Dogme is not “just good teaching”

Photo taken with thanks from Craiglea123’s Flickr photostream under a creative commons CC BY-SA 2.0 licence

Usually when (it) is so simple we say, “Oh, I know that! It is quite simple. everyone knows that.”But if we do not find its value, it means nothing. It is the same as not knowing.

– Shunryu Suzuki in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” –

I am not sure when exactly it started, but at some point recently a strand of debate around Dogme ELT arose (or was resurrected) which basically can be summed up in the following statements:

“Oh, but that’s what I’ve always done.”
“That’s what we’ve always done.”
“That’s what good teachers have always done.”
“That’s just good teaching.”

I have heard these phrases used many times when responding to the suggestion by others of new ideas or practices.  I have said such phrases myself in response to such suggestions.

But notice what is happening here. Continue reading

balance isn’t everything

Movement is the destruction of balance.

I don’t know who I originally heard this from, but it was in the context of running theory.

The idea is that in order for a physical body to move in any direction, it cannot be in a position of balance. That is to say, it cannot be maintaining a given position against the pressure of gravity.

For movement to occur, this balance needs to be destroyed, if only momentarily and if only slightly.  In order to run, all we need is a very slight forward lean from the ankles, and gravity takes care of the rest.  We realign ourselves with gravity by bringing our feet up fast enough to catch ourselves from toppling, and repeat the process.

This got me thinking about learning.  It made me realise the following: learning is the destruction of knowing. Continue reading

to andi and scott, with love, anthony’s students


A couple of days ago I taught a short (35 minute) lesson to the teaching practice students on the CELTA course we are running in Hamburg at the moment.  I had used a personal story to introduce the structure “used to” and, while setting up some controlled practice, I had told the students that I used to have long hair.

Several of the students didn’t believe me and demanded to see photographic evidence.  This demand led to one of the most enjoyable lessons I have ever been part of.

Continue reading

is teaching child’s play?

Q: When is a train carriage not a train carriage?

A: When it is a classroom.

This is the substance of a conversation I heard on the train recently.

Initially I only vaguely listened while trying to concentrate on my book, but the conversation began to grip my attention and I transcribed it.

Names, while overheard, have been omitted in the interests of privacy.

This conversation was one of probably hundreds of similar conversations between parents and children going on throughout the UK at the time.

Scene: a train carriage in the UK

Protagonists: a mother and male child, late nursery or early primary school age.
Child is reading aloud, mother is encouraging the child to continue and is engaging the child in conversation about the book he is just finishing. Continue reading

Sneak preview – seconds away…

I am lucky enough to be one of those invited to speak at the upcoming IH Barcelona ELT Conference, 8-9 February 2013.  The event has already sold out, but if you are going to be there and have no other plans between 12:45 – 1:45pm on Saturday 9 February, then come along to room B at the venue, where I’ll be talking a good fight about how to knock seven bells out of your lessons in future!

ELTChat Summary: what makes a good teacher trainer? (26 September 2012 9pm GMT)

This is a summary of an ELTChat for the benefit of the #ELTChat community

What do you get when you pose a question like this to a bunch of committed teachers and teacher trainers? Before anything else happens, you get an argument about definition of terms.

 09:01pm @victorhugor: What’s the difference between teacher trainer and teacher educator?

Marisa Constantinides found this link to a discussion of the distinction between Teacher training and teacher education (from his classic Aspects of Language Teaching).

The basic distinction that teacher training tended to occur more in a pre-service setting (hereafter: PRESET) whereas teacher education tended to happen more at in-service (hereafter: INSET) level was queried but not seriously disputed by most participants.

However, as the chat went on, it became clear that this “false dichotomy” (as I called it) led, once accepted, to some fairly radical statements about the nature of teacher training.

Continue reading

new stuff

This is just a short note to update you all on some new things you can find here now.

image showing the basic training post series BASIC TRAINING is an ongoing series at sharing in straightforward and low-tech ways how to go about teaching, simply.   The first instalment is on how to get learners talking and capitalise on what they say and the brand new second instalment is on how to use stories and anecdotes for reading or listening practice.


image showing the se7en deadly sins talk video THE SE7EN DEADLY SINS OF ELT (talk) is an old video version of the talk I gave this year at IATEFL that I know some of you wanted to attend but couldn’t because the room was full.  Although the sound quality is not optimal and my hair is a good deal longer, I thought I would share it and I hope you find it useful. You can find it here.


I’ll keep adding to the site as and when I have time, so thank you for your patience and for reading!


Basic Training series going online

I am starting a new series of pages with the title Basic Training, where I will be summarising and illustrating some fundamentals of language classroom work (at least, as far as I see it!)

Initially I thought about doing this mainly to support my CELTA trainees but then I thought that it might be generally useful, so I am keeping it public.

The first installment – on how to get learners talking and how to capitalise on what they say – will go online very soon, so keep an eye out for it.

the classroom as crucible

Crucibles – image taken from http:// by Mauro Cateb, used under a CC Attribution Commercial licence,”

Some months ago, I had sad occasion to write a eulogy of sorts to the best teacher I ever had – Chris Foley.

In it, I wrote how he tempered me to take the edge of thoughtful enquiry (which probably sounds incredibly pompous and conceited, but if I have any intellectual sharpness, I have him to thank for it.)

The image was of the furnace, the blacksmith, the forge – and, at the forge’s heart, in the pit of the furnace, sits the crucible.

Most of us will never see a crucible of this kind in action, but I would like to suggest that we have all spent many years of our lives within a crucible of a very different kind.

Continue reading