Dogme and exams:a lesson structure

I just read Chia’s brilliant post on IELTS prep and so pushed this old post up the ladder as it may follow on from some of her great ideas.Thanks Chia!

The speaking and writing sections of many EFL exams have always been a tough area. So much so that some schools offer optional classes just in those areas. Thus, it seems surprising that there isn’t enough, course book wise, dedicated to these 2 exam skills. If you go to China the opposite is true. Huge shelves are dedicated to BEC speaking or IELTS writing.

With this lack of materials and the communicative nature of these 2 skills having an extreme Unplugged class seems perfect. An IELTS speaking/writing course could be something like this:

1)Choose themes common for the speaking

2)Ask students to select one each week

3)Discuss, argue, debate, present, contradict, support…..and whatever else types of interaction arise. BUT make sure they understand the topic’s principles and can present and discuss different perspectives. Don’t force roles on them but summarise different ones after the conversations. Play DEVIL’S ADVOCATE.

4)Now you have the raw materials, go over some useful language and the differences for written and spoken discourse

5)Bring in the exam sections and discuss how to do the different sections (speaking P2,3, Writing P2)

6)Ask students to demo how they can transfer their knowledge to each.

Now they know how the course works and is relevant to their exams change and spice up the topics. Ask them to research them and find new ideas.

Can students prepare for tests online?

An interesting post got my attention recently on the Dogme Yahoo group and after my reply the person commented that students are better doing exam prep online than with a teacher. This got me thinking.

Yes, the continual push into self-study and online learning means there are more good sites to use but if we just say “prepare online” and the exam isn’t online it seems a bit weird. This is where Cambridge come in, they are developing lots of exams to be taken online, similar to TOEFL and BULATS, coupled with online prep you have the perfect solution. Or is it?

Here are some comments from my students:

“If I have a question, there’s nobody to ask”

“I like learning with my friends”

“I’m not dedicated enough to study online”

“Most jobs will be online so studying and doing exams online prepares us for work”

This is kind of what I like about EFL in that it’s always changing but I still believe that a good teacher and some good materials can prepare a student far better than any software. Although both together is very good. At the moment, many EFL tests are still paper-based so it makes sense to study in the same way but  as online versions increase and probably writing and speaking online marking (it will eventually happen, won’t it?) too then we teachers won’t be needed.

While I’m on an exam note, I still don’t understand why CAE and CPE are not offered more. These are the creme de la creme of EFL tests and have serious prestige and so surely could never be done online, especially as the speaking parts involve 2/3 candidates.

And then there’s the whole online CELTA question too.

So, will we EFLers stick to teaching low levels? Oral skills? Uni prep? Pron? Will all CELTA tutors become online ones?

Who knows.