Adrian Underhill is an ELT editor, author, teacher, trainer and advisor currently working for Macmillan. His current research includes pronunciation among other EFL fields. However, his talk at IATEFL 2015 did not have much to do with pronunciation. Instead, he deals with what he likes to call the dark matter of teaching, that is, improvisation. Why does he call it that? Because it’s something that is present in ELT, but we are not really aware of it nor do we feel much like talking about it. For this reason, Mr Underhill has taken it upon himself to make teachers aware of the need to pay attention to this aspect of teaching, as he believes that it makes up around 80% of what goes on in a classroom.
In this interview, Adrian Underhill brings up several points which I am briefly outlining below:
- A lot of what we do in ELT is improvisation. Around 80%, he reckons.
- Both in jazz or acting, musicians and actors train themselves in improvising. However, improvisation in the classroom goes largely unnoticed, as nobody really talks about it, let alone study it.
- Given the amount of improvisation in the ELT, it becomes incumbent upon researchers to look into the matter in order to find ways to improve this time that teachers spend deviating from the so-called right course of action.
- Teachers should aim to:
- become aware of how much improvisation goes on in their teaching practice.
- learn to improvise in accordance to what you receive from students (i.e. questions).
- move away from set structures. This will lead to more natural interaction within classroom settings.
- Respond in a fresh way to students, not only bringing up ready-made answers we are used to making use of.
As an English teacher, I must say that I entirely agree with Mr Underhill. Improvisation does take place in my daily teaching practice, and I can see how important it is. If there are ways to improve that time that I spend teaching “off the books”, I would certainly like to know how. What do you think? Do you agree with Underhill’s proposal of improving improvisation?
For more interesting interviews and talks, go to http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/live. You can also follow the event on Twitter with the tags #IATEFL and #IATEFL2015. You can follow Keep Smiling English on Facebook and Twitter, too.
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