Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nina returns

Nina and Anton came for a lesson a couple of weeks ago, soon after they had returned from the Seychelles. It seemed appropriate to get them to tell me as much as they could about their three-week visit. Anton and I helped Nina to contribute and I summarised a lot in German after I'd spoken in English to keep her with us. I also told them what I had been up to, using the same technique - always English first, followed by a one-off summary in German. I remembered Nina's recent remark: "What is good is that you speak to us in English."
Nina also said: " After this break, I must begin all over again." I immediately did some of the basic stuff she's learned like days of the week and so on, but she commented:"Oh no. I've not forgotten that."

My feeling at the end of the lesson was that we had somehow lost it, that we had developed a dynamic that had been lost by the three week plus break. Another way of putting it is that the visit to the Seychelles had provided an aim and a motivation and now that the trip was over the situation was different.

I felt a strong need - anathema to a true dogmetist - to work out a plan for the next session, to cover some basic structures or tenses or introduce the idea of the 3000 most frequently used lexical items - something of that kind. I'd been following Nina's wishes and wants, as far as I could ascertain them, but now that these, post Seychelles, were no longer clear, I felt the need to in introduce structure from outside, from me.

In the event, I've not had to put these ideas to the test. Anton wrote an email on Nina's behalf saying she was involved in end of term examinations etc. and she would contact me about our next meeting when she was free.

"Don't call us, we'll call you."

I've thought about these few lessons a lot, and have come to the conclusion that Nina's motivation was indeed powered by the forthcoming visit to the Seychelles. When that visit was over, the strong wish to learn English, given a very busy time at school, evaporated. I honestly think that the "dogme" approach i.e. working from Nina's assumed needs and not from a textbook achieved modest results and was suited to the circumstances.

What do you think, dear reader?

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