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Training for the Unpredictable

Improvisation by the teacher, both within and outside the lesson plan, are part of responding to the unpredictable learning moves of the student. It is a necessary quality in everyday mainstream teaching, in the application of differentiation, in ways that may not start with planning, such as Dogme, drama, Silent Way, and also in the process of demanding high.
This article by Adrian examines some of the issues of meeting the unpredictable in the classroom, and especially at how teacher training might take the unpredictable into account.

Training for the Unpredictable



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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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3XP from Alex

The document below is from Alexandra Guzik who tried the 3XP idea:

Guzik 3XP

I watched the recording and had a go at 3XP. I just thought that you might be interested in knowing how it worked with my students.



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New Facebook Discussion

We have started a new Facebook site for conversations about Demand High:

We know we haven’t been very fast about replying on WordPress (Sorry!) – but we aim to do much better on Facebook! We will still keep the WordPress site for articles, reviews, documents etc.


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Demand High Used as a Focus for In-Service Training in IH Milan

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


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Demand High and the Matrix!

This article on Demand High was published in English Teaching Professional Issue 85



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Quotes from Two Important Recent Books

The document below contains some quotes from two recent books:

  • Meaningful Action Arnold & Murphey 2013 CUP (A tribute to the great ELT writer Earl Stevick)
  • How We Learn and How We Should be Taught Young & Messum 2011 Duo Flumina (A look back over the life and work of Caleb Gattegno, well-known for the Silent Way)

These quotes were used in a presentation by Adrian and Jim at the Devon DOS Association in Exeter in September 2013.

We feel that the work of Stevick and Gattegno is very relevant to any investigation into successful learning.

Quotes used at Demand High Exeter day


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Article from The Teacher Trainer Journal about Demand High

We apologise for the rather quiet time on this blog. We hope to start getting the engine roaring again as soon as possible.

In the meantime, here’s an article we wrote for The Teacher Trainer journal.

Demand High Article from The Teacher Trainer Journal Vol 27 No 2

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Demand High – A Delta Experimental Practice (Simon Richardson)

This interesting article by Simon Richardson is about his experience of using Demand High as an Experimental Practice on Module 2 of the Cambridge Delta.  It might inspire you if you are considering which Experimental Practice to try.

Simon has successfully passed his Delta (including the Demand High Experimental Practice!) and is now an Academic Manager in Oxford.

Download Word File: DH for DELTA

Also have a look at this article on DH possibilities for Experimental Practice in Delta:  Could Demand High be your Experimental Practice?


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Implementing DHELT – Trainer Powerpoint and Session Notes (from Steve Brown)

We are very grateful to Steve Brown for this excellent session on “Implementing DHELT”

There is a Powerpoint (which Steve encourages you to adapt as you wish) and full session notes.

Feel free to use it. Try it out and let us know how it went!

Steve Brown is currently Curriculum Leader of the Languages Department in Clydebank College, Glasgow. He has written a number of articles and comments about Demand High (including critical reflections) on his own blog. It’s highly recommended! Steve takes a brilliant angle in arguing that we are not pushing far enough with DH. He takes a “Very Strong” interpretation and calls for fundamental change!

Here are some good pages to start with:


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Demand High vs. Dogme! (An #eltchat summary by Carolyn Kerr)

This text is an excellent write-up by Carolyn Kerr of the #eltchat session that happened on 16 Jan 2013.  You can see the original post on her website. You can get links to this and all the other #eltchat sessions here. You can also find the raw unedited transcripts of chat sessions.

If you are not familiar with #eltchat, it is a Twitter-based discussion that happens twice a week. It’s very democratic. Anyone can suggest a topic and join in. It’s also great fun and a brilliant professional development resource. Find out more at their website.


Demand High and Dogme

– brothers in arms or distant cousins?

By carolyn kerr ¶ Posted in ELT ¶ Tagged DHeltDogmeELT MethodologyELTChat ¶ Leave a comment

This post is a summary of the ELTChat of January 16 2013 between:


So what there is to be up in arms about?

Why Demand High?

The ethos behind it is that ELT has become too lightweight, too frivolous and not rigorous enough, as I understand it. @theteacherjames

By emphasizing personalization, DHT is a critique of the ‘environment-building’ ethos of communicative language teaching @baanderson

Teachers doing just for the sake of doing @rosemerebard

In this video, part of a set of materials for a reflective seminar created by Scrivener and Underhill you hear Adrian give his ‘why’ : 


And although #ELTChat could cite many examples where this was not the case, it was agreed that :

having seen lessons on 4 continents last years albeit mainly PLSes rather than mainstream I’ll stand by my ‘I agree’ @Shaunwilden

and further that

Maybe in many places teaching IS about students getting their msg across, even in poor language. DH is reaction to it @Natashetta

and even more

I’d say there’s a culture in FE that militates against Demand High: instead it requires Just Enough @pjgallantry

So what is Demand High?

