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“Be Interested, not Interesting”: How to Decrease Teacher Talking Time

“Be Interested, not Interesting”: How to Decrease Teacher Talking Time | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Let’s remember the latest class you’ve had. What were you doing? Were you explaining a new rule? Were you answering your students’ questions? Were you telling a story from your life? Weren’t you talking too much? Let’s discuss how to decrease teacher speaking time (TST) and increase student speaking time (SST).

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate DALER R. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Communicative approach

According to the communicative approach, TST shouldn’t be greater than SST, moreover, it must be much less than the last one. Why? There are several reasons. First of all, we have to mention that the more a teacher talks the less time for speaking and improving their skills students have. The second reason is that when the teacher explains something for a too long time, students start “switching off”, falling asleep and they just can’t catch all the information which is given and it leads to making the lesson inefficient. One more reason is the confusion of students with long and complicated explanations. Sometimes teachers give too long ones and students can get confused with them which will encourage the teacher to explain further and it can increase TST and makes it impossible for pupils to find out the rule or meaning of the word by themselves. Let’s discuss what we should do to decrease teacher speaking time as much as possible.

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The first thing I would like to talk about is structuring your work at the lesson.

If to do it correctly and wisely you can allow your students to guess which rule or word you are talking about. In this way, you can decrease your explanations and talking time significantly. Also, you could try to separate some complicated structures onto several fewer ones and instead of explaining them a few times it would be better to ask pupils “concept checking questions”. For example, while explaining the difference between Past Simple and Present Perfect using sentence “ I have already read three books”, you can ask some questions, such as:

Do you know when I read those books? (No) Are we interested in the exact time? (No) If students answer all the checking questions correctly, the teacher will understand that he doesn’t need to explain anymore. Also, don’t try to give more information than it’s necessary not to confuse your students.

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Another thing I’d like to discuss is silence or pauses at the lesson.

The teacher mustn’t fill in all the moments of silence at the lesson and try to finish all the sentences instead of his students. Don’t be afraid of silence. Neither you nor the students should talk all the time during the lesson. The teacher should give his students time to think about their thoughts or reformulate sentences using some easier words. He has to help pupils only in case they ask about it, otherwise, it will make them unconfident or irritated. Teachers shouldn’t think that pauses are just wasting class time because they are a great opportunity for students to make their answers more accurate and remember some necessary words from an active vocabulary.

The last but not the least thing I want to mention it’s self-answering and the situation when the teacher starts speculating instead of his students.

Let’s imagine the situation when the teacher needs to introduce to topic of the lesson, so he asks students to describe the picture at the beginning of the unit and there is such dialogue: Teacher: Well, we are going to start a new topic called “Solutions”. Look at the picture and try to guess what the unit is going to be about. Students: … Teacher (a few seconds later): So we can see several different inventions and it means that we are going to talk about some outstanding things which have helped to solve some problems, right? Students: Erm… Teacher: We can see a light bulb and a car, so it means that…

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Here we can see that the teacher doesn't even try to listen to students; he just does all work instead of them. It’s unacceptable during the lesson and I dare repeat that the teacher must give his students some time to think about their answers. The point of the task is not just answering correctly but to speculate in English and the teacher should remember that it’s not he who has to speculate but his students. The best solution here could be pair work or work in groups to let pupils to discuss together and to think about the question. If groups are weak teachers can lead them to the correct answer to let them guess the answer and feel more confident.

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To conclude I’d like to say that a good teacher is a lazy teacher because he knows how to delegate questions, how to elicit all the necessary information from the students and at the same time to make his students speak as much as it’s possible during the lesson. Also, it’s to remember that the teacher shouldn’t be silent all the time but he must keep the balance between TST and SST to make his lessons efficient and encourage students to use and learn the language more.

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