As teachers we often feel we are the driving force in the classroom. It’s our classroom and our students so it’s our responsibility to make sure they learn the language. Maybe by sheer force of personality we can drive the language into our students’ heads. Teaching can sometimes be like an aerobic exercise, where we teach ourselves into a sweaty mess valiantly trying to force language into our students.
Ironically it may well be the case that the more we do in the classroom the less our learners understand. Doing too much in a classroom can be a distraction to the language itself, just because we are talking does that mean the students are learning? Although we all want our learners to be entertained, can we sometimes lose sight of the ultimate goal in our classrooms? Our classrooms should be about the language and the learners. Our role in the classroom should be to facilitate this as much as possible.
The adage ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ applies very well to language learning. We can try as hard as we like but we cannot actually learn the language for our students. Students need as much time in the classroom as possible, to absorb and practice the language. We should try to facilitate this at all times.
Part of this process involves making sure that we are not taking up valuable classroom time that would be better used given over to the students and the language. Think about the ratio of teacher talk time (TTT) to student talk time (STT) in your lessons. Ideally students should be using English to communicate for a minimum of 70% of the lesson.
There are many advantages in reducing our TTT:
• Our students are the ones who need the practice with the language, not us.
• High STT can mean the students are more engaged and less passive in their lesson.
• If students work things out for themselves they are more likely to be able to remember and use the language in the future.
• It helps create independent learners. Learners can become too dependent on teachers being there to explain everything to them and reassure them.
So what are the best ways to reduce TTT in the classroom?
Is it necessary? Only say what you have to. If a student can say it then they probably should. Never parrot what students say. This often discourages students from listening to each other and can create a feeling that something is only correct once the teacher has said it. If a student has made a good point that you want to make sure all the class understood, then ask the other students to tell you what was said.
Pause. Often silence feels uncomfortable or a waste of class time. But silence can be a good thing. For any new language or material students need time to process the information. Step back and create a space and time in the lesson for students to consider what they’ve just learned. This also gives students a chance to formulate any queries or problems they might have.
Elicit. As much as possible elicit everything. Eliciting maximizes STT and guarantees students are more actively involved in the classroom rather than passive recipients of learning. And don’t just elicit vocabulary or structures, think of other areas you can elicit as well:
Instructions; get the students to tell you what they are going to do during an activity. Not only will the instructions have been given in language comprehensible to students but it will also help you know if the students understand what they are going to do.
Context; set the context with student ideas. Students will be more engaged and the context will be much more personalized and relevant to them.
For new vocab elicit; meaning, pronunciation, syllables, stress, collocation, register, part of speech.
Errors. Get the students to notice any errors rather than you pointing them out. Then try to elicit the correction as well. Peer to peer learning will help group dynamics and foster a learning environment.
Focus. It’s natural that whoever is the focus of the lesson will do most of the talking. So if the teacher is the focus of the lesson they will be more inclined to speak. Make the students the focus of the lesson and then let them do the speaking. Make the lessons personalized to the students experiences not yours.
Interactions. In a classroom who communicates with who? If the teacher is part of the interaction then naturally they’re going to be speaking. But do they need to be part of all interactions? Teachers should only be involved when they need to. If the teacher isn’t part of the interaction then the students will be the ones who do the talking. Students often do tasks or activities together but then feedback through the teacher. Make sure students feedback to each other and are listening to each other.
Teacher roles. What is our primary role in the classroom? When should we be talking? If we put ourselves at the centre of everything like a compere or entertainer then we’ll naturally find ourselves talking more. Try taking on different roles in the classroom, ones that require less control from ourselves. Some examples are:
Facilitator: let the learners and the language be the focus and just step in when necessary to make sure things are ticking along.
Reference: Be there for student queries and questions. Let the students decide when you should be involved.
Participant: Be a participant in your own right in the activities in the classroom. Obviously as a participant you will need to speak but when you do it will be as one of the students. So your voice would not have more precedence than any other participant in the classroom.
Plan your language. Think about what you’re going to say before the lesson and make sure its graded and easy to understand and using a minimum of language. Often we have to speak more in the classroom because our students do not appear to understand. If we plan what we’re going to say in advance we can make it more likely that our students will understand us first time thus negating the need for further explanation. Think about planning instructions or explanations beforehand and script them if necessary.
Try stepping back in your lessons and leave the floor for the language and the learners. Think about when you speak in a lesson and why. Have the learners explore using the language whilst you monitor and assist. If we’re talking we can’t observe at the same time. So speaking less can help your students learn more.
Article source: http://eslarticle.com/pub/teaching-english-as-a-foreign-language-tefl/139724-Quiet-Please-Teacher-talk-time-in-the-classroom.html