The new year is bringing many exciting challenges. First of all there was the ‘Dogme debate’ at the IHWO DOS conference which was extremely enjoyable. @Luke Meddings gave a wonderful, gentle (but passionate) account of why unplugged teaching (that is working with – and in reaction to – the language that the students bring into the classroom rather than with materials) mattered to him – and why he was so committed to it. This was in reply to my own critique of the book that he and Scott Thornbury have written on the subject. You can read follow-ups and comments about all this from @mcneilmakon here and from @jemjemgardner here.
Talks in preparation are about multi-tasking and focus – a development from the enquiring blog I wrote about it. I wanted/want to know how we can ensure our students’ attention – and what they should pay attention to,. The best way to tease out thoughts (perhaps) is to try and put a coherent session together about it, and that’s why I am working on this one. Making new sessions is a great developmental tool. Planning teacher training sessions is, maybe, the best way to learn about/reflect on teaching.
I have to re-work and amplify a session on how people can best collaborate and share both within schools and institutions, but also in the wider world. I love the wide world we all swim around in via our PLNs, blogs, conferences, meeting etc, but in the end (I want to argue), the most important communication and collaboration exists within institutions.
Talk preparation is nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at the same time; a bit like doing the CELTA teacher training course is for many teachers in training.
Perhaps the most exciting (and genuinely scaring event coming up) is an evening presentation called ‘Bent and Broken into a better shape’ – a celebration of the life of Charles Dickens, perhaps England’s greatest-ever writer of novels. With musician Steve Bingham I was asked by the British Council to do a show to celebrate his 200th anniversary and so we have been wracking our brains to find a way of conveying his genius in a 60-minute presentation. A lot of wracking going on! How do you convey the sheer ebullience of those 19 novels, countless short stories, fiery polemics – not to mention a whole busy chaotic, involved, complex life.
In the end we have gone for 9 short extracts interspersed with comments about the great writer and the contexts in which his novels were written – all (well some) of this will be enlightened by Steve’s extraordinary music. We are doing some tryouts before the event is filmed (and live-streamed) in the great hall of The British Medical Association on Tavistock Square, London on February 9. This is appropriate since Dickens lived on the site for ten years. As you can see from the poster, you can come along and watch/listen, or watch the live stream. We’d love to have you along.The big fear is whether reading from a writer’s works is the right way to celebrate his or her achievements, especially a writer as prodigious as Charles Dickens. And yet what other way is there, in a short time, to convey his amazing character descriptions, his scary and wonderful stories, his ability for comedy, his romanticism and passionate reforming zeal? Answers on a postcard, please.
In the meantime, it’s off to conferences in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey, Dubai etc. Perhaps 2012 should be the year where we/I reconsider the benefit – for participants – of such parachute visits. I wonder.
Oh, and there’s a new book. But that’s another matter.
What about you? Big challenges for 2012?
What would you like to prepare a new talk about in order to have think about it seriously?
What new talks are you working on?
If you had to present a show about a great writer who would it be and how would you do it?
I really enjoyed your presentation and expecially the discussion with Luke and the others. Big thank you!
thank you so much for your message. I loved the IHWO conference – and it was great to hear (and discuss with) the other presenters.
ahhh…can’t type. Sorry
Ah, but you are ‘talking’ to one of the world’s worst typists (me)!
Hi Jeremy, it was a pleasure debating with you and thanks for the generous comment. It was quite an introduction to 2012!
Meanwhile I’m sure that reading extracts from Dickens (or any other writer) should be at the heart of such a celebration, especially if contextualised as you describe above – my Expectations are that it’ll be Great
I have been thinking (a little – when my brain allows it) about the Dogme discussion we had last week. Lots of interconnected responses and thoughts….for another time.
Haha. Great Expectations! Of course we have included the graveyard scene from the beginning (and Steve created a whole ambience with various percussion instrument) – and also the re-written end (Estella says “I have been bent and broken – I hope – into a better shape”).
Difficult to concentrate on ‘work’ when Dickens is hovering around!!
I would do something about Oscar Wilde and would surely invite you in.
that would be wonderful. I’d come like a shot!
My homage would be to the Canadian writers Carol Shields and Margaret Atwood. I have learned so mucho from live, love, history, English grammar and lexis from them. They have been my best teachers during 2011. I hope the new year opens my mind to new literary worlds. Maybe re-reading Charles Dickens? I can’t wait to go and find his writings and re-discover him. Thanks for the encouragement.
Hello Ana Maria,
Carol Shields and Margaret Atwood! What a combination. And what a show that might be. And as for Dickens? Well the novels are amazing. Melodramatic. Sentimental. Funny. Angry. Victorian etc etc.
