How to Decrease Teacher Speaking Time
Traditionally, education in the classroom has largely employed a teacher-centred approach. Focus is on the teacher who talks, rather than on the students, who exclusively listen and are discouraged from collaboration.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Christie T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
In recent years, however, more emphasis has been given to student-centred education: instructors share classroom talk time with learners, allowing them to communicate with their teacher and each other. By minimizing teacher domination and increasing student speaking time, students have a chance to direct their learning and build their collaborative skills through peer and group work. In the context of ESL learning, students are encouraged to discover the language themselves and find purpose in their studies. This essay aims to examine ways to decrease teacher talking time (TTT) within the Engage-Study-Activate (ESA) framework of a lesson.
The ESA Method
Initially, the Engage phase serves as a warmer to students so they can begin thinking and speaking in English as much as possible. The technique of elicitation invites learners to respond to thought-provoking questions, allowing them to speak. This effectively shortens “teacher telling” time. Elicitation can be applied through the use of gestures, mime, or interesting pictures to arouse students’ interest. For instance, in teaching the language involved in dining at restaurants, students can look at menus and discuss the kind of cuisine they enjoy. To maintain a substantial amount of student talking time (STT), students can be paired up to elicit information from each other, and later report back to the class on what they discover. As students offer and exchange the information they have on the topic, they recall vocabulary they already know and actively help set the scene for the language point that will be introduced later in the lesson.
Next, the Study phase directs students’ focus on the construction of the language. Following elicitation of learners’ existing knowledge, the teacher presents the language point, drills it, and gives instructions on the study activity. The use of pair and group work here is critical in lowering TTT. Using the example of teaching language involved in eating at restaurants, students may be grouped or partnered up to complete gap-fill exercises on modal auxiliary verbs used by customers and waiters while ordering at a restaurant (“Would you like…”, “Can I have…”).
Following a study task, pairs of students can provide peer feedback using the technique of student nomination, whereby a student nominates another to answer questions. During controlled practice, learners cooperatively negotiate in English as they exchange ideas and correct each other's errors. Concurrently, the teacher retreats from his previous role as a manager of the class to monitor his students’ work in progress, yielding control of the learning process to them. As a result, student-to-student interaction and active participation greatly increase.
Finally, the Activate stage allows students to communicate freely in English, and to apply any of the languages they know. During this phase of the lesson, there are two instances in which TTT can be decreased. Firstly, as most Activate activities involve role-play, debate, or other communicative games, the teacher should give sufficient time to students to work in pairs or groups. This would allow them to prepare the content and means of expression. The teacher must remain withdrawn during this brainstorming stage to enable student discovery and discussion while being available as a resource in case guidance is needed.
Also Read: How To Start Your Own ESL Teaching Service
Moreover, teachers should withhold corrections throughout the activity and only provide feedback when the task has concluded. Interrupting students detracts from their spontaneous use of English, as well as their agency in making the language their own. By refraining from interrupting the flow of his students’ work, a teacher not only challenges his learners to apply what they have learned but empowers them to help and correct each other.
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Student-centred education has emerged as an indispensable counterpart to teacher-centred education in the ESL classroom. Effective allocation of teacher talking time liberates students from their traditional role as mere respondents. As they regularly engage in communication, they take increased responsibility for their learning. To that end, teachers should examine the quality of their talking time, and ensure it bears purpose.
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