photo retrieved from : https://yannicknezetseguin.com/en/biography/
“The more you talk, the less opportunity there is for the learners.”
What is the first thing that you remember learning on your CELTA course?
I remember that a lot of emphasis was placed on reducing our TTT (Teacher Talking Time). We were told our TTT should be moderately used for classroom management procedures, such as introducing topic, giving instructions, setting up tasks and providing feedback. Here are a few reasons why:
- We should maximise Student Talking Time, or STT
- Students should not be told what they can work out for themselves
- Teacher-led lessons are boring
- Students remain passive and don’t actively engage with the language
For trainees who had a different view of teaching , this was a difficult transition, and for novice teachers, it became the foundation of their approach. Of course, it made sense that if teachers speak all the time in class, when are the students going to get their share of talking time?
I must admit this concept really excited me, well, maybe overexcited me. I can almost say I became TT-phobic, if there is such a term-If not, I’m coining it! I planned my lessons carefully and tried to reduce my talk more and more and as if I were to conduct an orchestra, just waving my hands and eliciting “music”. Hence the picture..
I found that planning with this principle in mind, takes a lot of time and effort , and can also place quite a strain on the learners, as they are constantly in the spotlight. That can raise anxiety, anxiety raises the affective filter and we all know where this goes. Some students might also think that you don’t know how to do your job, especially learners from input-oriented backgrounds who expect the teacher to explain and present language.
“Good TTT can have beneficial qualities, however.”
While being a student myself and taking a Spanish course, I got a different perspective. I realized how much I enjoyed chatting with the teacher at the beginning and the end of the lesson. He often told jokes or an anecdote every now and then, well, maybe more often than that! He often made comments on the text or engaged in unplanned dialogues with students. Sometimes, it was clear to me that he was talking too much, but maybe not to my classmates, who needless to say were NOT teachers ! 🙂
So, as I said, I enjoyed his teacher talk and I realized there were two reasons for that. First of all, there was a connection. We were building rapport, we were enjoying this interaction and it was making classes fun and friendly. Second, it was a good source of input, and as Wilson suggests, “any aspect of the language is input”.
Teacher talk is therefore a frequent and valuable source of input. It’s also authentic and easy to manipulate, as it is interactive. Finally, it can be very motivating, as long as it responds to students’ needs and it is used properly.
Currently studying for Delta modules 2 and 3, I found these suggestions on how to improve the quality of our teacher talk worth sharing. Hope you find some of them interesting.
Quality teacher talk
- Grade your language depending on the level you are teaching. You don’t want to sound too unnatural but you must be understood, so challenge learners slightly beyond their current level. Teacher-talk is foreigner-talk in the classroom, as Krashen suggests.
- Use markers to demonstrate changes of topic such as. “The first thing we are going to look at..”, or “Moving on to..”.
- Τell anecdotes, but tell your story chronologically. Flashbacks may confuse learners. Make sure your story has a beginning , middle and end. Wilson also highlights the importance of narrating sequenced events for more effective comprehension. Don’t ramble, be concise.
- Avoid colloquial language that cannot be inferred from context and that will contribute nothing but potential confusion.
- Make it interactive: Allow your learners to have control over input. Train them to ask for repetition or clarification. Train them to be active listeners. Reciprocal listening is easier than non-reciprocal listening.
- Paralinguistics: Use your body and face to support what you are saying visually.
- Monitor : Check their reactions as you speak. Do they look bored? Puzzled? Do you need to paraphrase, pause or slow down?
Anything to add? feel free to leave a comment!
- Harmer, J. (1998) How to teach English, Harlow, Longman.
- Scrivener, J. (2011), Learning Teaching, The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching, Oxford, Macmillan.
- Wilson, J.J., (2008) How to teach Listening, Harlow, Longman.
- Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition Stephen D Krashen