Simplifying “Input”

Watch this space for ways of making beginning teachers – and the knowledge and experience they bring with them – the raw material of your training course.


  • Great site.

    I think Dogme methods could really turn things round for the CELTA. I remember mine was ‘here are some coursebooks’, ‘here are some methods’ and then we basically taught the book with some minor adaptations. This left us dependant on coursebooks and then I spent years learning ideas from them.

    In the CELTA we could learn how to create an exercise using our knowledge and ideas in a DOGME way.

    For instance, a lesson on teaching reading lessons:
    1)Groups discuss and note down how they learned reading in an L2.
    2)Each student writes their final thoughts in a paragraph.
    3)T discusses how to test it
    4)T goes over Gist/Detailed/Lang question types and builds examples on board from student ideas
    5)Students write some question types
    6)Students swap, complete and then give feedback on tasks.
    7)Students look at some coursebooks and compare approaches to reading

    You could also look at ‘noticing’ language in the text and then how to teach/work on it.

    • Thank you! And I love the fact that you have kicked off this page with content of your own – a case of working with emergent blog? 😉 I am at work at the moment so will reply more fully later!

  • One of my secret teaching pleasures is Business English and I think Dogme can work well for showing teachers how to approach it, particularly with teachers AND students who don’t know much about it. This is one reason why many teachers I know seem to run a mile when BE is mentioned.

    You need to start with an angle and a bridge from the teacher/student to the content (BE) and then help them along.

    One of the common sayings from my friends is “I don’t know anything about business”. Unless they live on mars with no internet or tv then this is not possible. Everybody knows something about BE classics like Interviewing, Marketing or Management.

    Here’s what I think would work for TT.

    1)Ask teachers to write Business topics which students may want to learn on the board.
    2)Ask them which ones they feel comfortable and uncomfortable teaching and why.
    3)Choose 1 topic, say ‘entrepreneurship’ and discuss what it means and how people understand it (probably someone starting a new small business)
    4)Choose a famous well-known entrepreneur like Richard Branson and discuss what you students would like to know about him and his company.
    5) Board some main ideas
    6) Groups discuss how to teach the areas and what skills they would use in an integrated way (reading, list..)
    7) T chooses 1 area, elicits skill focus and helps create a 1 hour lesson plan, asking questions such as “where would you get the reading from?” “would they understand the vocab? If not how could we teach them it?” “How could they practise this new language/knowledge?”.

    I think teaching CELTA trainees the ideas behind materials creation will give them the tools to make stuff and also understand how coursebooks are designed.

    • Absolutely, Phil: teach a person to fish and you feed them for life (or as Karl Marx apparently said, “teach a man to fish and you ruin a perfect business opportunity”!)

      I think a process like the one you describe would work well for such topic-driven lessons; but business English is about skills as well. Can you imagine an approach for this?

  • Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    Presentation skills L1: Basic structure

    1)Elicit and board areas covered in the course so far
    2)Ask trainees which they remember well and those not
    3)Ask each trainee to choose 1 and tell their partner about it for 1 min
    4)Board ‘Intro,Main,Conc’ and elicit how they tackled each section and also board some good language.
    5)Discuss how they would tackle business presentations and the difference in language between that and their presentations.
    6)Write up formal equivalents to 4.
    7)Elicit 10 business topics to the board.
    8)Groups discuss how they could help their students prepare for and give these presentations professionally
    9)Elicit ideas and add (if not covered) language, pron (inton, stress, pause), body language etc.
    10)Brainstorm teaching ideas

    You could also show recordings of students and discuss which of these areas need work and how they would approach it.

    Possibly, look at materials like Mark Powell’s book and plan a lesson/activity.

    • Thanks, Phil – this is a clear and simple framework. I like your idea of using peer-modellnig as well as video materials. Some might say that trainee teachers aren’T experienced presenters and so their attempts won’t be realistic: What do you think about this argument from some corners of the BE teaching community? How would you counter that?

  • Even better. I like BE because we as teachers can learn with our students and so we should. I always find it funny that you hear BE teachers say “I have to teach management but I don’t know anything” but they never say “I have to teach pop music but I don’t know about it”. If you break BE topics down to the bottom level we all know something.

    Marketing: Tv ads
    Management: Boss, working in a company
    HRM: Interviews
    Entrepreneurship: New small companies that grow like Virgin

    But I think the 1 minute presentations will have some evidence of a beginning and an end even if it’s just “so, I’m going to talk about…” to “that’s all”. If this is the case then even better as this shows that the teachers have more in common with the students who may also say this.

    I think the informal/formal language distinction is good to point out and work on as students may have to do either at some point.

    BE is a strange beast in that the students generally know more than us while some are business experts. As a result we are then for ‘language support’ as some say. But a young student may need both content and language.

