Dogme Blog Challenge #1 – Interactivity and Co-construction – My Take on It


This post is part of a challenge proposed by Karenne Sylvester on her blog . She proposed that every Thursday, for 10 weeks we blog in response to questions she’ll put up, in an attempt to take a deeper look at Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings’  Teaching Unplugged approach. The question posted for this first challenge was:

Materials-mediated teaching is the ‘scenic’ route to learning, 

but the direct route 

is located in the interactivity between teachers and learners, and between the learners themselves.

Learning is a social and dialogic process, 

where knowledge is co-constructed 
rather than transmitted or imported 

from teacher/coursebook to learner.

What does that mean to you?


I’d like to start this post by saying that I am still learning about dogme and unplugged teaching, I am still trying to grasp the concept. All I know for certain now is that it interests me, it’s sparked something within my teaching beliefs and practices. I have ordered the book and hopefully it will be here by the end of this month (it had a 60-day estimated delivery). So what you’ll read here are much more thoughts and questionings, perceptions and feelings I have from the little I know about it. I hadn’t even heard of it until I joined twitter and started reading my PLN’s blogs. so here it goes:

A “Scenic Route” can be defined as “a road or path designed to take one past a pleasant view or nice scenery; the long way round, a deliberately slow path” (definition by


When relating that to teaching I am bothered a bit. First by the deliberately on it – are Coursebooks deliberately slow? I don’t think so. Learning takes time, it takes exposing the student to a new thing repeatedly, provide him with opportunities to experiment and use the language he’s been presented to. The other thing that bothers me is the pleasant view reference. Do we, as teachers, see the coursebooks we use as pleasant? Coursebooks, their effectiveness, how we should use them, whether they’re evil or not has been the topic of numerous discussions (it was an #ELTChat topic), blog posts, tweets etc… I haven’t made up my mind yet.  Right now I think they’re not all bad – but basing your teaching solely on one handicaps you, restricts you. Because they’re pretty much a “one-size-fits-all” thing – and I don’t know about you but I am yet to come across a group of students who learn the same way, have the same level or motivation or share the exact same interests. Diversity is the word.


And when we restrict our teaching, we smother creativity, spontaneity. We miss opportunities of meaningful teaching given by our students when they demonstrate interest for something that is not on the coursebook’s agenda that day. The school where I teach adopts coursebooks (as all schools I know do) and teachers are expected to cover it thoroughly. We don’t necessarily follow the order proposed by the book – we have established benchmarks and paths that we see as more adequate to our students, changing the order and adding extra material where we found necessary. And teachers have flexibility to add / create activities to the classes they teach, as they see fit. And so the teachers have been doing – so I have been doing, ever since I started teaching, almost 17 years ago.


My first “face-to-face” encounter with unplugged teaching came as a response to a challenge (A challenge to teachers: Trying upside down and inside out) proposed by Jason Renshaw on his blog. (Note: As you may have noticed by now I have a problem declining challenges 😉 – Go figure!). I taught a whole class without planning – and then wrote a guest post on it in Ceri Jone’s blog. Suffice  to say it was one of the best, most successful (and greatly enjoyed by the students) lessons I’ve ever taught. So that just added to my interest and curiosity to learn more about it. There was a lot of interaction, mostly student/student, a lot of students learning from each other. But that was not all. There was also teacher/student interaction, and there was no interaction (individual work). So in a way, my (so I think) perfect example of unplugged teaching disagrees with the quote posted for today’s challenge. There was learning that came from no interaction, individually constructed, by the student.


As a student, I’ve always been able to draw learning and knowledge from books alone. I do know that not all students do that, but there are those who do. And here is that word again: diversity. If we have student diversity, why not teaching diversity? why do we have to completely deny one thing in order to adopt another one? What tells us we can’t do both: coursebooks and unplugged lessons? Enough about that…



On a final (and more personal, free thinking interpretation) note, I’d like to make an analogy as to learning being a “social and dialogic process where knowledge is co-constructed. I love cooking. And I am able to follow the instructions on a recipe and produce something good to eat. But I’ve always prefered learning a recipe by watching someone do it, having someone who knows the recipe and has done it before prepare it together with me. When I learn a new recipe by doing it together I can ask questions, I see how it’s done from up-close, I smell it, I put my hands in it… I owe it. And I learn it. By doing. Co-constructing a dish.


Co-constructing learning, be it with another student, be it with your teacher is much more effective, faster and so much more enjoyable. Coursebook or unplugged, this is always true. Don’t you think?


And if you’re ever in São Paulo I highly recommend paying a visit to “L´Entrecôte de Ma Tante” where you can have some of that chocolate mousse ;-)!

10 comments on “Dogme Blog Challenge #1 – Interactivity and Co-construction – My Take on It

  1. sabridv says:

    Hi Cecilia! I’ve never read your blog before and I’ve found it quite interesting. It’s now in my greader. As i’ve already replied to you in my blog I agree with you. This discussion shouldn’t be a question of just coursebook or not coursebook. We can use coursebooks and it may simplify our tasks at some moments. However, we should always use the books with our learners in mind. We should adapt the coursebook and encourage connections to the learners’ lives. And of course, we should seize at the opportunity when students are interested in something or they come up with an interesting idea. It is at this point in our classes that a magical atmosphere is created and learning is taking place! (Both the teacher and the students are learning!) Maybe, what we shouldn’t do is using a book and rely on it as if it was the holy bible. We should adapt it to our learners and also to our own way of doing things and learning.

