Dogme with Young Learners
Been thinking quite a lot about dogme recently, and it has just struck me that I am applying it in my young learners classes without even having noticed it. The quotation with which Karenne has opened this new challenge is:
The teacher’s primary function,
apart from promoting the kind of classroom dynamic
conducive to a dialogic and emergent pedagogy
is to optimize language learning affordances,
by directing attention to features of the emergent language;
learning can be mediated through talk,
especially talk that is shaped and supported
(i.e. scaffolded) by the teacher.
According to Wikipedia “Scaffolding Theory was first introduced in the late 1950s by Jerome Bruner. He used the term to describe young children’s oral language acquisition . Helped by their parents when they first start learning to speak, young children are provided with instinctive structures to learn a language… Scaffolding represents the helpful interactions between adult and child that enable the child to do something beyond his or her independent efforts. A scaffold is a temporary framework that is put up for support and access to meaning and taken away as needed when the child secures control of success with a task. ”
With my second grade students (they are between 7 and 8 years old), we always start the class with a set routine. It consists of completing a calendar that we have hanging in our classroom with the date, month and weather; establishing who would be the teacher assistants on that day and finally, the dogme part, talking about their news and problems.
I devote quite a long time to this part of the lesson and my students love it. They all want to participate and tell the rest of the class about their news and problems. They talk about birthday parties, problems at home, their illnesses, their trips, or whatever comes to their mind. They sometimes even make up some stories and they retell them as if they have really happened to them. As they are not very proficient in English yet, they say whatever they can in English mixed with a bit of Spanish. They come up with something similar to: “Yesterday, I went to the park and played in “las hamacas” (“the swings”).
And this is the point that reminded me of Bruner’s experience. There are some things that they don’t know or they don’t remember how to say in English. They need help, and it is provided by the teacher or by their peers. Sometimes, I just repeat what they have just said with the English word they need, and in general, they repeat it after me and incorporate it in their sentence without giving it too much thought. They are more concerned with the message they want to get across. There are some other times, in which they don’t remember a word we have previously seen in class, so they are helped by their partners or by the posters we have in the classroom. I believe that students are greatly helped by visual scaffolding. As Stuart Ewen said ‘… if you really want to move people, don’t use words, use images’.
I have been doing this for a long time, and I haven’t realised it was kind of a dogme class till last Monday 18th. The previous day had been Mother’s day here in Argentina and therefore, I asked my students to share with the class what they had given their mothers as a present. Most of them had given them clothes. As they had never seen clothes vocabulary before, I taught them the items of clothes as they needed to use them and made some drawings on the blackboard for them to remember. When we had already repeated T-shirt a thousand times (most of them had given a t-shirt to their mothers apparently!) one of my students said: “We have repeated this word so many times, that now I remember it!”. That was one of those magical moments for a teacher! Learning was taking place now and there! I’m sure they will never forget that v0cabulary as they will always associate it with Mother’s Day!