ELTChat’s reflections included:

It seems to me it’s about asking more from your students, pushing them further & asking them to work harder @theteacherjames

DHT is just probing a bit more and exploiting opportunities for deeper learning & LA @Marisa_C

And importantly it is method agnostic, it is a practice that can be applied however you choose to teach:

it’s about demanding “a better quality” no matter what approach or method you choose @natashetta

DH is “not anti any method, not anti-Communicative Approach, not anti-dogme, not anti-Task Based Learning.” @natashetta

Confirmation that is not a methodology, an approach or a procedure, from the Godfather of DH itself, Jim Scrivener:

DH isn’t a “method”. It’s a small (but possibly needed) course correction. A tweak. @jimscriv

a correction of what?

its an anti plateau device – its pushing that bit harder, driving the learning forward @KerrCarolyn


It’s anti letting the tail wag the dog in my opinion @dalecoulter

What does Demand High look like in practice?  According to #ELTChat:

I would say the DHT comes alive mostly in feedback or exploitation not while Ss are collaborating Marisa_C

actually, my take is that DHELT means interrupting the Ss collaboration to make it more worthwhile @Imadruid

Feedback (not unearned praise) and intervention seem central to Scrivener’s view of DHT @idc74

I think its more like turning a group lesson into 121, with a focus on each individual @KerrCarolyn

What is Dogme?

Dogme – materials light, free from course-book driven learning, focus on emergent language and conversation driven, in brief @DaleCoulter

letting it all come from the learner and exploiting opportunities for learning as they arise @Marisa_C

Where is the Shared Ground Between Dogme and Demand High?

exploiting opportunities as thy arise seems to be where the 2 have something in  common – utilising  ’online’ teaching skills @dalecoulter

Breaking free of routine and automated teaching @idc74

For some they are inseparable:


Dogme without DHELT is like Pedigree Chum without the can opener @Imadruid

for others not so

can a lesson be #Dogme and not #DHElt ..yup. can it be #DHElt and not #Dogme…yup @MrChrisJWilson

But can you argue that they are the same?

One of the ‘greyer’ areas seems to around ‘learner or learning’ centric:

@jimscriv would say that DHELT is more learnING centred than learnER centred? @Imadruid

and indeed, he confirmed:

Being learning centred means you try to find just what is learner doing to do the task. You then help on to next step @jimscriv

So a kind of +1 zone approach? and personalised to that learner? @KerrCarolyn

Yes very much so. The demand is a DOABLE demand for that individual at that moment ie a focused challenge @jimscriv

doable…with help? Similar to Vygotsky’s ZPD – apprentice and expert navigate the waters of learning? @Imadruid

yes and the teacher does not abdicate his/her duty to facilitate learning @jimscriv

And hence the ‘learning’ centeredness? ‘Facilitating Learning’ is the driving force? – Spot on! @jimscriv

The ‘Dogmeticians’ of this world could now jump in and say: ‘yes but this is exactly what the ‘scaffolding’ of Dogme is all about’, and they’d be right, but the fundamental difference is a ‘material’ one:

Getting away from a slight over concern about task, material, fun etc and focussing on the learning @jimscriv

Indeed, the ‘material’ question of ‘To coursebook or not to coursebook’ is key:

The quote put a perspective that coursebook is not the problem,but how how we use coursebook. from what I read, they are in favor of it, just there is more to it @rosemerebard

So, is ‘materials’ the only difference?

Well, no. And not just because Dogme isn’t entirely anti- coursebooks, as per Dogme and the Coursebook. There are also structural differences : Dogme has a method, and techniques (as described inTeaching Unplugged  and in the book of the same name. Demand High, however, is not a method. In fact, you can easily argue that ‘Demand High’ is both method and subject agnostic: it could be applied to the teaching of any subject or skill: An engineering professor or high school physics teacher could ask themselves the four key questions of Demand High

Are our learners capable of more, much more?

Have the tasks and techniques we use in class become rituals and ends in themselves?

How can we stop “covering material” and start focusing on the potential for deep learning?

What small tweaks and adjustments can we make to shift the whole focus of our teaching towards getting that engine of learning going?

