Jim’s talk started by looking at a quick definition of demand high teaching.
Demand High is a meme, an idea that gets passed from person to person. It is not a new methodology. The question asked is ‘Am I engaging the full human learning potential of the students in my class?’
Modern language teaching seems not to push students to achieve and focuses more on being fun and entertaining.
Starting with the following questions:
- Are my learners capable of more?
Am I under-challenging my students?
- Would my students learn more if I demnded more of them? How could I do that?
- Have the tasks and techniques I use in lass become rituals and ends in themselves?
- How can I stop ‘covering material’ and start focusing on the potential for deeper learning?
What small shifts can I make?
The evolving manifesto of Demand High
It is okay to ‘teach’.
The word ‘teach’ seems to have got a bad rep over the last few years and learning is expected to emerge. There is value in explicit teaching, which is not equivalent to the teaching ‘yapping’ in front of the classroom.
We need to focus on where the learning is
You have permission to be active interventionist teacher
Learn the classroom management techniques that make a difference
Work at everyone’s pace – not just the fastest few
Risk working hands-on with language
Don’t expect the book to do the teaching for you.
Expect more – Demand High
One way of being more ‘demand high’ is by looking at one common stage in many lessons:
When students have done an exercise (individually and in pairs) and the teacher leads a feedback stage to check answers.
What are some things that one could do to extend this stage to last 60 minutes.
Here, Jim suggests
- probing and expanding on the students’ answers e.g. ‘Do you agree with her answer? What do you think?’ and playing devil’s advocate (this blogger likes this!) rather than simply rubber-stamping the students’ answers;
- exploring what’s behind the answer e.g. ‘Why is that the answer?’ and ‘Why do you think the person said that?’;
- getting students to listen to you or the speaker is saying it and replay the voice in their heads and ‘Can you hear that voice saying it in your head? Can you change that to a different voice? Maybe a voice of a relative?’;
- thinking about the paralinguistic features that go with phrases/sentences; working on the pronunciation e.g. stress patterns, speed, intonation etc;
- practising the target language through drilling and playing around with the phrases;
- remembering the target language by promoting recall;
- raising awareness of mistakes;
- playing with the grammar and lexis e.g. can you change the verb, can you drop a word, change the formality, context, relationship, etc.
- ensuring that you keep the whole class engaged and pitching the challenges to the individual’s needs, yet avoiding ‘yap’ mode but intervening with authority, etc.
After lots of fun practicing some of these practical techniques with the audience, Jim emphasizes that the presentation stage of a lesson might not really be the most important part, but it is in fact that practice stage that allows students to really internalize the new language.
Communicative and fluency activities are fine and good but we should also not forget structured grammatical practice.
Fixing mistakes does not lead to insight and awareness. It merely puts paper on a crack. It should not just about collecting the right answers, but we need to start looking further.