If Teachers Talked Less…. #ELTchat Summary 31/10/2012

A PLN for ELT Professionals

If Teachers Talked Less…. #ELTchat Summary 31/10/2012

This post was first published on Sharon Noseley’s brand new blog!!! It is reproduced here with her kind permission 

Welcome to the blogosphere, Sharon!!! 

The full title of the #ELTchat was  “If teachers talked less wouldn’t students speak English more?”



To launch my blog, I have shared a copy of the #ELTchat summary I wrote for the chat which took place on Halloween night…it seems fitting to start my blog with an #ELTchat summary,  as it is mainly due to the colleagues I chat to every Wednesday night that I decided to write a blog. It is down to my Personal Learning Network friends that I even feel worthy of contributing some thoughts on teaching EFL…so join us on Wednesdays and share your views on the current topic….


#ELTCHAT – Halloween 2012

Teacher Talking Time (TTT)…Is it a Trick or a Treat ???

As children all around the world were knocking on doors and collecting their goodies,  #ELT chatters were gathering around the cauldron of twitter to discuss whether TTT is a good thing or not . This was followed by a great discussion on how to engage learners to take control of their lessons.


“Take control of their lessons????” I hear you cry……


So do we ‘gag’ the teacher and allow our little pumpkins to take over???


Overall it appears that TTT is a problem most teachers are aware of and ‘talking at’ the learners does not necessarily mean learning is taking place.

The only advantage of TT mentioned on this spooky night was the fact that TT is sometimes the only source of hearing L2 outside of the classroom. This point was backed up by the fact that listening to the teacher for a purpose is always a valid excuse for the teacher to talk. Plus, students should be exposed to a variety of listening genres.

The chat predominately discussed three areas.

  1. How to control TTT.
  2. Mixed ability classes/Quiet students v loud students/Cultural issues.
  3. Methods and Activities to enable the learners to take control and become more autonomous.

Becoming Aware of unnecessary TTT and stamping it out!

  • Be observed, ask a colleague to tick how many times T talked and how many times S talked. (This was considered a huge task for the person ticking)!
  • Ask a colleague to video your lesson and reflect on your TTT.
  • Loud and exuberant personalities need to be left at the classroom door and these teachers especially need to be aware of their domineering manner.
  • The equation is: The less we talk the more students talk.
  • Teachers should be only facilitators. Give instructions and then follow up.
  • Overcome our problems of pregnant pauses and allow silence to take place in the classroom.
  • Take a step back, stand at the back of the classroom.
  • Don’t lecture and be an equal.
  • Talk to motivate, guide, instruct. Filling the gaps as much as it is needed to fulfill your objectives.
  • Allow for fluency time rather than accuracy.

Mixed Ability Classes

  • Some classes just don’t seem to have little to say for themselves. It’s hard to ‘wind them up’ whereas other classes never stop talking and are too talkative and the teacher can’t get a word in.
  • Beginner classes need a fair bit of TTT ‘to get the ball rolling’/keep it going.
  • Some cultural interference can be an issue.. Some students are exposed to lecturing, explicating, etc and this is difficult to overcome in the L2 classroom. Teacher is expected to be the model.
  • Sometimes students just don’t have the vocabulary to continue.
  • Some students ‘hog’ (stop others from joining in) class discussions and quieter students do not have the chance to join in.

Methods, Activities and Solutions

  • Allow students to feel they have a voice- something to say.
  • Students should have a reason to talk and then they will be motivated.
  • Provide more guided prompts/use gestures instead of words.
  • Promote pairwork, group work, role plays.
  • Share and discuss learning intentions with students, allow them to make decisions/offer opinions.
  • Set up an activity and monitor- leave human instincts behind (don’t butt in all the time)!
  • Create more student-centered activities, especially skills orientated.
  • Task Based Learning activities are always successful to reduce TTT and increase STT.
  • Strong students are assigned ‘leader’ roles in order to encourage and work together with weaker/quieter students. Be careful the ‘leader’ isn’t too over the top!
  • A variety of approaches helps TTT and ownership.
  • ‘No hands up technique’.  Student raises his hand to ask a question and another raise his hand to answer. http://teachingexpertise.com/articles/the-cool-no-hands-approach-to-assessment-for-learning
  • ‘The ball of string technique’. Pass a ball of string and each student contributes when the string is in his hands.
  • ‘Entrance and exit tickets technique’. Students write down on a piece of paper what they want to say and their remarks.
  • Use YouTube videos, set them a task and off they go. Include a Ted Talks to start a discussion.
  • Penny Ur’s Discussions that work.
  • Use multiple choice questions rather than direct questions, to maximize participation. Use ABCD cards…
  • Ask students what they are interested in.
  • Use the flipped-classroom method.  http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/
  • Use Wall wisher for students to write as the lesson progresses. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATKt_4d-Uek
  • Rearrange the classroom furniture to encourage learners to face each other and not talk to the back of another student’s head!
  • More activities to generate classroom chat – mingle/problem solving/dialogue improvisation.
  • Maureen McGravey’s three A’s…Ask, Answer and Add. Check out Sandy Millin’s blog and comments which also mention the ball of string technique!http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/teacher-teacher-finish/
  • Adapt Course Books, take the topic from a different angle, organize preparation time to adapt and improvise.
  • Chain Conversations. See links below.
  • Students could ask their own questions about a text.
  • Great ideas for use of sticky notes. http://t.co/1AaqFEYA
  • Use the Marshmallow Challenge. http://t.co/WR07QS7Y
  • Paint the walls with Idea paint. http://t.co/A3EgAfoi
  • Use running dictation. http://www.learnenglish.de/Teachers/rundictation.htm
  • Chinese whispers.

To conclude, there are various issues regarding the topic of TTT and as chatters proved there seem to be endless solutions and tips to overcome the issue.

I would like to add a personal note here…For fifteen years I was guilty of TTT….I am typical of so many teachers, I love to be the centre of attention! During my first observed lesson for my DELTA Module2, my TTT was my weakness. I sincerely apologise to any student who wanted to talk and  I didn’t acknowledge the fact. Taking a step back, accepting silence and using different techniques helped me but most importantly the fact remains the teacher needs to be aware of their TTT.

The Halloween chat finished on a simple note…LESS IS MORE…..THE SIMPLEST WAYS ARE THE BEST…A great tag line as my fellow chatters mentioned!

So..clean out the skeletons in you cupboard and encourage learners to talk!

A few sites to help you along the way…

About the Author

Sharon Noseley has been teaching English to all ages and levels for the past 15 years in Greece and the UK. She currently works in a school in a village close to Athens and starts her day with a Pre –junior class and ends the day with Business English – such is the variety of life! She believes no matter what the age or level – motivation and dedication to the teaching profession are essential ingredients to language acquisition. She is @shaznozel on Twitter and her blog is TEFLExperiences



3 Responses

  1. Great summary, Sharon. Looking forward to more posts.

  2. sharon noseley says:

    Thank you Rachael…hope to find time to share more thoughts on classroom experiences!

  3. […] much. Jo Gakonga has a webinar on teacher talk and language grading (12 minutes). Here are some ways to become aware of excessive TTT (teacher talking time) and what to do about it, including ways of making your lessons more student-centred – it’s an ELTchat summary […]

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