Teacher Talk #ELTchat Summary 06/06/2018

A PLN for ELT Professionals

Teacher Talk #ELTchat Summary 06/06/2018

Teacher talk” is everything you say when you’re in the classroom.  There is a lot of research into the types and function of teacher talk and we have had two more chats about it – here they are: 

  • Effective ways to minimize Teacher Talk Time and maximize Student Talk Time. Transcript Summary 
  • If teachers talked less wouldn’t the students speak English more? Transcript Summary

Our most recent one was summarised by @ELTC_TD and is posted here with her permission 

With @Marisa_C, @SueAnnan, @ELTC_TD, @este_moscow, @fionaljp, @kenteris, @naomishema, @angelos_bollas, @Oscars_place, @Shujaat_English, @tesolmatthew, @MartinaEmke (and other lurkers who liked and retweeted things).

When it’s right, you have engaged students who have a clear idea what you want them to do and a brilliant classroom atmosphere.

When it’s wrong, you have a teacher who stands there waffling and students who are bored and lost.

Teacher talking time can be a tricky thing to master, regardless of whether you’ve been teaching for months or decades. Why is it so easy to get it wrong and what should teachers remember to help them get it right?

A bit of forethought before and during the lesson


For many new teachers, most unnecessary TTT can be caused by a lack of preparation or by not planning what to say beforehand (@Marisa_C and @Oscars_place).

Lesson planning should also involve thinking carefully about how you’ll give instructions, formulate concept checking questions, elicit information etc. so you know that you’ll be speaking concisely. As @Marisa_C and @tesolmatthew both added, this requires explicit training, particularly at CELTA level.

Recording yourself actually teaching in class is also a great way to check your own TTT (@angelos_bollas) or teachers could ask their observer to focus specifically on TTT (@fionaljp).

@Marisa_C suggested a simple ticking system that observers could use to think about categories of talk, which might encourage teachers to be more aware of different types of TTT (i.e. are you lecturing or are you managing?).

Remember who is the focus of the lesson

If a lesson is too teacher-centred then there is a greater risk that there’ll be too much TTT (@kenteris). Teachers should remember that the learners are the focus of the lesson, not the teacher.

There are also times when we should rethink who needs to do the speaking: do all questions need to come from the teachers or might we be able to encourage more critical thinking and active involvement if we let the learners take the lead in going through answers to exercises or asking questions (@ELTC_TD)?

Don’t fear silence

Learners need time to process what a teacher has just said. Quite a lot of time. Probably more time than the teacher realises and probably more time than the teacher can comfortably stand there in silence for. So it’s quite common for teachers to say something, not get an immediate reaction and then quietly panic, presume the learners haven’t understood and then speak again. @tesolmatthew describes this student processing time as “an invisible action zone” and says that teachers should actively make space for it in class. In other words, give students time to think.

Don’t worry about how much/how little

Instead of thinking about what might be an ideal ratio of student talking time to teacher talking time, it was generally agreed that we should think more in terms of what’s relevant (@fionaljp). Good quality TTT can be used as a language model (@SueAnnan and @Shujaat_English) and to create a good relationship between learners and the teacher (@ELTC_TD) but a balance needs to be achieved and the teacher needs to know when, why and how to speak.

There is lots of great further reading on this padlet here:

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