This article was written by Richard Twigg, Director of Studies at International House, Milan
In October of 2013 our school decided to focus our weekly training sessions on exploring the Demand High approach. Over 6 sessions we looked at Demand High from diverse perspectives including: pronunciation, teaching to individuals within a group, and young learners.
Following the workshops, teachers were asked to give their general impression of the concepts and ideas discussed. One comment that summed up the general feeling was:
- “Demand High sessions have presented innovative ways to tweak our teaching, helping students to take one small step at a time and achieve great results.” Anonymous
In short, it was felt that Demand High had its heart in the right place and was a useful teacher development tool, however the suggestion most commonly voiced was that it lacked a list of concrete suggestions ready to be deployed at the opportune moment. A selection of our favourite in-house tips and tricks (special thanks to Magnus!) follows:
- Spending the last five minutes of your lesson going over what the students learnt that day and what they still don’t understand. Then using these notes to plan your next lesson.
- Handing out cards with T for true on one side and F for false on the other so the teacher can quickly see the class consensus in T/F activities and focus on problem areas only.
- Not ‘rubberstamping’ answers with empty ego-stroking, e.g. “That’s right, very good Sally”. Instead taking the opportunity to ask the other students: “Is Sally right?”; “What did you write?” and if necessary, “Why do you think your answer is different?”
- Giving students a checklist to use when assessing their peers in pair work to make them more effective ‘teachers’ and therefore learners.
- When teaching pronunciation, getting students to repeat words faster, louder etc. thus revitalising dry old drilling and improving memory retention at the same time.
In addition, it was felt that Demand High functions well in a group environment, but doesn’t always offer the same support for one-to-one lessons. Planning at the course level rather than lesson by lesson has also been somewhat overlooked.
In spite of some lingering cynicism along the lines of Demand High being common sense and pretty much what teachers do anyway, we all came away from the sessions decidedly more aware and able to constructively question both the validity of, and our motives for selecting classroom activities. We have all been reminded that being great teachers is not about covering pages in a textbook. Instead, it is about avoiding or modifying activities which are void of true learning potential and maximising learning opportunities which surface when students interact with material or indeed when students spontaneously inject material from their own lives .
By experimenting with just one or two Demand High techniques at a time, this approach needn’t be daunting. Challenging students that little bit more benefits the whole class by improving lesson pace and energy. We as teachers benefit too in that we become transformed into learning guides, engaging students by transferring the learning responsibility back to them.
We are very grateful to the teaching staff at IH Milan for their thoughtful contributions