    • Hi Sabrina!

      We do see eye to eye on the issue. I liked what you said about not relying on the coursebook as if it were the bible 🙂 Having the sensibility to see what can be useful or not and when is key. Thanks for your comment. Look forward the second challenge!

      • Hi Cecilia. I really like your blog.
        I completely agree with: “If we have student diversity, why not teaching diversity? why do we have to completely deny one thing in order to adopt another one? What tells us we can’t do both: coursebooks and unplugged lessons?” As far as cooking goes, I am completely unable to stick to a recipe. I just have to keep changing it and experimenting. And I often find myself unable to stick to a lesson plan – mine or somebody else’s. There is so much going on in the classroom that I just have to keep “changing the recipe” all the time.
        I haven’t joined the challenge yet. I feel I don’t know enough about Dogme at this point. I might change my mind.

      • Hi Natasa,

        Thank you for your comment and compliment. I struggled with the idea of blogging (I see so many wonderful, intelligent blogs I was unsure as to whether/how I could contribute) but I have fantastic, supportive people in my PLN who convinced me to do it. I’m really glad they did because I’ve been really enjoying blogging, have met some great people through it and done a lot of learning and reflecting because of it. What a tool for Professional Development it’s been for me!

        I’m happy you related to the cooking analogy on the post – that was my favorite part! Changing the recipe can be fun and bring great, surprising new flavors. Of course it can also go bad. But so can following the recipe!

        Don’t let not knowing enough about dogme stop you from following the challenge. I know so very little. The challenge has been helping me learn more, read more about it. It’s a great way to push you into learning more about it! I also think it’s a positive thing to have the outlook of teachers new to the concept – fresh perspectives on it. I hope you reconsider it! 😉

  2. Hi Cecília,
    In many points I could Identify myself with some of your concerns…Firstly, the “going beyond a coursebook” is something I’ve always thought about and I also think of them as an accessory to my classes, not the main thing. I usually plan my classes according to the books but not following them strictly (I think no one does it…). Diversity is definitely inside our classrooms and we cannot deny it. So If we stick to something, we may not reach all or most of the students…Co-constructing is one of the most important things I see here. Having the students participating on their learning process (it sounds like something obvious but I’m afraid It’s not…), not being teacher-centered but having a balance between TC and SC is one of the keys for a successful teaching practice. I must say, that is the first time I’ve read your blog and It is awesome! I’m also a beginner on this Dogme and Unplugged teaching thing…I hope we can exchange our ideas and learn from each other as we comment and participate on “blog challenges”…See you.
    p.s. – Ah! The #VRT10 was really great, I totally agree with you. 😉

    • Hi Mario,

      I also have the impression that most (?!?! Generalizing scares me!) teachers don’t blindly stick to the books, and am glad about it. Part of being a good teacher is having the sensibility of knowing/feeling the “path” and changing directions or roads when needed. And there is no way the student can’t participate on his/her learning process – it IS HIS/HERS. We’re in it to (hopefully) guide them and help them discovber and take ownership of their learning.

      Thank you for the “awesome” – I’m beaming here!!! :-))) I’m glad I can take a more active part on the dicussion of relevant issues for my profession and help others reflect too. Sharing is great, and I’m sure looking forward to have you to do it with now as well.

  3. This is going to be really rather controversial of me which is why it took me so long to come on over and say it… you asked the question: are coursebooks deliberately slow.

    And I thought…

    And I thought..

    And I wondered… and I thought about how I bought a cheap printer and have to a fortune in ink cartridges…. and I thought about the shaver with its replaceable shavers at cost…

    And I thought about the world of business and I thought to myself, 6 books are a better business than 1 book. Or no book.

    Are they ‘deliberately’ slow? I am so sorry to say, and I hope I don’t cause a riot on your blog, but yes, I think that they are.


    • Hi Karenne,

      Sorry for taking so long to respond to your comment – had to do grades and report cards this week, so not much time for anything else.

      I also think that many books are better than one – you have more to choose from, to draw from, you’re not as limited. I too spend a fortune on ink cartridges – especially for my 1-1 classes (in most of them I don’t adopt book by the way). When teaching at school I can’t really do that. I can add here and there, but the coursebook is what has to be covered.


      I don’t think they are deliberately slow. Actually, the only coursebook I’m teaching right now feels very fast – I wish I could go a bit slower. And maybe it’s because we’re in different settings, different situations (I teach each group twice a week, for 1h15m each time. We have an average of 36 classes in a semester. 36 classes of 1h15 to cover the whole book. Sometimes I feel like I keep running and running, not taking the time to enjoy the “view” of the road, because I have a deadline to meet.


  4. […] Introduction, Challenge #1: Co-construction both by Karenne, Is this dogme? by Candy Von Ost, Inteactivity and Co-construction by Cecilia Coelho, What really matters! by Sabrina De Vita, interactivity and co-construction by […]

  5. […] The first challenge was about Co-construction of Learning, and you can read my response to it here. Nature emerges… naturally. Does […]

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