so I focused more on the ten key principles and had also summarised 10 key Dogme-rauder principles which the audience were happy to accept and take away to consider.  Let us know how you get on!

Many thanks to Nicolas from Macmillan for organising the day, my impressive fellow speakers Aldo Rodriguez, Phil Hanham and Gustavo Gonzalez and, of course, the anglo for hosting the event – although it was the great audience that made the day such a success.

Pro-T Buenos Aires

Here are the slides from the talk at Pro-T 2012 on Thursday 16th February 2012.

No Man’s Land

Many thanks to everyone who came to the talk on Thursday and to @lcamio and the Pro-T team for inviting me and organising everything so smoothly.  I really enjoyed the talk and discovering much more about the principles of Dogme ELT through the process of researching, planning and writing the talk and sharing it with you on Thursday.  It was exciting (and empowering) to put the decision about whether or not to ‘convert’ myself into a Dogme-gician in your hands, and participating in that Dialogic Co-construction of knowledge to see what emerged was an enlightening process.  I hope the talk has helped some of you to look at your classrooms from a slightly different angle and gives you some ideas about how to ensure our students are at the centre of everything we do.

If you feel you are a Dogme-gician, it would be great to hear how you have managed to incorporate your Dogme teaching style into the confines of the educational context where you work.

Dogme-gician's believe in all the magic of Dogme.

If you’re a Dogme-rauder, it would be great to hear which principles of Dogme you have particularly pillaged and which ’emergent’ tasks and activities you have used successfully or are going to try out.

Dogme-rauders have a soft spot for the 10 key Dogme principles, but prefer to loot and pillage the best of all methods

And if you’re a Textbook Traditionalist, then it would be great to hear the reasons why.

Textbook traditionalists start their planning from the next page of the course book and feed their students grammar mcnuggets

The ones that came up during the talk were pressure from above (Principals getting in the way of principles?) and the necessity to prepare students for exams.

The first problem is going to take time and persistence in order to convince principals, parents and even ministries of education, that the syllabus can be covered and students can learn English and prepare themselves for exams without having to faithfully follow a course book step by step.

And exam classes can easily prepare through a less materials dominated approach.  Students choose the texts they want to work with (be they authentic, course book, test book or whatever).  Students can construct test activities for each other from these texts, empowering them to discover much more about the tests and the strategies needed to complete them successfully.   Students can decide which tasks to work on when, depending on mood, trending current affairs topics, previous classes, perceived weaknesses.   Students can design the course syllabus, selecting the test materials to use, the balance of test types to focus on, writing proposals at the beginning of the course, progress summaries during the course, reviews of the course as it progresses and reports on their progress towards the end of the course.  Obviously, the students will choose to use Practice Test materials during the course (I imagine), but this is all part of being a good Dogme-rauder – letting students choose, allowing the syllabus (as well as the langauge) emerge through a dialogue involving the whole class.

Al, Vicky and Susan enjoying the talk – laughing in the face of Dogme?

I seem to have burst into song – lyrics a-merging!

Looking forward to hearing where you stand and I was relieved to find out I can continue to be a Dogme-rauder at the end of the talk!

Comment on @harrisonmike ‘s blog post ‘Mine, Mine, Mine’

29 01 2012

Hi Mike,

Yes, less is more should definitely be the message and is one we stress again and again on our Luke-less Delta course here in Buenos Aires.

Another extension to your dialogue ideas is the ‘half a dialogue’, which can be used as revision of a certain dialogue or as a way into a new one. The idea is that if you have a dialogue between A and B (hopefully written by the students) one group gets the A lines and the other the B lines. What they have to do is write the other speaker’s lines of the dialogue (As write B lines and vice versa) on a separate piece of paper, leaving lines free between the lines they write. Then the groups swap papers and have to complete the half dialogues written by the other group, creating a new dialogue completely written by the class. this can then be compared to the original dialogue and any interesting differences (i.e. students using simpler language than the original) can be noted, or they can just be mined, mined, mined in their own right.

Me is for Method: Comment on Scott Thornbury’s blogpost ‘A is for Approach’

22 01 2012

Many thanks for such a measured and thoughtful rise to the challenge, which really helps me to move closer to my own understanding of what Dogme is and how it can help us to keep improving as ELT teachers. (Although I wish you’d linked back to one of my ‘real posts’ such as ‘Who Needs Dogme?’ rather than my post-run ramblings like ‘Plodding and Pondering’ :) ).

