Can you say it another way? and other Demand High Questions

Posted on: 27 November 2012
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I attended an IATEFL SIG conference last weekend on teacher development and management. It was a really great conference which generated a lot of discussion. If you’ve read anything on this blog, you will not be surprised to learn that I was banging on about the importance of developing teachers’ language awareness. In one session, I had an interesting exchange with Adrian Underhill about Demand-High ELT. This is the idea that teachers should demand more of students in terms of language and learning: that students are capable of a lot more that many teachers allow. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a lot of sympathy with this viewpoint, but feel that Adrian and Jim Scrivener’s solutions seem too management orientated (see previous post), which is what I said to Adrian.  In reply, he suggested that a good ‘Demand- High’ question is to ask ‘Can you say that another way?’ Obviously, where students are failing to communicate (or indeed when teachers are failing to explain!) this is a good strategy. However, no matter how many times the question is asked, you are in the end relying on what the students already know. Furthermore, at lower levels, it is likely that the way the students said it (if we ignore slips in grammar or lexis that have been taught before), is probably the best / only way they know how to say it! So on the one hand, we may have limited new learning and on the other frustration unless of course the teacher intervenes and provides some new language! It is the intervention and the ability to provide new language that it is crucial then. Without such intervention, asking to say it in another way – or indeed asking any question about language – is simply a management technique rather than challenging the student and teacher to new learning and new teaching.

Furthermore, I think there are better questions, which can ‘demand high’ and push students to find the edges of their knowledge. While, learning synonyms or synonymous ways of saying something has value – particularly at high levels or They are more like the questions I talked about a couple of weeks ago. In that post, I suggested thinking up questions to check and expand on the following bits of vocab from an exercise in Straightforward Intermediate.

arrive at a resort

book a flight

check out of the hotel

choose a destination

do the packing

find your way round

pay a deposit

pick up some brochures

 

It was not that easy I realised – which again is very much the argument of this blog: you won’t be able to deal with language efficiently and effectively without long-term language-focused development. Thinking of questions also raised the issue of what side of the collocation in an exercise such as this needs more work and / or generates more language. For example we may assume that with check out of a hotel, we would focus more on check out of – and as you will see I did. However, I did wonder, given that we may always assume hotel is the easier word, whether students ever learn the huge range of collocations associated with it.

Doing the exercise I also sometimes asked myself whether this language was good for the level. Is it too easy or too difficult? Is it frequent enough? Is it useful for them? I think, actually, such questions are impossible to answer on a blog like this – I don’t know everyone’s context or everyone’s students – but they are important for you to ask when you analyse exercises in this way.

Anyway, here are some questions I thought of. Remember I am assuming here that a teacher would have already either translated or explained the new words / words students weren’t sure about or students had the correct answer to the task (so we might assume that they have some idea of meaning). I haven’t put any answers deliberately. Really, if you can’t think of an answer it’s a bad question (and there may be a few here!). I’d be happy to hear any criticisms, doubts, or alternatives.

arrive at a resort

What kinds of resort can you think of? What do you find in a resort?

 

book a flight

Where do you book a flight? What’s the noun of book here? And what if you have a problem – say you can’t go on the flight you booked?…And if you cancel a booking / a flight? What happens about the money you paid?

 

check out of the hotel

By what time do you usually need to check out? Where do you check out? And what things do they normally ask you at check-out?

 

choose a destination

how might you choose a destination? You can say a place is a (top) destination for families / for skiers / for … any other groups of people? Can you think of any examples?

 

do the packing

Some people do the packing a long time before they leave, some people are the opposite, they leave it till, …? What do you need to do the packing? What happens if you do the packing badly?

 

find your way round

What do you need to find your way round? And what’s the opposite of ‘find your way’? And if you lose your way, what do you do?

 

pay a deposit

Why do you pay a deposit? On what things? How much is the deposit usually? Sometimes you can lose the deposit – why? Sometimes you don’t lose it but the company (or whoever) does what to the deposit? And the adjective of refund…?

 

pick up some brochures

Where might you pick up a travel brochure? After you pick up the brochure you usually do what? And if you read it quickly we often say you ….? And if you don’t want it anymore you ….? What other kinds of brochures are there?

5 Responses to “Can you say it another way? and other Demand High Questions”

  1. Love these ideas as they incorporate reviewing vocabulary as well as expanding on it. How would you get your students to record these new expressions and ideas? Would you use a mind- map format? My older students have resisted the mind-map format, but German schoolkids know it from their schoolbooks and take it on board no problem.

  2. I simply write things on the board and students write them down or increasingly take photos of the board. I’ve done some mind maps this term with limited success. In class the students did them, but not many have chosen to do it outside of class.

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