And aim towards the Demand high outcomes. This is possible precisely because it is method agnostic: it is a way of reflecting that encourages reflection on and adjustment of the techniques already being used by that particular teacher.

But with a common lineage?

Dogme sits in the evolutionary line of Second Language Acquisition, its techniques could be applied to the Acquisition of any language. For me its immediate predecessor was CLL and that family of methods, where the learners’ experience of the language is at the core.

Demand  High sits in the evolutionary line of Modern Educational theory, its predecessors are Reflective Practice   and stretch back to the thinking of John Dewey

So if we take CLL as being the mother of Dogme, who is the father ? Well it can’t be Scott Thornbury, since he had taken a ‘vow of chastity’, but he is clearly the Godfather, guiding Dogme to adulthood. But Scott does give us the clue to its genealogy by referring back to an article which fundamentally influenced his thinking, an article on working in a materials light classroom.

The author of this important article? None other than Adrian Underhill.

Suddenly the family resemblance becomes clearer. Whether directly or indirectly, Adrian Underhill is the common denominator.


@Mk_elt #eltpics – who’s been running naked in the woods?

It makes me wonder who exactly was ‘running naked in the woods’ and what exactly they were up to? (I can’t help but wonder if this famous ‘tongue in cheek’  quote was referring to ‘nakedness’ as an antidote to ‘chastity’)  In any case the offspring are two different but enriching ideas that are pushing Education and Language Acquisition forward:

In my opinion DHT is as valuable as Dogme or any other approach that can enhance learning effectively @toulasklavou


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Doing Delta Module Two? Could Demand-High be your Alternative Practice?

If you are doing Delta Module 2, you might want to consider Demand High for your Alternative Practice assignment.

Here are a few suggestion: Is Demand High useful for Delta Module 2 (004b)


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Demand High isn’t a method! It’s a meme!

Demand High is a meme!

A number of people have enthusiastically greeted (or critically denounced) Demand High as a new “method”.

It isn’t. We are clear about that!

Though, to be fair, we weren’t really sure what it was. Recently we’ve started referring to it as a meme.  This article explains our thinking.

Why Demand High isn’t a method

We reckon that much of current ELT methodology is fine. We are not intending to polarize a set of new ideas against any older set.  But we do think that there are gaps, oversights. And they are important ones.

As the communicative approach and its variations have evolved and grown, ELT has gathered a useful set of classroom aims, materials, practices and techniques.

With Demand High, we simply wish to point out that, alongside these, there has perhaps grown up an over-attention to mechanics of task and material and to the pursuit of “fun” and an under-attention to the moment-by-moment learning that our practices might or might not lead to.

So, we are not asking to throw out infant and bathwater.  We are proposing a small course correction to our current direction of travel – or whatever direction of travel you are taking in your teaching approach.

Why Demand High is a meme

The meme is a concept from Richard Dawkins and means “a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena …”. We are using articles, website, conference presentations and workshops, resources and so on.

Whether ‘real’ or not, we find the meme a helpful concept to suggest that, at its heart, Demand-High is just an idea that travels – not a method, approach, instruction book, guideline, saleable product or anything else.

One interesting thing that comes from this choice of terminology is that no-one owns it. A meme has a life of its own. Although we have started this idea out on its journey into the wider world, how it evolves and changes and lives or dies is beyond our control. Similarly, its meaning is flexible and will adjust and shift with time and differing inputs from others.

For us, at this point, the Demand High meme carries the idea of expecting more of your learners and, as a result, challenging them more fully and differently. The meme represents a learnING centred view of teaching rather than a learnER centered one. Some of the separate ideas and techniques that can carry the Demand High meme will be familiar, but we think that the gathering of them together for this specific purpose alongside newer concepts and techniques, and as a meme rather than as a product or thing, is new.



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Does using “one-to-one-in-a-group” help overcome embarrassment at performing in a group?

Does using one-to-one-in-a-group help overcome embarrassment at performing in a group?

This is a short piece, continuing the topic of “one-to-one-in-a-group” addressed in Jim’s long piece yesterday and Adrian’s own earlier article.

In a recent conversation between Adrian Underhill and teacher Louise Guvett, she said:


I find that some learners get really embarrassed when I try to help them with pronunciation, especially if they have difficulty making a specific sound.

I think when one learner has an individual problem they become shy. Perhaps, by helping this student individually to begin with, but then including the rest of the class…. I find that the other learners are keen to get involved, but the learner who’s making the error becomes shyer.

Is this the wrong way to do it? Am I causing their embarrassment?

Maybe it’s that they are disappointed because the other learners can make the sound effectively.