Our problem (if we have one) is how to distill Dickens’ amazing writing into 8 (plus a couple of little extras) extracts….how to introduce them, how to read them well, how to contextualise them with music, how to end them etc etc.
I just can’t wait to see that Dickens homage in Peru! Maybe some day in 2012/13?
Hi Ana Maria,
we would LOVE to do the show in Peru. Any excuse to come back again!
Maybe people at the Britanico and the Council together would like to get us out there.
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I would hire a medium and ask her to have an interview with the author. A little bit of special effects will do the trick.
What a wonderful idea, Youssef!
Break a leg with your show in London. Its success is important to us because you’re doing it here, in Tel Aviv right after 🙂
As regards my talks for 2012 I’ve recently rolled out a new workshop for teachers entitled… What the Dickens! (yes, exactly as the title of your post). It involves video (2 snippets from Oliver Twist), a webquest and generally a lot of commotion and am quite proud of it actually even though literature is generally not my thing. I’ve been giving this workshop here and there as a build up to the signature Dickens event featuring Jeremy and Steve Bingham in February. Can’t wait!
thanks so much for coming along to the blog.
I am longing to hear more about your workshop. See it, maybe? I am sure it’s wonderful.
s for us (myself and Steve) we are in the final stages of getting the show ready. It’s very exciting and pretty scary. I hope it’s going to come out really well.
See you in February!
Hi Jeremy! A pleasure to see you as always and to hear you speak so passionately!
For me it was sad that the debate/panel discussion could not have gone on long into the night – because it certainly COULD have done…
So here’s a point I’d like to pick you up on, as there was not the time… at the time… you mentioned in your answer to a question during the panel discussion that you weren’t “sold” on the idea that students can get necessarily more involved in Dogme teaching than they could with a coursebook.
Well I’m very much sold on the idea!
Allowing them to let their lives into the classroom has proved to be a roaring success for my students – yes maybe one can tailor the content of the coursebook to suit the lesson but why should we have to??
I think the problem is that we have always learnt to teach with a coursebook with no reference on CELTA/whatever else to using a different style of teaching that embraces the students lives.
I don’t see this as something to be shouted down, but something to be embraced and cherished. My students tend to agree. 🙂
it was great to see you in Greenwich, and I am aware, because of the many comments I heard and that people made, that your ‘Dogme’ session at the conference was a real success. I am sorry i was not there. I would have come like a shot of course.
I don’t think there’s much more I can or should say about unplugged teaching – and by the way I apologise for mixing in Dogme with Dickens in this post (though there may be connections I haven’t quite been clever enough to make!) – because I’ve been giving my opinion for what seems like, well for ever.
So I’ll just make a few comments:
1 I have no doubt that you had a ‘roaring success’ with your lessons. Nor am I against (for a single second) the idea that it is good to get students to bring ‘themselves’ into the classroom. I would go further and say (as I said to Luke and to Chia on the panel at the IHWO DOS conference) that I would be really happy to have you as a teacher because your enthusiasm and passion for the way you are teaching right now would be infectious. Without that passion we, as teachers, are not up to much.
2 I would just remind you of the comment at the end of the panel. Chia had said that there had been better inter-student conversations in her Dogme lessons than there had ever been in her coursebook lessons. This was instantly countered by someone saying that some of the best conversations in HER lessons (both as a learner and a teacher, she said) had been when students were discussing stuff from the coursebook. Who do I believe? Her or Chia? Well, of course, the answer is BOTH.
3 My comment – that you mention – needs to come with emphasis attached: it is that I am not “sold” on the idea that students can get NECESSARILY more involved in Dogme teaching than they could with a coursebook. To make the claim (that Dogme always wins here) you (= people who ARE sold on Dogme) have to be able to get into the heads of your students and say with absolute confidence that Dogme is the best for all. I don’t think you can say that!
My own preference is for a range of teaching inputs to provoke and engage students, allowing them as much ‘bringing in’ of themselves as they would wish – and which are, in the teacher’s experienced opinion, appropriate in the circumstances.
I think your students are lucky!
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Every time I read about such events like e.g. Ch. Dickens’ 200th anniversary of the birth or anything with the guests like you I am jealous that it cannot happen in a small town like mine. Be our guest one day 🙂 techers from north -east of Poland, make it happen 🙂
I would love to come to north-east Poland!!!
But you CAN watch Dickens online. Come along.
Really??? Would You do that for the teachers from my town? Would you come to “the heart of the green lungs of Europe”? 🙂
I am Elena
I live in Russia.
I’ve recently watched your presentation. I really enjoyed this one. Many thanks.
I also liked the music accomp.