  • Oh yes. There’s a lot of culturally related things that could be brought in and rightly so for business.

    Sociolinguistics is an interesting area to dip into. For instance, analysing the use of synthetic personalisation in political speeches or business presentations and adverts. More interestingly is the role of men and women in business and how their language reflects the alleged equality or lack of it in different countries.

    Am I convincing anyone that BE is great?

  • I have onlyever taught BE in the EFL world – don’t know if I could do GE or any of the other “E’S”. Business English has taught ME more about business (sshhhh! don’t tell anyone!)than any course ever could have. And I learnt becuae I do dogme and I do dogme by listening and asking. “You’re an investment banker. Gosh! Tell me, I have £1,000,000, what should I do with it?” You then listen and you will learn more about investment banking than you ever will from a book and you’ll remember it because it’;s more interesting than in a book and you can ask for more and more explanations until you understand it. You’ll soldify the learner’s knowledge and they’ll remember it because it’s their stuff and they’ll remember it in English because that’s what you asked them to do – really. And that’s why I love dogme and why it works in BE.

  • I have been thinking about this for some too – but nothing has crystallised as revelatory or anything. I have taught some 2,000 BE Students in the last 10 years, so I have fairly wide experience of types of jobs, types of learner, types of business siutations- local and global. But as Evan says, there is a very real tension between teaching English as a communication tool and teaching Finance or HR in English. Are we refining a communication tool with our clients, or handing over specific information about a given field of endeavour? I really believe we need to separate the two in order to attend properly to our students’ needs and what we can offer them. I have always worked in this environment – small groups, no exam pressure, no HR “results” to pander to, no prescribed syllabus, nothing but me and the students and my job which is mainly to mediate between them and the language they have and need. So I shall very quickly nail my colours to the “communication skills” mast – this is where and what I want to be teaching. Give me a black art any time! But I have experts on my teaching team – lawyers, marketing directors, entrepreneurs, project managers, HR and logistics people. Maybe I’m just lucky as a DoS to have this skills base to draw on, but even so, what these experts teach, even though they have had careers in other areas, are communication skills: English as the lingua franca in the Business world and how to engage in that world using the lingua franca.

    Maybe we are getting to the point where we need other labels?

  • Limited role?

    At one time I taught BE full-time 9-6 every day and had to trudge through a textbook in each class. After a couple of years I knew every page and so unconsciously started ‘experimenting’. After a while I had replaced a lot of the book with other activities which covered the same things but generated more conversation. After all, my students mainly liked the role plays or case studies for that same reason.

    The best classes we had were actually Harvard case study analysis because students read this huge things at home and came in with their notes. Then we discussed (with me) for a while and then had role plays and further discussion. This was the most enjoyable and interesting class for everyone. The students did intensive reading and some vocab work at home and then were finetuned in class.

    If only I had known about Dogme I could have worked miracles.

    1 to 1, foundation year, gap year, business execs, all of them are suitable and would benefit from unplugged ideas.

    • I am very happy to hear you be so positive about this, Phil – this kind of “can-do” attitude is infectious! I recall learning a lot from my “coursebook apprenticeship”, but I also wish that I had heard of other ways of working earlier on in my career.

  • Yes. Me too. I also used Business textbooks with powerpoint etc but having a conversation-based approach still works best. You don’t want them having ideas in their heads you want them to be able to use and develop them socially.

    I still shudder at the amount of photocopies I used to churn out, I eventually moved to OHPs then projectors just to save money and time. Then we had the whole MINIMAX idea which seemed to be Dogmaticish.

    • Aha – bordeauxsl is your new Nom d’Plume Virtuelle? Looking forward to reading more of your ideas and experiences there 🙂

  • Business English textbook
    teacher book
    supplementary activities
    resource book
    test book
    DVD book
    grammar/vocab book

    That’s a lot of trees, photocopies and possibly huge student bags too.

    A 1 hour class doesn’t need all this stuff unless you just want to reduce the lesson to “quick turn to p3 and do this” then “turn to p6 and..”. On paper there may be some learning aims and related activities but no lesson. That requires people, ideas and an environment of learning and is all the squishy bite between the activities which involve people.

    If you asked an average BE student what they’d like to do in a 1 hr lesson there would probably be more quality than quantity on the list.

    • Very true,Phil. All those resources can be highly useful and (here I can see Jeremy Harmer’s point) a pragmatic time-saver when employed wisely. However (as you suggest) they are worthless (if not to say actually deleterious) when employed solely as a time-saver.

      I love your idea of a lesson being the “squishy bits between the activities which require people” – reminds me of Gavin Dudeney and his insistence in focus/investment in “wetware” (ie people!)

      So I wonder: if these “squishy bits” are essential to the nature of a lesson, can they constitute a lesson in themselves? In other words, could normal human interaction be enough?