Well, what I try to do is

1.         Not to ‘fix’ the student, nor to see their thing as a ‘problem’, but to see this as an opportunity for a learning journey together

2.         I work with them for a moment one-to-one in front of the group, not to fix the problem but to help the learner approach it and discover for themselves what needs to shift

3.         While doing this I hook up the others with my look, as if to say “Hey watch this… there is something pretty interesting happening here…”, and for a half minute they are touched by some real one-to-one learning going on in front of them. And I also get other students to have a go.

BUT even if they get it correct (which they might) I push them for a higher challenge (e.g. faster, or louder, or more connected, or more interesting or slower, or less energy, or clearer, or refine the sound, or check the word order etc. ) so after just half a minute everyone is individually challenged, no one is hanging about waiting for the first student to get it right “so that the lesson can continue” and I go back in the midst of all this to the initiating student (the one who gifted us the mistake in the first place) and work further with them.

4.         I do not see the mistake as a nuisance which ‘suspends’ the lesson while we stop and deal with it. It IS the lesson! A mistake is a gift. It tells us exactly what needs doing now.


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Two Interesting Demand High links

Two interesting Demand High links from the last week or so:

Steve Brown, who teaches in the FE sector, writes about some differences he notices between FE and Private Language school teaching: Steve Brown’s blog


The wonderful twitter chat event #eltchat had a discussion about Demand High compared with Teaching Unplugged / dogme. Are they really at odds? Here is the transcript.

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Detailed Practical “How to” Guide: Teaching One-to-One-in-a-Group

Here is a longer article about the technique of teaching one-to-one-in-a-group. You’ll find some background discussion plus detailed practical guidance on using this classroom technique.

It follows on from Adrian’s earlier article.

Click this link to read the new article or (on a PC) Right-Click and “Save link as …” to download it: One to One in a Group (Jim)


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Teachers Workshop on DH – Guest Post by Diana England (IH Torres Vedras, Portugal)

Here is an interesting approach to a teachers workshop on the theme of Demand High. It took place  on Friday 23rd November 2012, and comes from Diana England, Director of Studies at International House, Torres Vedras, Portugal.  She designed and ran the session, and all the materials you need are here, but feel free to adapt.


What follows are:

1.. Her overview of her setting

2. Her session notes

3. The ppt she used

4. The collated participant results.

Note how Diana uses a 3 x 7 grid to tease out differences between too difficult, under-challenging, and doable demand, and in the other dimensions she has the four skills and the three language systems. See also how the ppt illustrates and sets up the tasks

We find this a useful thinking device and a great resource.

Diana’s DH session Nov 23 Torres Vedras Collated notes

Demand High ELT Blank session handout

Diana DH slides


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Demand High for learning to take place – Guest post by Zorica Kovacevic DoS IH Belgrade, Serbia

Demand High for learning to take place

The ELT world has gone through many changes: from trying different approaches, using numerous ways of making our teaching more efficient, creative and dynamic to introducing new technologies in the classroom with seemingly the same goal: to achieve successful teaching and learning.


Every attempt to raise awareness of the need for challenge in teaching and learning is more than welcome, and, the way I see Demand High is understanding how much has been achieved, how much more learners can do, and showing teachers the best ways to do it.


Learning is, in the end, an individual process.  It is facilitated by different teaching approaches and techniques, media used and by the effect of learning in a group, or from a group. But, learning a foreign language is a very demanding situation: learners have to deliver, produce, interact on the spot most of the time. What they produce, or show they are able to do, does not always show the real level of learning and their learning potential. Sometimes, we witness the horror of  ‘I cannot say it, do it’ , or ‘everyone else is doing it better than me.. ‘So many things are happening at the moment when a response is expected from a learner, whether in individual production or group/pair interaction.


So, before we offer challenge, or ask for more, we, teachers must ensure learning takes place and understand why there are problems. And then, intervene, in order to open the channels for learning. I would say that teaching is generally a 1-2-1 situation: we need to know whether learners are really learning, why our students are not learning generally and at that particular moment, what could be the reason and how to ease the problem on the spot, during a real teaching situation.


Therefore, I found Adrian’s 1-2-1 teaching in front of the group as giving teachers the freedom to help the student(s) immediately and in the way they need it. With this 1-2-1 approach, we can offer our students more, or challenge them and make it possible for them to learn more. I do not see the challenge as designing more complex tasks only, and the way I understood both Jim and Adrian was to do with actually thinking about task design more deeply. If we, teachers only resort to more difficult tasks, we would risk that students would just be more blocked. How many times we teachers realise that part of the group did not quite learn something we wanted to teach and the students went home feeling they are not sure they can use what they were supposed to learn that day?


