teaching unplugged – in brief

Archive for Connections


One of the great mysteries of ELT has been solved: not why so many units of self-study grammar books remain untouched, nor even why the photocopier always breaks down five minutes before class, but how one should pronounce ‘dogme’.

Many have tried – variations have included /dog-ma/ with a second syllable schwa, and /dog-mee/. But few, it turns out following a live link-up to Scott in New York*, have succeeded. It transpires that the correct Danish pronunciation is closer to /dough-ma/, with light stress on the first syllable, the merest hint of a ‘g’, and a gently rising schwa to follow.

Our thanks to Sussi Lassen for this very welcome information – the word has a rather lovely lilt to it, and we now have a whole new way to confuse the world’s assessors! ‘Was that a dogme lesson?’ ‘Well, actually – doughma.’

*OK, Skype

onefortywords Special!

At IATEFL Harrogate, 10 years on from the start of the dogme ELT group, Scott was asked by Peter Fenton where he thought dogme might be in ten years’ time. I’m curious to know what other people think, and would like to invite 140 word contributions to a onefortywords Special on ‘Dogme – the next decade’. If you’re interested, please e-mail your submissions to by 31st July.


Dogme at (20)10

If IATEFL 2010 marked a tipping point for technology in the classroom, it also coincided with the 10th anniversary of dogme ELT – and featured a number of related talks, prompting Scott Thornbury to reflect that dogme is ‘self-propagating’.

I couldn’t see them all live, but thanks to Harrogate Online I was able to catch up with Chia Suan Chong’s excellent talk on Improvised Principled Eclecticism, in which she reported on a classroom-based dogme research project.

Sustainability is key to any serious teaching approach, so action research of this sort is important: dogme is only tangentially about magic moments, and much more to do with the extended interplay between conversation and a responsive focus on form.

As Chia acknowledged, maintaining this flow can be demanding. But as her learner feedback indicates, it can also make classes motivating and language memorable.

Beyond onefortywords…

Lindsay Clandfield posted this great mash-up of Avatar and ELT last week. An alien people with a firm grasp of dogme principles – now that’s what I call normalisation!

Tea-chno tea-chno tea-chno

What’s the connection between Graham Stanley’s talk on Twitter and Betty’s Tea Rooms in Harrogate? A long queue last Thursday, that’s what. I don’t know if this says more about trending or blending, but I couldn’t get into either.

I had a techno kind of day on Thursday, enjoying talks by Nicky Hockly, Gavin Dudeney and Burcu Akyol, followed by an inspiring workshop on Teacher Training Unplugged. Contradiction? I don’t think so. Along with the first tasty days of spring, there was a palpable sense of rapprochement in the air.

I’ve already suggested that dogme can represent a critical lens for the use of technology in the classroom, but it’s clear that – as bottom-up phenomena – dogme and 2.0 can, do and where possible should work together. More to say on this, but bottoms up for now.

Strippin’ away at it all*

I recently spent a very enjoyable day with ESOL tutors and volunteers in Glenrothes, Fife. I know from my contact with Brasshouse Language Centre in Birmingham that unplugged teaching can have a natural fit with ESOL (providing external demands are not overwhelming), an impression reinforced in Glenrothes. Teaching that starts by eliciting not language but experience has an obvious relevance to learners with stories to relate and problems to solve in English, and it was good to explore this with a mix of experienced tutors and volunteers – some in their seventies – who have only just started teaching. Their enthusiasm reminded me that language teaching represents a remarkable exchange, something that resonated with my reading that weekend. My thanks to Frances Marnie for setting this up and, with her colleagues Helen Davison and Alan Elder, making me feel so welcome.

*I did a search on the words ‘fife’ and ‘Dylan’ as I remembered him singing the word – it led to Where Teardrops Fall