On first reading, your post almost convinced me that perhaps Dogme was, in fact, an Approach, but closer reading, especially of your Richards and Rogers quote, leads me, personally, closer to a conclusion that Dogme is, if anything, a Method. But certainly not ‘just another’ Method, Luke, don’t worry!

In order to be an Approach, Dogme would have to ‘refer to theories about language learning…’. I take this to mean that it suggests theories, or expounds theories, or borrows theories from other areas of academic research and applies them innovatively within the language learning field. As you admit later in your post ‘these theories are not original’, Dogme doesn’t do this.

On the other hand, if we read on and examine Richard’s and Rodgers understanding of Method, we find it…
“…is theoretically related to an approach, is organizationally determined by a design, and is practically realized in procedure” Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T (2001:20).

For example, a behaviourist approach to learning theory helped to pave the way for the Audiolingual method, which then gave rise to such practical techniques as drilling being used in the classroom.

Within this framework, I now feel Dogme is closest to a Method. It is theoretically related to socio-linguistic approaches to learning, communicative approaches to learning and, perhaps it could be argued, emerges from an eclectic approach to language learning.

It is organisationally determined by a design, since it reacts to the ‘overdesign’ of course book dominance of course content and syllabus design and seeks to place the responsibility for design firmly in the laps of the students, perhaps scaffolded by the teacher. Your further comment about Dogme utilising process syllabi is another very helpful suggestion, although it also adds to the feeling that Dogme’s not the most original of methods.

And it is practically realized in procedure, which can be evidenced by all of the mind-opening and technique-honing descriptions of Dogme practice that you so deservedly praise.

Indeed, Bartolomé’s definition of “effective methods” in a given “socio-cultural context” (2003, p. 411) seems particularly close to how I understand Dogme’s raison d’être:

‘‘The informed way in which a teacher implements a method can serve to offset potentially unequal relations and discriminating structures and practices in the classroom and, in doing so, improve the quality of the instructional process for both student and teacher.’’ (2003, p. 412)
And Larsen-Freeman’s assertion that:

‘’As teachers gain experience, they come to understand a particular method differently ‘’ (Larsen-Freeman, 2005b, p.11).

also fits in with your point about the similarities and differences between how teachers implement their understanding of Dogme in the classroom.

Perhaps it’s in the distinction between whether or not Dogme relates to learning theories in an original way, or combines by now ‘unoriginal’ theories into an original method, or does neither, that our views differ (I don’t share Jason’s view that looking at it as all three is very helpful).

But whether Dogme ends up being an approach or a method or something else, and whether it actually matters, as you hint it’s time to move on. Even if we disagree on where Dogme is coming from, we share a vision of where it should be going. As you say, only through continuous experimentation, description, debate and a little bit of debunking (mostly by sheep in wolves clothing such as meself :) ), will it mature into either an approach or a method. And this is where it provides excitement and where we all need to continue experimenting along with our students and trainees in their classrooms and where I’ll get amusing myself on my blog once I’ve had another run…

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bartolomé, L. (2003). Beyond the methods fetish: Toward a humanizing pedagogy. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 408-439). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Larson-Freeman, D. (2005). On the appropriateness of language teaching methods in language and development. ILI Language Teaching Journal, 1 (2), 1-14.

 Scott Thornbury (19:24:50) :

Thanks, Neil, for coming on board, and in such a measured and well-informed manner.

Thanks also for raising the ‘method’ issue. You may have noted that I carefully avoided the term in my original post, mainly because the term now seems to have out-lived its sell-by date (see my video blog M is for Method for a brief overview). This is because (pace R & R) there seems to me to be no stable, identifiable and autononmous entity on the trajectory from ‘approach’, on the one hand, and the way that that approach is actualised in particuar contexts, on the other. In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook. But, of course, Dogme has no coursebook. It doesn’t even have a syllabus. It is simply an idea that has accreted practices, and out of these practices something recognisably distinctive seems to be emerging. But it’s not a method, any more than CLIL is a method, or task-based language instruction.