Indeed, if we help teachers in designing well staged tasks and checking if learning takes place, it will be quite possible to achieve challenge and use learning potential more. By this more stimulating exposure to learning, students can surely learn not only more about a foreign language and its use but also about their own learning style and learning capacities.


Zorica Kovacevic

DoS, Teacher trainer & ELT materials writer

IH BelgradeSyllabusSchool



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Demanding Higher in a Conversation Class


One of the conventional wisdoms says don’t correct or interrupt the flow during a conversation class. We can see the point and it’s fine as far as it goes. But the danger is that it develops into a demand low activity.


I do not want just to correct/interrupt. I want to constantly tend to, upgrade and intervene in order make sure the fire is burning hot. So….personally I don’t have any problem, throughout the classdebate on public transport / law and order etc, in constantly upgrading their language using the tools of minimal interference. For example, my interventions are either silent, or sotto voce but clearly on a different wavelength from the discussion, and might be to the effect:


  1. “Yes, but in English please” (ie join it up and make it faster)
  2. Or I gesture to join the words up
  3. Or I say “Ok you got it, now faster please…”
  4. Or I point at a phoneme or the chart, ie attend to that
  5. Or if another vocab item is needed I give it silently via the chart
  6. Or I wordlessly invite a repeat, which allows a self correction/improvement
  7. Or I wordlessly invite word addition, deletion, or changed order
  8. Or I may just point in the direction of the chart, which means “Check out your pron…”
  9. Or I might say “Now could you summarise what you said….”


So all my interventions are paradoxically NOT interruptions, but the ARE upgrades,  which keep the students watchful and alert while they have their conversation. I find this enhanced quality of attention also leads to a better conversation, better English, and greater learner engagement and satisfaction with achieving something worthwhile.


By the way, I don’t write down a list of errors to deal with at the end of these so-called ‘fluency’ phases. I am aware that is standard practice, but I deal with problems either exactly when they arise, in the heat of the moment, at the point of purchase, or never. I’m not recommending this, but it’s what I do. And what I have is multiple ways of upgrading language (structure, vocab, word order, pron) without interfering (much) in the stream of what is being said.


Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment: These students have not paid their time/money to come and have that debate on public transport. If that was their overriding focus they’d go elsewhere for such a debate. They have come to learn English, and they don’t want me tiptoeing round a mediocre conversation about transport out of desperate fear of stopping the flow. The time to improve and upgrade the flow is during the flow, not when the flow has stopped. I think I can have a better flow of conversation by subtly upgrading it constantly throughout until they are all on the lookout for content, form and quality themselves. You can do this once you are confident with minimal upgrade techniques (which include pronunciation of course) ie minimal intervention with maximal upgrade.





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Classroom Management Techniques wins English Speaking Union Duke of Edinburgh Award 2012

I’m thrilled that Classroom Management Techniques (Cambridge University Press) 2012 has been awarded “Overall Winner” in this year’s English Speaking Union Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book awards. This is the Press release.

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Guardian Weekly Article on Demand High

An article about Demand High #dhelt by Adrian Underhill and @jimscriv in this week’s Guardian Weekly!


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New! A second ready-to-use seminar for INSETT & training courses

We’ve just posted a second ready-made seminar for trainers, DOSses and others to use on their training courses, in INSETT workshops etc. 

This one might be interesting whether or not you are persuaded by the main Demand-High arguments! It focuses on encouraging teachers to really think about where the learning is going on in an activity.

Find the seminar packs here! 

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New! Observation Task 4 and the first Ready-to-go Seminar for trainers and DOSses to use

We’ve added one new Observation Task (Task 4) focusing on observing yourself: Observation Tasks

Plus we have the first of what will be a series of ready-made seminars that you can run on courses, in-service training programmes etc: Seminar 1

At the moment, we don’t really know if anybody is using this stuff we’re posting!

If you’d like to see more of it, please encourage us by giving any comments, feedback, suggestions etc – even just saying that you have used would be very helpful!

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New! Observation Task Worksheets for Teachers and Trainers

Have a look at our first three Observation Task Worksheets! 

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#eltchat on Demand-High ELT (28/3/2012)

This is a summary of the #eltchat session on Demand-High teaching on 28/03/2012

(If you haven’t come across #eltchat – you may be wondering what it is! It’s a weekly discussion on live ELT issues using Twitter. You can find out more about them at   Highly recommended!)

