Attending Luiz Otávio’s sessions is a must. If you list the top 10 plenary sessions you have attended, we are very positive that at least one or more of his plenaries will be present. This year, ABCI Conference granted us with another extraordinary talk on Demanding High teaching for optimal learning.
We are preparing a summary of the talk to be posted soon. However, we did not want to waste any more time keeping the quick chat we had after the plenary away from you – You’re welcome! And yes, one of Luiz Otávio’s best qualities is his kindness and how approachable he is, even after delivering a one-hour talk.
With that in mind, we asked him a couple of questions just to give you a glimpse of what his plenary was about. Enjoy it.
TEFL: You started talking about intervention on the spot – why do you think this has become such a monster in the classroom?
LO: That has to do with the dogmas we inherited from the early communicative era. What did we learn then? We learned how to focus on accuracy in the accuracy phase of the lesson and correct students and provide feedback and we learned how to delay correction or how to avoid correction altogether or any sort of language upbraid, in the fluency part of the lesson. The trouble is, one can’t really draw a line in the sand between fluency and accuracy, neither conceptually nor as words that can describe what goes on in a real lesson. The lines are blurred and we need to be able to think beyond fluency and accuracy so that we can help them whenever they need help. And in 9 times out of 10, it’s not in the accuracy phase, well, 7 times out of 10, it is not during the accuracy phase that they try to convey their own meanings. And that’s when intervention is most beneficial. Also, a lot of the language that they produce is not book bound, a lot of the things they do in class is not generated by an activity, it’s stuff they say spontaneously like: “teacher, I no come next class” and we need to be able to think beyond fluency and accuracy to intervene at those moments.
TEFL: There was an era where different methodologies sprout up and teachers became Methodology operators and today you mention Coursebooks operators so, we escaped from one cycle and now we seem to be stuck in a new one. How can the teacher escape from this movement?
LO: You’re absolutely right, books are remarkably similar nowadays; they all follow the same sort of pattern, grammar presentation through dialogues and texts, noticing questions, then a grammar box, then a series of gap fill-type activities and then a freer communicative activity at the end. So 9 books out of 10 follow that sort of pattern and teachers are used to it and so are we. This is what Jim Scrivener calls “received contemporary methodology”. Because books are so dependable, we tend to over rely on them and sometimes just go through the motions in class. What we need to do is to find ways in which we can go beyond the practice activities in the book. So, for example, if you have a gap fill, at the end of the gap fill, you should ask your students to close their books and try, for example, to remember some of the sentences and string words together to form new ones.
TEFL: And that’s when the facilitator comes in…
LO: Yes, the facilitator is the teacher who will be on the look out for learning opportunities, seize them, and intervene in most effective way.
TEFL: One of the highlights of your talk today was the N factor. Can you explain what play up the N factor means?
TEFL: The N stands for Nudge. To make Demand High happen we should continually give students little nudges, we should work around their zone of proximal development, which in plain English means to give them little nudges that will keep them moving forward, we need to learn how to nudge students, how to push them beyond their comfort zones and how to stretch their English, how to help them restructure their interlanguage, which left to their own devices, some students will not do.
That’s it, a summary of his talking is coming next…