Last week’s errors become this week’s lesson

P1000051A sunny Saturday morning mid-Delta: the illusion of free-time.

Lance, a fellow trainee and man of many wise words, offered a nugget of inspiration during the Dogme input session.

He called it backward planning, which I actually thought was something completely different. This idea seems more like forward planning, or corrective planning or any other name that makes sense.

The premise is that the teacher uses errors from lesson A as the foundation for creating lesson B. Lance called these errors ‘ruins’. Out of the ruins emerges a structure for the teacher and students to spend lesson B in; a co-constructed dwelling for learner and teacher to, er, inhabit and, uhm… paint together (!).

Without going too far down the lane of humanistic metaphor any further, I’ll just restate: this is a great idea. Often I stare at another insipid page of a current adult coursebook and struggle to make it even remotely interesting for Vietnamese students. If the teacher goes into the planning stage in this frame of mind, I seriously doubt that in classroom the students will feel enthused; if the teacher is not on board, the students have not got a chance.

Students are smart and will notice their own language being recylcled in future lessons. Surely they will respond positvely. It really shows care from the teacher but, from the teachers POV, I don’t think it requires a great deal more planning time.

Using lesson ruins as the foundation for the next class strikes me as bringing some excitement and creativity back to planning. It creates a puzzle for the teacher – How can I connect this together? What text can I make to bring this together? What topic does this suggest? What can I get my students to do that will help them here? – how to make a palace out of ruins? Or at the very least, a sturdy enough shed.


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