We’re very grateful to the organisers and #eltchat participants for choosing the topic and having such a wide-ranging and useful discussion and to Lizzie Pinard who compiled this excellent report and summary – which is also available on her own blog at

Summary of #Eltchat on12.00 Weds 28.3.12: Demand-High Teaching

(Summary by Lizzie Pinard)

Having been privileged to see Jim Scrivener (@jimscriv) talk at length about Demand-High Teaching (DHT) at the recent IATEFL conference in Glasgow, which led me, via a follow-up session with both @jimscriver and Adrian Underhill, to their blog on this subject as well as his recent book on Classroom Management Techniques, when #Eltchat time rolled around, for me it was the obvious choice of topic to nominate. And, not only was it selected as the number one discussion choice but @jimscriv, himself, was able to join us today from his hotel room in Philly where he is currently attending another conference.

@theteacherjames recommended that we all read this blog post by @jemjemgardner before kicking off and finally, following strict instructions from @marisa_c, the discussion itself began with an introduction from @jimscriv. This culminated with the question,

Is where we are really where we want to be? Or have we just ended up here somehow?

@Jimscriv proposed that we, as teachers, “have drifted into a sort of dead end” and, in response to @Shaunwilden’s argument that a new name is not needed for what is simply expecting the most from our students, states that the main purpose of coining the term, DHT, was to be provocative and generate discussion. (An aim that was certainly achieved during this #eltchat session!)

A lot of questions were raised, and in the spirit of avoiding the spoon-feeding method, I’ll start  by listing these for you to reflect on before offering up the responses that tweeters volunteered.

– Do you think that we’ve drifted into a touchy feely style because we’ve incorrectly associated engagement with fun?

– Has it become ‘politically correct’ to overpraise?

– Does DHT match with learner expectations or wants or needs?

– Is DHT just expecting the most from your students?

– Maybe deferring to the [course] book isn’t all bad, if it leaves more time to allocate to more challenging tasks with pupils?

– Demand high cognitively or linguistically? Some lessons put both at elementary level.

– Are teachers afraid to demand high linguistically?

– Why aim low?

– How does ‘demand-high ELT’ sit with differentiation? Seems a demand too high. I’m already stretch as far as I can be sometimes.

– How do u distinguish between positive feedback and praise?

The discussion focussed initially on defining DHT, reaching an understanding of what it involves and, indeed, what it does not involve. Here are some of the suggestions:

– Demand-High isn’t a negative argument. It’s a positive assertion that it’s ok to “teach”.

– Everyone means well but somehow we have lost touch with where the learning is going on.

– We used to call this ‘having high expectations of our Ss’ and research suggests if you do,ss rise UP to ur expectation.

– We need to treat students like adults (if they are) and challenge them in every way

– Encouragement as valuable. Feedback as essential. Praise as mostly harmful.

– Demand high can be for any kind of student, low or high ability, just have to differentiate the demand.

– It’s about providing the right amount of challenge for each student.

– It’s about not giving indiscriminate praise- which means nothing.

– Of course lessons shld be enjoyable – but that comes from engagement with real learning – not spurious “fun”.

– All sts should be treated like ‘achieving students’ rather than like slowies…..

– I think that there is a way of teaching one-to-one with everyone in a class. And making it useful for all.

– Goal is that feedback is neutral or comes from students themselves, rather than mechanically from T.

– It involves an endless struggle between what Ts believe in and the philosophy of CB-based syllabus and exams imposed by the school?

– DHT means more teaching moments or periods in a lesson

– I think of high demand as my Ss being able to do things with the language. I want to see what they can do. So more them than me.

– Demand-High is definitely learner-centred and learning-centred.

– The challenge must be sensitive and supportive. The aim is not to terrify! But helpful, coaching, focus makes a huge difference.

This led on to exploring the obstacles that obstruct the way to DHT:

– In theory, I see myself as a “demand high” teacher *but* in some contexts, it isn’t always practical/possible

– Demand-low or average teaching is infectious in institutions where there is blame culture

– There is a culture of praising when it isn’t fully due, I’d say – hard to separate from ‘encouragement’

– We also have the difficulty of judging what is demand high of an elementary and what it is for, say, an upper int student

– There’s a misunderstanding that just because they look like they are enjoying themselves, they must be learning

– We need to ensure the level of challenge is right in so many ways (not too heavy linguistically) not too light (content)

– Schools, ministries etc do a great disservice to Ts by imposing targets – so many units a week

– Having to enroll students on a course knowing that they are going to pass the final exam

– The trouble with any term is that it’s open to interpretation.  Inevitable.

