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  • sthornbury@wanadoo.es
    In response to David s request for more classroom ideas. I have to re-tell this story (I told it at the teachers meeting I gave on Tuesday - forgive me Rob
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 13, 2000
      In response to David's request for more classroom ideas. I have to
      re-tell this story (I told it at the teachers' meeting I gave on Tuesday
      - forgive me Rob for going on about it) about a breakthrough in my
      teaching that - now I realise - was utterly consistent with Dogme
      principles. This happened after I had been teaching I suppose 6
      months. I was in Egypt and had a beginners class that I was
      enjoying a lot, because they were keen, highly motivated students,
      and were uncomplainingly allowing me to frogmarch them through
      an incredibly structural, drill-and-repeat, type programme.
      Somehow it must have occured to me (I don't know what prompted
      it) that they could probably do more than I was letting them, so one
      day I decided to abandon the book and let the brakes off a bit. I
      started the class but sticking on the board a picture - it happened
      to be a cover of TIME magazine (OK so I brought something into
      the classroom - but that was IT!) featuring the king of Saudi Arabia.
      I stuck it up without comment, and took a seat to the side of the
      class. They stared at me expectantly - I did nothing. Eventually
      one student said something like "Saudi Arabia" and looked at me. I
      made no response. A few more adventurous students followed with
      the odd word here and there - "desert", "oil", "hot" etc. The story
      that had prompted the magazine cover (US arms sales to Saudi)
      also started to emerge - mainly lexically. Soon they stopped
      appealing to me for support, and let words and phrases pop up
      almost like a free association exercise. After what must have been
      ten minutes or so, and when they seemed to have exhausted
      themselves, I gave the board pen to one of the students and said
      "OK, I'm going out for 5 minutes: write up a summary of what you
      said." I popped my head in 5 m ins later and they all shouted . No,
      not yet. The board as already half full. Another 5 minutes later I
      came back in. They had filled the board. I went through it, word by
      word, sentence by sentence, reformulating and explaining. And
      that was the lesson. Without a doubt it was a "critical incident" in
      my development as a teacher. It took me years -decades actually -
      to map it on to some kind of principled base. I also know that it had
      a lot to do with my particular relationship with that class (I still
      remember the names and faces of some of those students - and
      this was 25 years ago!) as well as a certain devil-may-care attitude
      on my part, thanks to the freedom that I was able to enjoy in that
      particular school - and also, perhaps, because the whole language
      teaching thing was poised on a cusp - within a year or two the first
      waves of the communciative approach were breaking on the shore.
      Also - interstingly - we had bugger-all materials - you simply had to
      be inventive -it was that or First Things First!

      More stories, please!
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