As for Dogme’s lack of originality, I wish i could count the times that I’ve said that there is nothing new about Dogme. Except the label. Just as there was nothing new about America. Until Columbus named it that way. ;-)

mcneilmahon (20:31:34) :

I really should be doing other things, Scott, but had to respond to this bit:

‘In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook’

…because in the contexts I’ve worked in over the last 15 years, there has always been a range of methods for teachers to choose from depending on which learning theories they believe in and which approach they therefore take. As I’ve said elsewhere (Who Needs Dogme?) perhaps this is because I’m one of the lucky ones. Encouraged to take an Eclectic Approach, I explore different methods (including Dogme and even a bit of Al or GT when the context suggests it), and practice a range of techniques that have evolved from and outlived those methods.

But I do find the idea of method helpful and persuasive, even if, as Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi puts it in his conclusion to a fascinating article on post-method language teaching:

”Method is a strange concept, old and new, meaningless and meaningful.”

And he goes on to conclude benefits of methods that I imagine all Dogme-gicians would find heart-warming?

”With all systematicity it bears and the order it creates, method swings back and forth from meaninglessness to meaningfulness. At times, it deals with and leads to well-defined patterns as realizations of coherent thoughts and informed practice. There are also times when method equals chaos, especially when in the hands of unimaginative users, unreasonably insisting on sticking to their dogmatic principles. Methodic patterns as they emerge, though, are the quintessence of excellent harmony. However, when dictated and followed blindly, patterns would lose their context-sensitive meaning. Prescription of contextually isolated patterns would, then, impose limitation and this limitation will result in fossilization of practice. Teachers with dynamic minds would never let that happen, struggling to create coherence and meaning as they discover, perceive, interpret, implement and modify methods.”
(Reza Hashemi, ‘(Post)-Methodism: Possibility of the Impossible?’, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 137-145, January 2011

By the way, just in case anyone isn’t sure, I see slavishly sticking to a course book as ‘unimaginative use’ and most Dogme-gicians I know as ‘teachers with dynamic minds’.

And this is why I see Dogme as a method, but not ‘Just another Method’. Because most other methods that are fondly remembered on in-service training courses such as the IH CAM or DELTA, have been outlived by the techniques within in that have been shown to work, while the method itself has been shown to be flawed. Dogme is different in as much as it is alive and vibrant and is showing us at the moment that it can work. The real question is whether or not after a lot more debate and description and debunking it stands the test of time in the way most other methods don’t – it would be very exciting for all of us and our language learners if it does.

Time, as always, will tell, and it’s high time I was doing something else…

Plodding and Pondering

16 01 2012

A successful and satisfying 10km yesterday, after a full day’s work, which had begun with lots of blog work, continued with coordinating and finished up with the run and Lorenzo’s OIl.  The run was the first time in a while that I’ve left the security and proximity of the small lake of Palermo and extended my run out to the big lake.  This is my classic 10k route from home out to and round the big lake and then down to and round the small one.   There was actually a lot more pondering than plodding during the hour and pico that I was out as I was going at a pace of 6:30/km for mostof it and managed to keep it going throughout the 10km.  Unbelievably, I managed to distract myself so much with thoughts of blogging and commenting on all things Dogme so much that I missed my turn off and got a little lost around the small lake – ridiculous behaviour.  

The thoughts that distracted me so much were:

Why is it every time I get close to accepting Dogme someone annoys me with their ‘overeagerness’ for the cause?  Is it something about them, the disciples of dogme, the Dogme-gicians as I’ve decided to call them, or is it something about me?  Am I too unforgiving, too eager to criticise, too cynical? 

What is Dogme?  Noone, even among the Dogme-gicians, seem to be able to agree on whether it’s an approach, a method, a technique, a tool, an attitude, a lesson type or an irrelevance.  And does it matter?  I think it matters if people are passing it off as something it’s not (e.g. an approach), at least to me.  I don’t like people exagerrating the cause.   Am I close in my idea of it as a reflection tool? How do I go about deciding?  Discussing each possibility in a blog post?

Which took me onto the last main thought – how do I reply to everyone’s comments while continuing to blog and while doing the rest of my work etc.  Yesterday morning I ‘wasted’ two hours blogging and commenting on various posts, which I should have spent doing my coordinating work.  But it was fun and stimulating and I got my work done eventually.  Perhaps I should settle for using my comments on other blogs as printing press posts on my own blog, and perhaps a post summarising the main criticisms of my recent posts and my reactions to them, although it will have to wait until next weekend…