– DHT is also demanding of the T – more time, effort, preparation, energy required. Can’t just sit back and do same old.

– I worked in a language school where “no” was a word we were not allowed to say to students. Impossible mission.

– Seen so many teachers getting swept along by syllabus – doing 5 rushed readings per week instead of one good one.

– Uncritical coursebook use promotes a kind of dependency in Ts and Ss – hand-holding all round – we all need a degree of challenge.

– Often teachers are scared that they’ll upset the students. There can be cultural sensitivities in play too.

– Humanism is hugely misunderstood in ELT. It is almost the opposite of “touchy feely”. It is a muscular, robust way to help.

– There’s a lot of treadmill in ELT (& edu generally), often exam driven – more bits of paper

So despite all these obstacles, how can we promote DHT? How can we bring it into our classroom?

– By guiding them [learners], leading them towards an achievable goal, but without a script, adapting to their needs during the lesson.

– If we are going to challenge them we have to know where they are at. Our relationship w the Ss important.

– “Challenge” [the learners] to acquire – if tasks dont’s have enough challenge there is no acquisition.

– Giving hints to get students to reformulate something rather than immediately gving the correct version yourself.

– Teachers need to slow down and learn to stop meeting targets in course books. Focus on what’s happening, then and there.

– Question what we are doing  in class rather than just doing it for the sake of doing it.

– When the topic is ‘tedious and insulting’, we need to find a better angle from the sts (or change the book!)

– We need to train Ts to (a) say “no” supportively and (b) have techniques to help sts to “yes”

– No more spoonfeeding, let them develop ideas and shape them, less book-based teaching and more exploration.

– Being straight foward and asking students to not to settle for good enough.

– I ask them questions that I think may intrigue them.

– Honesty is great, but correction needs to be sensitively and supportively done.

– Choose subjects which the sts will find motivating. High demand will come easier from their own engagement.

– Push them,challenge them, support them then let them lead

– Involve ss in discussing what we’ve done, how can we do it better and what needs to be done next: learner responsibility.

– Get sts working for answers. Get sts to explain rules & meanings. Empower sts & give yourself room to see the bigger picture.

-Look at them as individuals and not homogenizing expectations for whole class

We then considered the role of pre-service teacher training in promoting DHT, what happens beyond this training and what should happen…

There were some questions:

– DHT seems a post-CELTA step to me. A higher plane of evolution. How do Ts get there? Who wil support/guide them?

– Wondering how could this be incorporated into e.g. CELTA..

– What T standards are there post-CELTA? What are Ts goals after they have taught for a few years? Do they get lost in the soup?

And some opinions:

– [Wondering how this could be incorporated into CELTA?]It is, but then it gets lost achieving a tick box criteria

– I think they [pre-service teacher trainers] have a responsibility – more looking at techniques etc rather than here’s a good activity for

-Maybe it’s for post-CELTA, maybe it comes with experience as well. It’s about questioning approaches, methods and techniques.

– Hate to say but maybe Teachers have problems with HDT & support because in their certificate programme their trainer made them feel like an idiot.

– You probably can’t “train” in 4 weeks. That course [CELTA] is survival skills. But an experienced T needs more skills.

– My sense is CELTA (no offense any1!) often pushes Ts 2 follow list of things to do/not do rather than focusing on Student Learning

– We can’t teach this in 4 weeks, but we can make the goal clear and model in own practice

– There is a higher skillset for experienced Ts that is largely unnoticed and untrained.

– At the end of the day it’s not about he qualifications it is about the skills in the classroom

– This is definitely where DoSes come in – observing Ts and forming understanding of what they are about, then guiding.

– Maybe CELTA can promote DHT but we need to develop it ourselves

– It’s hard to get new Ts to reflect and question practices/methods on the Celta when there’s only 4 weeks to teach them how to teach.

– Delta courses “should” go there – but are so wound up in stress and checklists that they tend not to.

-It’s very important that Ts understand the value (or not) of what they’re doing

– I think CELTA trainees can only cope with so much. It’s a survival intro. Sure, intro the idea  but expect “lag”

– A suggestion-come up with a series of DHT commandments. See #dogme for an example. V.useful for post-CELTA Ts.

– Demand-high is the business of in-service development, peer observation, action research, supportive observations etc

– Truly it all begins in the training classroom but the microclimate of institutions also plays an impotrant role

– Ts sit and wait for PD to come to them. They often don’t know where or when to start.

– Hard in a sector where too many institutions r concerned abt bums on seats not quality. Like mobile phone companies.

