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How to Reduce Teacher Talk Time

How to Reduce Teacher Talk Time | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The main goal of reducing teacher talk time or TTT is to have the teacher speaking less and the students engaging more. This essay will explore the benefits of doing this for the teacher and student, complications that could arise and how to deal with them, and how this can be implemented into any ESL lesson. It will cover a few key areas in an ESA lesson such as planning, questioning, student participation, silence, and instructions.

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


One of the first things as teachers that we can do to reduce teacher talk time is to give clear instructions. Instructions are needed throughout the lesson regardless of what phase you are in. Giving students clear instructions will not only make the teacher have to speak less at the start of the lesson or activity but it will also give the students more time to complete or participate and be more confident in their ability. If we can get the point of the lesson across to the majority the first time then we can spend more time with the students that need extra help the most.

One way that we can give clear instructions is to have our content planned out well and know what will need to be conveyed in the lesson. If the teacher is prepared then they will already have a well thought out way to communicate the idea rather than just explain it. We can also make sure that our explanations are clear by having a set of objectives in the instruction. This can be broken down into some simple steps. First, you want to break down the activity, then explain what will be happening and then create a further understanding of this explanation by outlining. You then show an example of what will take place in the activity, in a worksheet used in the study phase it would be the first question which you can use with a student to assess the understanding of what is asked. Finally, if there is any misunderstanding you can clear it up with further communication. There are many ways that you can be clearer in your instructions and this will come down to teacher preference, however, the part that carries across is that the teacher has a good understanding and has a well thought out plan of what they will deliver.

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Planning quality questions can improve student interactions greatly across all aspects, however, these will be mostly in the engage or activate stage of an ESA lesson. Quality questions can not only get students talking more but also thinking about what they are saying and why. This can be achieved by using Higher Order Thinking in Bloom's taxonomy. If we can move away from teacher-centered questions such as asking a student to remember or if they can show they understand they will be able to formulate their ideas. When we use questions such as asking a student to apply the knowledge they have they are allowed to take control and make them question their own. This will lead to higher talk time for students and in turn a higher knowledge of the content. Depending on the level being taught in an ESL class you might not have the ability for students to convey their higher order of student-led thinking. In this case, we can still ask simple questions that are guided by the teacher. Asking open-ended questions to check for understanding using ‘how’ or ‘why’ and avoiding yes or no answers. If the teacher thinks that more can be said follow up questions can be made with the minimal time taken from the student. Having high-quality questions comes down to what the teacher wants to get out of the lesson. Pre-made questions might not always work however they are a good quality starting point from which the conversation can progress.

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Classroom discipline

Having silence in the class is not always a bad thing, in a lot of cases it can be a useful tool. If the concept or question has had a quality communication then the onus is on the student just to answer the question rather than trying to figure out what is meant by the question. For this to happen, time is needed to process an answer that the student will feel comfortable sharing. Sometimes a teacher could be tempted to answer their questions rather than give it an extra minute for students to sully formulate what they will say. This can be a critical error as it will take away the learning for the student and they will just be listening. If this is an ongoing situation then the students will become used to the teacher not waiting for questions and they will stop trying to formulate answers in their head. If a teacher has a quality question planned then they need to follow it out. If time is given and students can not answer then we need to be asking to follow up questions that can lead to the answer that we want.

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Students participation

Having students participate in the lesson is what will change a lecture into a discussion. Getting students to feel comfortable to be able to participate in one of the first things we can do as teachers. This can be achieved from the first time you meet them, by having a demeanor that is approachable and friendly. This can be followed up throughout the teaching time by giving positive feedback and encouraging students. Once students are comfortable in their space they will be much more willing to be able to share their answers. The more students that feel comfortable to share the less the teacher will have to lecture and they can more into conversations and communication.

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In conclusion from these few topics that we looked at in this essay, there is one thing that carries across each area of the lesson in regards to reducing teacher talk time. That is planning; this does not mean the teacher should have a strict plan of everything you do, moreover, it should be an all-encompassing plan that covers different aspects of the class, not just content. Teachers can plan to ask better questions, to act welcoming and warm, and to communicate rather than lecture.

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