      I don’t think this is what you are suggesting, but I’d be interested in hearing (reading, surely? ed.) your thoughts.

  • Hi Anthony,

    I just rewatched your presentation and wondered if replacing all the ‘pre-reading’ with videod lesson analysis would be more useful to build up students knowledge of what happens in a class. This could even be for the pre-course test. You could just ask them to note down what happened, what worked and their opinions. During the course you could then build up a bank of videod warmers, language focus…. bits for students to refer to when planning or before discussions.

    For some postgrad teaching courses they require you to do some observations/assisting which then gives you a better perspective for discussions and is invaluable for new teachers with no experience.

    Also, I wondered if you do any post-CELTA training? I’ve seen some schools do once a month workshops and thought this would be great to further your Dogme approach and help new (and old) teachers along. They could be discussions, experimental lessons, class research feedback or anything really.


    • Hi Phil, sorry for the delay in replying. Very honoured to hear that anyone could sit through our presentation more than once 🙂

      I think your idea for more visceral pre-course tasks is a very good idea and one that Izzy and I have toyed with but not implemented up to now: perhaps we should take up your idea and run with it!

      We obviously work with our freelance team in Berlin and Hamburg, and I have run workshops for local teachers associations. I will be offering a couple of workshops during the ETAS SIG Day in Zug, Switzerland later this year, one of which with a definite unplugged bent. I am also working out the final details for a moderated discussion/course with another teachers’ association (watch this space). I have said for a long time that I ought to get out more, so that’s definitely something to work on too!

  • Hi Anthony,

    Nice to hear you will be ‘out and about’ spreading the word.

    Pre-course online videos and maybe a discussion between students about what they noticed and what seemed to work and how would be great. Far better than obscure grammary exercises and lists of hard to get or out-of-date books like the ones I remember. In theory, this should give them most of the ‘experience’ to reflect on as soon as the course starts. Building up a bank of recorded lessons might be very useful.

    I fancy redoing my CELTA at your school now. Any plans to do the DELTA unplugged too? It would suit that even better as there’s lots of reflection.

    Hope you’re having some sun.


    • Thanks for that, Phil. There is an interesting discussion about teaching practice over on Scott Thornbury’s blog, so this link would be good to share over there too (hopefully I’ll do that some time today). I’ll definitely share it with my trainees too, who were discussing self-recording as a means for CDP post-course recently!

  • Hi Anthony,

    I had an interesting chat with some other TEFLers and 1 person was positive that pre-CELTA teaching really helped him on his CELTA. This would fit in with reflection but do you think it’s important to only accept people with some teaching exp or even to recommend they get some before starting?


    • Thanks, Phil, for the question (and apologies for the delay in responding – just starting week 3 on a Celta…)

      The short answer is: I think experience of being an adult language learner is essential, and teaching experience can be useful, but equally often isn’t. Why I think that will require more space than a comment warrants so watch this space – I promise to have filled it before the weekend is out!

  • Thanks for the post Anthony. Sounds hectic!

    How about people who don’t have experience of being an adult lang learner? Back in the 1990’s we were allowed to quit languages at 16 I think and even now there must be a lot of people who don’t pursue them at A-level and Uni, possibly because of negative experiences of dull classes. How would you approach this with people who come to EFL later on in life, say 30/40? I’d love to know your approach as I wouldn’t have a clue.

    This may also bridge onto the issue of the view of some institutions that having a degree in Spanish or another language means you can teach it and any other language you happen to know. That then leads to the rather annoying opinion of some in higher ed that EFL is not a real profession and that’s why we see people having studied different subjects teaching English without even the CELTA. I find this extremely irritating and a bit insulting to those of us who dedicate ourselves to the profession. The sooner you and Scott set up a TEFL PhD the better as it will show that it is a real, academic subject that can be studied and investigated at the highest level. The Dedu seems to be moving things and now some Doctorate courses have TESOL pathways I think.

    I may have ranted on a bit as it’s late, sorry. I look forward to your next post, as always.


    • I’ll certainly address this in the post that is currently brewing as a result of your question, Phil. As for the PhD – I love the idea!

  • It makes sense as now there are so many MA TEFL/TESOL courses and the DELTA has been recognised as MA level too but what do we do next? A PhD in Applied Linguistics isn’t for every EFL teacher but one officially labelled as TEFL/TESOL seems to make more sense than doing the AL one and then specialising in EFL materials for instance.

    I’m sure it will happen eventually, even a distance version. You could unplug the PhD!

  • Now that John Hughes has broken the ice with his new book on Teacher Training, may I suggest you dive in with an (e?)book-length treatment of the topic of this page? Simplifying “Input”…by Anthony Gaughan. I’m past two years in now as a trainer, and that’s the book I need!

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