– Teachers carry around a lot of assumptions – DoSes need to investigate, identify and challenge these regularly.

– Trainers can b afraid 2 stomp on trainees egos -knock-on effect inclassm. ‘Aim high’ should be a life philosophy.

– It’s also about changing preservice teachers perceptions of what teaching is & precedence for lifelong learning

There seemed to be a feeling that some institutions can make it difficult for teachers to be or become demand-high teachers but that despite this, we can still bring demand-high teaching into the classroom, via any of the suggestions for promoting DHT listed earlier in this summary. As a grassroots movement, the best thing we can do is spread the word.

To conclude with, here are four quotes from the discussion that, for me, really summed up what we are trying to achieve with Demand-High Teaching and how those moments might feel:

– Our students are capable of great things if we don’t underestimate them.

– Goethe:  ”If I accept you as you are, I make you worse; but if I treat you as I believe you are capable of being, I help you become that”

– How will I know if I am getting my hands dirty? When learners lean back in chairs after class with tired, happy faces.

– You will feel it. Uncertainty. Having to think rather than auto-pilot. A real conversation.


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What Do We Mean By “Demand High” Teaching?

Contemporary teachers have become mainly classroom managers and operators of materials. This is perhaps a natural outcome of Communicative Approaches – and of much current training – but is it really what we want? We may desire more “learning-centred approaches” but in class much teaching has become ritualised, with organisational tools such as “group  discussion” seemingly expected to achieve learning goals without any teacher intervention.

When I observe lessons nowadays I often see a teacher who does little more than a series of announcements to start up and close down exercises and activities. There is typically a lack of “up-close”  teaching skills, no “hands-on” work with language and little or no engagement with the process or experience of learning.  Much of traditional “teaching” is devolved to the coursebook. And coursebooks are now so good that they can take that strain.

But what can the teacher do when they want to risk breaking free? The escape routes are no longer clear. Some teachers see Dogme and assume that that is the only other place to go – but it is a fairly drastic extreme to dump materials and syllabus and wander naked through the dogme forest. Are there other routes open? Ones that allow the teacher to start exploring what it means to be a “teacher” – even with a syllabus and a headteacher and parents and a coursebook and all the day-to-day problems?
This website is a chance to  discuss current ELT and to ask the question: Is this where we want to be? And where else can we be?


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The issues

1    Good-Enough Teaching: Much contemporary teaching is “good-enough” – but not better.

2    Communicative Dead-End The Communicative Approach has settled down into a safe, peaceful, dead-end.

3    Low Demand We demand far less from our students than they are capable of. Much contemporary teaching is unchallenging and has low expectations.

4    Excuses We use our students as our excuse: “I don’t think it’s fair to put them in the spotlight”. We have misintepreted “humanistic” and “facilitation” as a bland “being nice to students”.

5    Unassertive Classroom Management While teachers have become good at basics (instructions, group making etc) they are weak at more challenging classroom management (getting engagement from all learners, not letting the strong students dominate etc). There is a general fear of – and avoidance of – assertive, supportive intervention.

6    Hands-On Language Work We do not work hands-on, in-the-moment, with language. There is a taint of guilt to doing demanding focussed language work.

7    The Moves of Learning We have not studied the moves of learning. We teach at a distance from learning, rather than getting up-close to observe it happening and to influence and affect  it.

8    Unambitious Systems We have created systems (in schools, ministries, international bodies etc) that encourage, validate, reward and maintain unadventurous,  low-awareness teaching and learning.

9    Experience We have not defined well what we might expect of a genuinely experienced teacher. Training and inspections do not often take account of the  higher skillset of teaching.

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Discussion: Contemporary teaching tends to be “low demand” (and this is a problem)!

Students are regularly asked to do and achieve far less than they are capable of. We have trained teachers to respond over-positively to “good enough”. They lack the skills to take students from there to genuinely good.  A student mumbles a quarter-good sentence that no-one else in class can hear – to which the response is “Excellent” or “Fantastic”.

Many teachers do not seem to realise that a student can move in the space of one lesson from pretty poor at a piece of language to near-native speaker level  – admittedly on a single item – but over time such upgrading has a huge impact.

At some point, we forgot how to be demanding. This is not laziness, simply that teachers do not know how to take learners there. In class correctness has come to mean little more than “the right words in the right order…” But students can hear it is substandard. They know.

Comments for this discussion are open.

Do you agree with the supposition or not? Is it an important issue? What experiences as teacher or trainer have you had that you are reminded of? If it is a problem … what needs to be done?


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