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What is Teacher Talking Time?

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Ask yourself an important question. Why do you want to learn English? Over the years EC English language schools have interviewed thousands of students and usually the answer is that they want to focus on speaking English for university, their careers or just for fun. Is that how you feel?

Whatever your reason, how do you know if your lessons are helping you get closer to your goal of speaking fluently? In English language teaching we talk about two opposing aspects to a lesson; Student Talking Time and Teacher Talking Time. At EC, teachers’ lessons are judged on how well a teacher balances these two important aspects. In this blog we are going to focus on Teacher Talking Time (TTT), explain what it is and give you some examples of effective TTT and some examples of ineffective TTT that doesn’t help students improve.

So, what exactly is TTT? TTT refers to the amount of time a teacher talks in class. To put it simply, when a teacher is talking, the students are not! We know it is important teachers talk in class to explain the language but how can we be sure they are not robbing the students of opportunities to speak themselves?

We can guarantee you have had lessons with many teachers over the years. Often the teachers we remember most are the ones we laughed with. But ask yourself if you learned a lot with these teachers. Having fun does not always translate into learning!

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Consider the six scenarios below. Which scenarios have the more effective teacher?

Scenario 1 – On Monday morning your teacher arrives in class with a big smile. They stand and talk for 10 minutes about their weekend, where they went, a film they saw and a conversation they had. Their stories and dramatic faces make you laugh. The teacher finishes their story and turns to the board to start the lesson. Ten minutes has passed and you have had fun but the only word you have said is ‘hello’ when the teacher entered the room.

Scenario 2 – On Monday morning your teacher arrives with a big smile. Immediately, they ask you to turn to the person next to you and spend 3 minutes sharing what you did at the weekend. After 3 minutes the teacher asks 2 students to tell the class what their partner told them. The teacher corrects some of their English. The teacher now says ‘I am going to tell you about my weekend. Listen carefully and write down 4 words I use that we learned last week’. The teacher starts to talk. The story makes you laugh but you are also busy listening for 4 words. When the teacher has finished the story, he / she asks you to compare the 4 words you heard with your partner looking also at spelling and meaning.

Scenario 1 – There is a new word in the lesson. You ask the teacher what it means. The teacher gives the definition and continues to teach the lesson.

Scenario 2 – There is a new word in the lesson. You ask the teacher what it means. The teacher turns to the class ‘Can anyone explain what this word means?’ Another student gives the definition. The teacher asks you to put this word in a sentence. You try and the teacher helps with your English and pronunciation.

Scenario 1 – The topic of today’s lesson is the environment. The teacher puts 4 pictures on the board and tells you where / what these pictures are of. He / she talks about their opinion of each picture. They walk around the room, use a dramatic voice and are very passionate about the topic and interesting to listen to.

Scenario 2 – The topic of today’s lesson is the environment. The teacher puts 4 pictures on the board and with enthusiasm says ‘You have 10 minutes to talk to your partner. Where do you think these places are? What can you see? How do these pictures make you feel and why?’

Which of these scenarios demonstrate a more effective way to teach? Which of these teachers would you prefer to have? I hope you agree that scenarios 2 demonstrate teachers who are effectively limiting their own talking time so that students have more opportunities to speak.

You might be someone who feels that the only way to learn is to listen to your teacher. This is not correct. Remember, your goal is to communicate effectively in English and that means practising listening AND speaking to different people and accents. In class the students sitting to your left and right can also be your teachers! So, when your teacher says ‘Speak to your partner’ or ‘work in groups’, remember these are also wonderful opportunities to practise and learn!

An effective teacher will usually only talk for a long time if they are explaining something to the class that no one else in the class knows. An effective teacher will only talk for a long time if they are modelling a piece of language to show how it is used by a native speaker. An effective teacher will rarely speak for a long time without giving the class a reason to listen to them and a task to complete.

At EC we take TTT very seriously and educate our teachers how to make the best possible use of their talking time. For us, it is important that students are given as many opportunities to use the language during class as possible and this can only be done if teachers limit their time to talk. When your teachers do speak, they will give you perfect examples of English language that you can listen to and most importantly, learn from!

We hope you enjoy your lessons at EC English!

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