Rugby Unplugged

January 23, 2011 § 16 Comments

“My mother said to me,
“if you become a soldier, you’ll be a general,
if you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.”
Instead I became a painter, and wound up as Picasso.”
Pablo Picasso

My middle name was originally going to be Llewellyn, a strongly Welsh name starting with a voiceless /l/, like saying “hl”, but because I looked so much like my dad, I was named after him instead: Colin.

It’s such a simple activity, this one, from Teaching Unplugged, “How I got my name”, and which was mentioned by Anthony and Izzy at the IATEFL Sig in 2010. Their presentation was about Teacher Training Unplugged, and I found it first rate. I rather belatedly came to it via Luke, after following the debate on A-Z of ELT on PPP.

My initial ELT training, a distance learning course without any contact hours, meant that my first ever real-life lesson to a class of teenagers in a secondary school in a sleepy town in Hungary not long after the fall of communism was actually the first time I’d put theory into practice. This horrifying episode is greatly offset by my never being moulded into a PPPer. I carved out my own style by doing what I felt most comfortable with.

It seems the overriding weakness of PPP is the pre-plannedness of it all. Comments did conclude that PPP moments can occur in a dogme lesson, bite-sized chunks measured in minutes rather than hours. Likewise, PPP can encompass dogma moments. But on the whole, I would say that the two are essentially at odds with one other.

Shelly recently elaborated how she prepares for a talk, relentlessly rehearsing, reviewing, refining, repeating, imagining, daydreaming, thinking what questions might be asked, determining what could go wrong, all in her head, so that when she’s there for real, it’s a doddle. Fail to prepare; prepare to fail, I think she would propound.

Half of me being of Welsh stock had its advantages growing up in the 70s. Those were the heady days of the likes of Gareth Edwards, the Welsh wizards of the rugby field.

Dogme teaching is all about doing it on the hoof, winging it, making it up as you go along. Well, let me restate that. Dogme teaching is about being able to do those things. They take great skill, the ability that experts have at making it seem so easy. The Welsh greats did this in my favourite sporting moment. It’s perfectly executed, second nature, inspired, inspiring rugby, unplugged.

§ 16 Responses to Rugby Unplugged

  • Shelly says:


    I love the Pablo Picasso quote! Thanks for sharing it! I don’t quite take the same daydreaming for my classes usually because my students always surprise me and I really love being surprised by them. In the classroom is a bit different. We have established trust and have built a relationship from each interaction but with a presentation that isn’t really the case. I have that one hour or if it’s a workshop a bit longer to make them feel the same passion I do about my topic. I hope like rugby they feel the journey as I get to the goal and will celebrate with me when I make it. That takes practice and knowing the ways of the game. Maybe this is a bad analogy. I’ve only seen a few rugby games in Germany 😉 but they were always fun!

    • David Warr says:

      Hi Shelly, the Picasso quote is great, isn’t it, about making a new role in life, not just filling one already there. I think the work you do is like that, the Round Table, EduBlogs, making something new and creative. That requires lots of imagination.

  • crazykites says:

    I did a CELTA with 6 hours observed teaching time. Teaching for real on my own with no trainer at the back of the class was nothing like the CELTA classes. I realised that the Ss behaved themselves during those classes, but there was no-one to make me feel at ease when I started for real. On the course, the trainer told us about the different lesson styles, TTT (the one I tend to use), guided discovery (the one I’d ideally like to do all the time but requires more prep), the skills lessons and then he’d mention PPP stating it was the old fashioned way people were taught before, so I try to steer clear of that. Of course, with time, I’m realising it’s okay to not bother with any of those lesson templates and do what feels right, although I still cautiously cling to TTT for the most part. I like the idea of “winging it”, as it’s always been my way throughout life. I never used to prepare presentations for uni so thoroughly, as I was sure it’d be better in the long run to go with the flow and not feel rigidly stuck to something. It just felt more natural. The best moments in class are often the ones I didn’t plan.

    • David Warr says:

      Hi Kirsten, Willy’s latest post is, I think (!), about acknowledging that if these unplanned moments are the best, then why not make sure they happen, rather than relying on chance. Planned unplanned moments, I suppose.

  • crazykites says:

    It’s all very experimental. I often do things that don’t work as I’m still discovering what works. I’ll find that post and have a read.

  • crazykites says:

    Can you give me a link, David? I don’t know Willy and I can’t find a link on your post.

  • dingtonia says:

    Love that try! I think comparing a dogme class with running a try is inspired! You have the field, you have your teams and you have the ball. There are some rules and some “set pieces”, but on the day it plays out the way it plays out and we need to take the ball and run with it.
    Thanks again for a gentle, but meaningful, read.

  • Anthony Gaughan says:

    Very interesting and inspired analogy, David, but I presume that the teacher and learners are the “Barbarians” here – i.e. all on the same side. Which raises the question: who are the “All Blacks”? The struggle with Interlanguage? L1 transfer? Negative Affect? Prescriptive grammar? Native-Speaker norms?

    Yours in shared awe of the power, ingenuity and joyful play of the Welsh players of the 70s,


  • Naini Singh says:

    Hi David,

    You seem so well versed with the intricacies of english language! How do you teach punctuation to kids in a fun way? I have tried to make them put capitals and fullstops (grade 4) and they still continue making the same mistakes over and over again!

    • David Warr says:

      Hi Naini, that’s a good question. A lot of teachers feel that way. I am not a primary teacher, but I meet lots and I will ask them. One activity I do when I visit schools is to get them to expand a sentence, so they are always keeping a capital letter and a full stop. It’s certainly good fun and creative, and you could do this on the board, with the pupils coming up to add their suggestions. For example, start with a basic sentence:

      That man killed a lion.
      That really brave man killed a lion.
      That really brave old man with no teeth and grey hair killed a lion.
      That really brave old man with no teeth and grey hair killed a lion with his bare hands.
      That really brave old man with no teeth and grey hair killed a lion with his bare hands when he was young.

      I know how you mean, learners write texts where the sentences just roll into one long stream. Here, the focus is on just one sentence, so it doesn’t get confused with any others.

  • Ricky Rutledge says:

    Fantastic Picasso quote and I can appreciate the Rugby analogy, being, as I am , from where Rugby is played unplugged and best. It’s a shame you had to use that clip…what about Jonah tip-toeing over Mike Catt? (though that would probably not be so much Dogme, as learn this or else)
    Yes I remember the great Welshmen of the 70’s too – Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, JJ Williams…couldn’t believe how white their legs were when I saw them live in 77!

  • […] Although I didn't quite catch the connection to rugby, David Warr then provides ideas on teacher-training-unplugged that are worth reflecting on. John Hughes, in a very practical series on the management issues […]

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