Dogme ELT (English Language Teaching) is a communicative teaching approach that emphasizes conversation and interaction among students, rather than textbooks and materials. The Dogme movement was initiated by a group of English teachers who wanted to focus on the learner rather than the materials. It emerged as a reaction against the traditional grammar-based teaching methods, which are often criticized for being dull and uninteresting for the learners. In this article, I will explore the key principles of Dogme ELT and provide some practical examples of how it can be implemented in the classroom.

Key Principles of Dogme ELT

The key principles of Dogme ELT are based on the belief that language learning should be based on real-life communication. According to Dogme ELT, the teacher should be a facilitator of language learning, rather than a provider of information. The following are the main principles of Dogme ELT:

  1. Conversation-driven: The Dogme approach prioritizes conversation and interaction between students over pre-planned lessons and textbooks. Teachers should focus on creating an environment where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and engaging with one another.
  2. Emergent language: Rather than teaching students a set of pre-determined grammar rules and vocabulary, the Dogme approach emphasizes the emergence of language from authentic, spontaneous conversation. Teachers should encourage students to use the language they already know and help them to develop new language skills through interaction with others.
  3. Focus on the learner: The Dogme approach is learner-centered, emphasizing the needs and interests of the individual student. Teachers should be responsive to the unique challenges and goals of each student and adapt their teaching strategies accordingly.
  4. Use of technology: The Dogme approach recognizes the value of technology in ESL teaching but emphasizes its use as a tool for communication rather than as a replacement for human interaction. Teachers should use technology to enhance rather than replace face-to-face conversation and interaction.

Practical Examples of Dogme ELT

  1. Conversation Circles: In a conversation circle, students sit in a circle and engage in natural, unscripted conversation on a variety of topics. The teacher acts as a facilitator, encouraging students to express their ideas and helping them to develop new language skills as needed. This approach allows students to interact with one another in a supportive, non-judgmental environment and helps to develop their ability to communicate effectively in English.
  2. Personalized Learning: The Dogme approach recognizes that each student has unique needs and interests. Teachers can personalize learning by encouraging students to bring their own topics of interest to class, such as news articles, songs, or movies. This approach allows students to engage with material that is personally relevant to them, making learning more meaningful and enjoyable.
  3. Use of Authentic Materials: The Dogme approach emphasizes the use of authentic materials, such as newspaper articles, podcasts, and videos. These materials provide a more realistic and engaging learning experience than traditional textbook exercises and help to develop students’ ability to understand and use English in real-life situations.

Prioritise spontaneous conversation

The Dogme approach to ESL teaching emphasizes the importance of authentic, spontaneous conversation and interaction between students. By prioritizing the needs and interests of individual learners and encouraging the emergence of language from natural conversation, teachers can create a supportive, engaging learning environment that fosters communication and language development. The practical examples provided in this article demonstrate how the Dogme approach can be applied in a variety of ways, from conversation circles to personalized learning and the use of authentic materials. By embracing the principles of the Dogme approach, ESL teachers can help their students to develop the language skills they need to communicate effectively in English, both inside and outside the classroom.

However, it is important to note that the Dogme approach is not without its challenges. Teachers must be skilled in facilitating conversation and adapting to the unique needs and interests of each student, which requires a high level of flexibility and adaptability. Additionally, some students may struggle with the lack of structure and guidance provided by traditional textbook-based teaching methods, and may require additional support and resources to succeed in the Dogme approach.

Despite these challenges, the Dogme approach has proven to be a valuable tool for ESL teachers seeking to create a more authentic, engaging learning environment for their students. By prioritizing conversation and interaction, personalizing learning, and using authentic materials, teachers can help their students to develop the language skills they need to succeed in a globalized world.

Further Reading

“Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching” by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury. This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the Dogme approach to ESL teaching and offers practical advice and strategies for implementing it in the classroom.

“Lessons from Nothing: Activities for Language Teaching with Limited Time and Resources” by Bruce Marsland. This book provides a range of activities and exercises that can be used in a Dogme-style classroom, with a focus on using authentic materials and emergent language.

“Uncovering EAP: The Dogme Challenge” by David R. Hall and Philip Kerr. This article explores the application of the Dogme approach to English for Academic Purposes (EAP) teaching, offering insights into how this approach can be adapted to meet the unique needs of academic English learners.

“Dogme in the Language Classroom: What Is It and How It Can Be Done?” by Tuba Yilmaz. This article offers a detailed overview of the Dogme approach to ESL teaching, including its principles, benefits, and challenges, as well as practical tips for implementation.

“Teaching Unplugged: The Case for Dogme ELT” edited by James Taylor and Tasha Bleistein. This collection of essays offers a range of perspectives on the Dogme approach to ESL teaching, with contributions from experienced practitioners and researchers in the field.

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