KNOWLEDGE Sub-competency

Theories of Contextual Influences on Language Education


AP_Dogme Fiesta presentation
    (shows how the film movement is adapted to ELL)
CDA_pdf of English Language Introduction lesson plan
    (based on my internship with refugees from several different countries in one class)
EAL_Grammar Reflection w/Elka’s notes
    (shows how the meaning in grammar is contextual)

My belief is that it is high time Dogme-type principles were applied to the classroom. ...Along with the quantity (I hesitate to use the word variety) of course books in print, there is an embarrassment of complementary riches in the form of videos, CD-ROMs, photocopiable resource packs, pull-out word lists, …web-sites, …standard workbooks, teacher’s books, …classroom and home study cassettes,…the vast battery of supplementary materials,… authentic material easily downloadable from the Internet or illegally photocopied…. best-selling self-study grammar books, personal vocabulary organisers, phrasal verb dictionaries, concordancing software packages - you name it. But where is the story? Where is the inner life of the student in all this? Where is real commu­nication? More often as not, it is buried under an avalanche of photocopies, visual aids, transparencies, MTV clips and cuisennaire rods. Somewhere in there we lost the plot.
— Scott Thornbury's blog, 2000,

And in 2005, he writes:

Teachers and learners need to unpack the ideological baggage associated with EFL materials - to become critical users of such texts.
— Scott Thornbury, 2005,

And finally, in 2013: 

Having outlined the components of a Dogme ‘method’, I would also want to add a ‘health warning’ to the effect that any attempt to define a method runs the risk of constraining its potential effectiveness by limiting its generalizability to a wide range of contexts….methods are only as good as the ‘sense of plausibility’ (to use Prabhu’s [1990] phrase) that they evoke. If the Dogme ‘method’ seems to you ‘both simplistic and romantic’ (as my blogging friend claims), and hence lacks plausibility, then you might be well advised to ignore it!
— Scott Thornbury, 2013,

With reference to contextual application of lamguage learning, the teaching context in my beginning English class at Ascentria, was a bit like a Persian carpet. The opportunities it gave me for using a multitude of approaches were exhilarating. My students were thrilled to play with me as I devised games and ways for them to share our lessons with each other. They were at different stages of “beginning,” as well as from 6 different countries, cultures, and languages. Through action games, they reached out to each other with shouts of encouragement. “Simple Simon”  was a favorite vocabulary learning game, as was the “Fly-swatter” game. They came up with words, randomly wrote them on our white board, and raced between 2 teams to see who could find a "shouted out" word, first. To them, a welcome approach to learning to spell, write, and increase vocabulary.

A particularly challenging lesson for me was to find contexts in which to place words which looked the same but had different meanings: e.g., to pet, and a pet. Total physical response (TPR) and Dogme (using what we had in our classroom): I drew cats and dogs and horses, gestured toward the ground and upward, to demonstrate their sizes, barked, meowed, and neighed. All the while, emphasizing the definite article, “a.” I then acted out “to pet,” using the animals and also students’ arms, backs of chairs, etc. We reviewed the differences, as I went from one word to the other. You may imagine how much fun we had. Grown men meowed! BUT….they never forgot the lesson.
I like the following thought I wrote down from one of my Approaches classes
(attributed to Myles Horton): “You make a road by walking.”

We are not only language teachers. We are purveyors of socio-cultural knowledge, and societal adaptation. With refugees, in particular, instilling mores of their new country is essential for their overall success and happiness.