Monthly Archives: January 2015

Demand High Learning – article in European Journal of Applied Linguistics

This is a sort of “keynote” article by Jim on Demand-High and a manifesto for more learning-centred teaching.

It tries to clarify what Demand-High is and isn’t and suggests some practical ideas for classroom work.

EJAL article Demand High Learning Jim Scrivener

Scrivener, J. (2014). Demand-high teaching. The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL, 3(2), 47-58.


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Preparing to Demand High

This very interesting article is by Andy Gaskins, Assistant Director of Studies at St Giles London Central.

He asks a great question:

Is Demand High only something that you can do spontaneously on the spot in class … or can you prepare for it?

Preparing to Demand High

Is Demand High teaching always a spontaneous response to student production, or can it be, at least partially, prepared in advance? And if it can, what does that preparation look like, and can it be squared with the idea of a ‘doable demand’ – of intervening at the precise moment and with the appropriate nudge to help a learner take the next step?

OK, so what does it look like?

Let’s take a concrete example – preparing students for the CPE exam, practicing Sentence Trasformations. I have a set of examples which I’m going to get my students to have a go at, how can I prepare to Demand High in advance?

Well, here’s the first example. Students need to complete the second sentence using the word sharp so that it means the same as the first.

The cost of building materials has gone up a great deal recently.
There has been _____________________ building materials recently.

The answer of course is a sharp increase in the cost of , but what else might I want to ask my students to push them to expand their linguistic and pragmatic knowledge… to help them take that next step?

I work on ideas in three main areas; that is language, pronunciation and context, although the last one will feed heavily off the first two.

• Alternatives to sharp / rise / cost?
• Could we not say a sharp growth in? (Devil’s advocate)
• Replace sharp with the adverb (sharply)- rephrase
• Replace recently
• Say it in 4 words (Bricks / Stuff cost(s) more now)
• Rephrase to make it more emphatic

Broadly speaking this focuses on possible synonyms, collocation, changing parts of speech and trying out different grammatical structures. Students will be asked to rephrase or replace with alternative words, and then can be asked to reflect on the impact of their change on meaning or style.

• Change pron. to make it more emphatic
• Move the stress, how does this affect meaning?
• Change the intonation, what effect does this have?

The focus here is on encouraging students to vary stress and intonation, helping them to become aware of the way that these two variables can affect communication, and putting the stuff into their ears and mouths. Lots of times.

• Who would say it – how would they feel?
• Say it like a newsreader / an economist / a builder / someone trying to pay for an extension… change pron. / language to suit the different roles.
• Do the last two again with facial expressions / body language

Now we are going deeper into the impact that changes in pronunciation or language might have on communication, and crucially having fun with it… and more practice.

While I’m not suggesting that anyone would have the time to go into this much depth with every part of an activity, I think that sometimes doing some of it can be really helpful. Not only does it give you ideas for potentially challenging tweaks, but it can also help you to choose the most profitable challenges, those that will link up with what comes later, or which address ongoing areas of weakness.

In a post on ‘One to One teaching within a group’, Adrian Underhill said ‘…I can only demand high in an accurate and appropriate way when I can to some extent see the learning moves going on in front of me…’ and went on to suggest that without these contextual cues we are in danger of ‘lobbing (demanding teaching) over the wall and hoping for the best.’ He has a point, but preparation can give you a hand up, suggesting things to look out for, and yes, giving you ammunition, the key then is in how you use it. Make targeted strikes – don’t just lob it in! Or to put it another way, having plentiful material is only a problem if you feel duty bound to use it all. Preparation can give you the time and space to focus on the learning that is taking place when the lesson goes live.

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Demand High in Teacher Training

Here is a great article on Demand High in Teacher Training from ETAI Forum magazine Vol. XXVI – Winter 2014. Thanks to Lindsey Shapiro-Steinberg (who heads the English Teacher Training Program at Herzog Academic College, Israel) and Nancie Gantenbein (Academic Director at International House Zurich-Baden, Switzerland).

Click to access ETAI-ETAS-Forum-Gantenbein-Shapiro-Steinberg.8-10.pdf

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Go Cat Go!

This link is to an article by Alan Marsh, the man who has inspired and influenced ELT on Malta for many years and who was recognised at the 3rd ELT Malta conference in 2014 with the 1st Inspiring ELT Professional Award. The article, a “personal take” on Demand High, was originally published in the MATEFL newsletter on Malta and is now on Alan’s own website,

(Apologies to Alan for the delay in posting this)

Click to access go_cat_go_demand_high_grammar_teaching.pdf

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My Demand High Delta Module 2 Experience

This article by Sophia Rizzo describes her experience of using Demand High on Delta Module 2 for the Experimental practice assignment.

(Many apologies to Sophia for the delay in posting this!)

My Demand High Delta Module 2 experience

The idea of starting Delta Module 2 was, quite frankly, daunting. I wasn’t sure what levels I would be teaching, or what skills and systems I would choose for my assessed lessons. On top of assessed lessons and background essays, there was also the ‘Professional Development’ assignment, part of which included experimental practice- researching and planning a lesson based on an area of ELT you haven’t used before. Pretty scary sounding. However, it didn’t take me long to decide that Demand High would be the right choice for my Experimental Practice.

A colleague had attended one of Jim and Adrian’s Demand High training days, and was so full of praise that I knew I had to investigate it further. I looked at the ideas on the website, and decided that the ‘not rubberstamping’ technique, as well as ‘one-to-one’ in a group would be a great fit to try out with my CAE class, who were edging ever closer to the exam, and were starting to get rather nervous that they didn’t ‘know’ enough.

I chose a key word transformation task, and set it up as normal. It was when it came to class feedback time that I really started to ‘demand high’. After nominating the first student to give their answer to the first question ( I chose a relatively confident student, whose answer I had checked while monitoring). I knew the answer was right, but rather than saying ‘yes, well done’, I asked another member of the class their thoughts on whether it was the right answer, and why. If they weren’t sure, they could then ask another member of the class, or the student that provided the answer, which opened up discussion amongst the students. I found that this meant I could change my position in the classroom, and the lesson became much more learner centred.

The key word transformation task lent itself well to Demand High, as it looks at discrete items of language, and I was able to ask students questions such as “Can you make another sentence using ‘I’d rather..?’ “ It also allowed me to use one-to-one in a group well, as it was easy to spot weaknesses and confused looking students.

At the end of the lesson, I gave the students anonymous feedback forms to complete, asking for their thoughts on the lesson. I also left the room for a few minutes so that they could talk privately if they needed to. They all agreed that they felt ‘involved’ in the lesson and that they’d learnt a lot.

The students’ responses to the one-to-one parts of the lesson were interesting. Several of the students expressed concern that the students being singled out for one-to-one in a group might have felt uncomfortable. However, all of the students that were chosen for one-to-one actually said they felt completely comfortable and happy they were being helped.

The only slightly negative feedback I received from a couple of the students was that we might have spent a little too long on the task. This is probably valid- it was over an hour for 8 questions. In retrospect, perhaps I demanded too high, and needed to consider whether I really needed to delve into and dissect every answer quite so deeply. This is something I bear in mind now.

All in all, Demand High really has changed my teaching- rubberstamping is a thing of the past, and my lessons are more learner-centred as a result.

Sophia Rizzo

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