Unit 5 summary

What is supportive trainer talk?

The way trainers talk when they want trainees to learn something. Any talk that supports learning.

We did lots of interesting things in unit 5.

We transcribed a short extract from a training session and then analysed key features and purposes of trainer talk. Some examples my peers and I came up with:

  • That’s a very interesting use of ... Valuing the contribution, summarising teacher’s point and adding information.  
  • I hadn’t thought of that.. Acknowledging learning from the trainee.
  • exactly, this is one way to differentiate the task..referring back to the aims of the session,
  • Can you give us an example? Giving voice to the participants and encouraging them to be active and to share their knowledge. Pushing them to go beyond,
  • we’re making progress here! Praise and remind that we are building up on each others’ ideas,
  • I used to do that.. Sharing personal experience.
  • Have you ever.. Eliciting data from trainee’s experience.
  • So what we can do is.. Feeding, leading.
  • today we’re going to… Providing a commentary on the intended training/learning processes.
  • pop up books are creative, yes. Echoing combined with content support.
  • so most of you agree that.. Summarizing.

Summarizing what trainees say after each task/at the end of the session is crucial because:

  • it helps them them organise their thoughts
  • we can provide the metalanguage trainees may not have
  • we don’t always hear things the first time

Tech talk 👩‍💻

In the online world, a new category has emerged. I call it tech talk. The typical:

  • Can you hear me?
  • You’re on mute!
  • I’m going to share my screen…

My trainer talk

I recorded parts of my sessions and analysed my trainer talk. Here are some examples:

Reformulating/providing metalanguage:

Yes, that’s called target language or TL.

Present the language in context or contextualise it.

Production or what we also call free practice stage.

Advocatory talk/giving information:

We can ask students to read the title and predict what the text is about.

Exploratory talk:

Which one do your students prefer? (genuine question)

What are the reasons for..? (encourage noticing)

Would you use it with adult students? (genuine)

why do you think I’m using yes or no questions and not open open-ended questions here? (display-encourage noticing)

Echoing with praise:

A variety, absolutely. Very important.

Para-praising: (paraphrase and praise)

I like that you both highlighted the importance of getting students more involved.

Sharing beliefs/attitudes:

I don’t use a lot of concept checking questions because I think they are a boring way to teach or a little, um, robotic.

The we-mportance

We all agreed that when the trainer uses the word we instead of you, it can make a huge impact on trainees’ motivation. It conveys that we are in this together, sets a democratic atmosphere and motivates them to contribute.

Wright and Bolitho (2010) also mention the we-mportance in the Trainer Development book.

They describe the trainer as an experienced colleague, not an expert who has all the answers.

Learning from my tutor and peers:

Useful articles

there is growing evidence that, in communicative
classes, interactions may, in fact, not be very communicative after all’

(Nunan, 1987: 144).

Cullen: Supportive teacher talk the importance of the f-move

This article is about teacher talk but it made me think about trainer talk as well.

The F move is the third part of the IRF pattern,( Initiation-Response-Feedback or follow up) identified by Sinclair and Coulthard in their classroom discourse analysis (1975).

A typical example:

Initiation: Teacher asks How do you say libro in English?

Response: Student says book.

Feedback : Teacher says Correct.

Cullen makes an interesting point in this article. That we should maintain a balance between evaluative and discoursal feedback. In simpler terms , evaluating ss language will help them repair their errors but also feedback on content enables communication in the classroom. To make the F move more beneficial, Cullen and Thornbury mention these features of communicative talk :

  • ask referential (real) questions
  • elaborate our students’ responses
  • add humour
  • increased wait time
  • students asking the questions
  • most importantly, be RESPONSIVE. Listen and respond meaningfully with interest too what our students are saying and give authentic instead of ritualized responses.
I thought about the F move in training.

I’m not sure but perhaps there is no room for the evaluative F move here.

Accept and record without evaluative comments.

Wright and Bolitho, 2010

Some questions about questions. 🙋

Are questions in training easy to define?

The ‘don’t you think that.…?’ question can be a display question, or an invitation to agree. Even encouraging noticing.

what do you think about…” sounds like a referential (genuine) question. However, you might already know the answer and simply inviting the trainee to verbalise their beliefs/attitudes.

Some questions about language.

L1 or L2

If the teachers are non-native speakers with a level as low as A2 or A1 (I didn’t know that was a possibility, but some of the trainers have had that experience), isn’t it more useful to hold the session (or at least allow group discussions) in L1?

If the trainer speaks L1, what should they do? Would a translanguaging approach work?

Comments are welcome!

You can read the rest of the MATD posts here.


Cullen, 2002. Supportive teacher talk: the importance of the F‐move. ELT Journal, Volume 56, Issue 2, April 2002, Pages 117–127,

Sinclair, J. and Coulthard M. 1975. Towards an analysis of discourse. The English used by teachers and pupils.

Thornbury, S., 1996. Teachers research teacher talk. ELT Journal, 50(4), pp.279-289.

Wright, T. and Bolitho, R., 2010. Trainer development. [La Vergne, Tenn.]: [Lulu].