Today I would like to start a series of posts on some “experiments” I started to do in the classroom after my CELTA experience. I got inspiration to try out these more experimental practices reading books, blogs and watching videos I have come across on the web in the past few months — where appropriate I will link to the source, of course.
Today I would like to start with some Demand High ideas I tried to put into practice during all my adult classes since I started reading Underhill and Scrivener’s blog. I don’t have the presumption of saying that I actually taught any Demand-high lessons in a strict sense; what I did is get inspiration from the ideas and thoughts I read around the web, and changed my teaching practice accordingly, to “gain real learning value” out of generally overlooked or standardised classroom activities like homework correction and feedback sessions.
I have to admit that, before reading Demand High and going through CELTA, I was rubber-stamping basically all student answers. Worse still, I have been rightly accused by my CELTA tutors of answering my own questions. That is why during CELTA I tried out — mostly unsuccessfully — some student-centred feedback sessions. Even though these were quite a disaster, the process still gave me the confidence to actually try student-centred feedback during my regular lessons. And that was a completely different story.
At first my students were very disoriented and kept looking at me with a puzzled look (I am sure most of them thought I had gone crazy): instead of giving them the correct answer, I was bouncing the question back to them, asking them to justify their answer or to explain their disagreement, and that was completely new to them. Since the process was taking longer than usual, some students would even get impatient and ask me directly: “so, what is the correct answer?”.
Yet, after a few sessions, students began to familiarise with the process, much so that today some of them even ask their classmates to agree/disagree with their answer even without my prompt (and I’m talking about A1 level students!). Another great advantage that I found while introducing this new practice is that students are much more confident when giving an answer, they tend to reflect on what they are doing and often self-correct their wrong answers. Which I believe is a giant step for their learner independence and a joyous victory for me as a teacher.
There is still much work to do, and I feel I would have a lot to gain by observing a more experienced colleague managing an entire Demand High lesson, but from the results I got so far I believe I’m on the right track. If you have any personal experience of teaching or observing Demand High lessons, please let me know your thought on the matter as I am eager to hear and read other colleagues’ experiences on this.
Thanks for reading!