I started nostalgically glancing over a map of Rome the other day and all of a sudden a wave of memories, charged with bitter and sun-drenched emotion, came charging into the window of my memory, opened by such a small gesture as briefly gandering at a map.
I dare to imagine that such memories are not too dissimilar from the creation of many different interactions and learning experiences in a learner-centred classroom like a Dogme classroom. Memory is a fickle being though, a fair-weather friend ready cut you out with time; after a period of time such seemingly unstructured learning is volatile to cracks. Thus, during an intensive two-hour per day course I created a wordpress blog as a way of giving learners the opportunity to write their own map for the the course, in the hope that some of them might look back in a few months and open a window in their memories.
The blog took form in my mind as a place in which we could extend our discussions outside of the classroom, a way of stimulating more discussion on topics we had enjoyed and a hub for gathering resources we wished to offer to class as input. Very soon off the mark, the class having responded very well to the amount of control I had given them of classroom content, I began using it as a quasi-report/practice stage, not dissimilar in my opinion to the task-based learning cycle.
One of the questions at the forefront of my mind was how I intended on using all the data; did want to exploit it as a diagnostic and running assessment of the class’s language competence, thus removing some of the spontaneity and enthusiasm – this is quite evident if you happen to glance at the articles we chose to translate – and diminishing the blog’s person value. I trod carefully in this area, correcting and offering suggestion upon request and devoting classroom time in which I could focus on individual teaching on a one-to-one basis as a way of giving learners a tangible outlet for this. Some of the class decided on the correction which came in the form of a discussion on their posts, which was done through a specially created email address and the ‘save draft’ option on wordpress (necessary to be in line with some of the rules of conduct on student-teacher privacy in place at school).
I will only briefly comment on the nature of this activity as it shall play a big part in a future blog post. After some discussion on how to translate a Spanish phrase correctly into English we decided to put our skills to the test and translate articles from students’ native tongues into English but attempt to be as accurate as possible in terms of tone, register, lexis and syntax.
After watching and being quite intensely engaged in a TED talk by Dan Pink on the science of motivation, the class designed poster presentations to adapt the idea to some of our specialist areas. As a listening task, I asked the class to concentrate intensively on one presentation in particular that interested them and to use their notes as a guide to write a review of the talks.
Researching and working within a framework of constraints, the class designed holidays on a budget of £2500 that embodied the sense of a word they had chosen. All the data had to be researched and checked on the internet and the sales pitch came in the form of a blog post. Unfortunately we ran out of time on this activity and were unable to give oral presentations.
I set the task of commenting on other classmates’ blogposts and after inputting their comment into the http://www.wordandphrase.info text analysis. Once inputted, students evaluated their style according to the frequency of the words as they appear in different genres. To some I gave the task of reducing the formality, increasing the formality, or making the comment more of an academic style. To those whose comments had a lower lexical density, using very frequent words and less pre-modification I gave the task of searching for collocates in the ‘collocate’ function on the site.
Perhaps it is idealism to hope that in a few months this group of motivated and fascinating people might look back on the blog they created and open that little window again in their minds. Of course, the process of writing the blog will have undoubtedly been an engaging experience which provided writing practice on a previously unknown social-media platform for some which lent itself nicely to the reflective and interactive content of the class – just imagine that at one point we became engrossed in discussion on the difference between a female escort and a prostitute and the current scandal taking place in France – nevertheless I hope it may play a role in the future for reactivating their learning. Here’s to hope.
Take a look for yourselves