Teacher Talk Time

Teacher talking time is an essential part of every ESL class but needs to be used effectively.  Teacher talking time is defined as classroom time taken up by a teacher speaking.  There are advantages and disadvantages to teacher talking time but in general less teacher talking time is preferable to promote learning.

There are several positive aspects of teacher talk time.  One necessary part of teacher talking time is that students need to receive classroom instructions.  Students also need to be guided during a lesson and sometimes prompted to discuss a topic or practice a new type of sentence, such as negation.  If students are working on improving their accents having a model of correct English pronunciation and rhythm can also be beneficial.

As necessary as teacher talking time may be it also needs to be limited in order to teach effectively.  Teacher Talking Time can have several negative impacts on the learning process.  Possibly the most harmful is limiting a student’s opportunity to practice speaking English.  Not only is the amount of time spent practicing important but also the unique classroom opportunity where a student can receive instant feedback from an instructor and their classmates in a supportive learning environment.  When students are given more time to speak they will naturally become more expressive.  Through expressing themselves they can become more confident in their speaking abilities and progress in their abilities.

Speaking a language is intuitive which is why students need to be given time to speak.   Being told how to speak a language doesn’t reflect the trial and error process and exploration that leads everyone to learn their first language.  The traditional role of a teacher lecturing and students listening doesn’t represent the way people actually communicate.   Actual communication goes on without feedback from an instructor and prompting.  People also have a tendency to lose concentration which being lectured.  This results in classroom time not only being ineffective but not even beneficial.

There are many effective strategies for eliminating teacher talking time.  One strategy is to encourage conversation between students instead of between the teacher and student.  Pairs or small groups can be used to discuss topics and review material.  This affords the teacher more time to answer difficult questions.  Another strategy that a teacher can adopt is not to repeat correct answers given by students.   This strategy has two benefits.  The first being that time isn’t taken up by repeating something a student said correctly which is unnatural and unnecessary and secondly it promotes confidence to continue speaking without being prompted.   Another strategy for a teacher to use is not confirming everything a student says.  For example, if a student says that they went to the store.   A misuse of teacher talking time would be responding using a phrase to confirm what they said, like the phrase “oh really.”  A more effective way to promote conversation is for a teacher to simply not respond and wait attentively allowing the student to give further information or detail.  This will accustom students to naturally start speaking more and expressing themselves with their new language.

While teacher talking time has many advantages and is necessary it should be avoided when it isn’t needed.  There are many effective strategies an instructor can use.  Those strategies range from those involving how they manage their classroom to ways they personally conduct themselves.  All strategies that reduce teacher talking time will contribute to learning in the classroom.