Shut Up! How to Reduce Your Teacher Talk Time in the EFL Classroom

By Bridge
April 8, 2011
Reduce Teacher Talk Time in the EFL classroom

This post was written by Matthew Clark

Teacher Talk Time in the EFL classroom is often perceived negatively.  In recent years, benefits of TTT have entered the conversation (please follow this link for a brief overview of the pros and cons:  In my opinion, the most important aspect of TTT is your ability to control it in the classroom.  For many EFL teachers, this means talking less!

To be honest, I don’t believe I ever mastered the art of limiting my TTT.  After teaching English abroad, I had the opportunity to take Spanish lessons back in the U.S. and I was naturally much more aware of my instructor’s facilitation of the classroom.  For those of you that have experienced a good foreign language instructor in the context of the communicative method, you can attest that the experience is very different from studying other subjects such as math or biology.  A good language teacher serves more as a guide that leads you generally in the right direction while coaxing responses from you; they make the language realistic in that moment and rarely talk “at you.”

Becoming an experienced, effective “language guide” can take years, but here are three simple ways to limit your Teacher Talk Time and put you on the path to becoming a great teacher:

  1. Be okay with silence!  As a young teacher it’s often intimidating to ask your class a question and get no response.  Resist the temptation to bail your students out—silence can often mean they are formulating their answers carefully.
  2. Use pictures (and other classroom aides).  One of my favorite activities is to pair students and give one a picture from a magazine (they must keep it hidden) and the other a piece of paper and pencil.  The student with the picture must describe the photo while the other draws based on their partner’s description.  You are then free to float around the classroom and prompt as needed, but the large majority of talking is done by the students.
  3. Make a conscious effort.  This may sound obvious, but prepare your lessons while keeping TTT in mind.  Once you have developed the lesson, review it and try to gauge how much time you will be talking and how much your students will be talking.  I have even known some teachers to film themselves.  If your talk time fills the large majority of your class time, try to see where you can cut back.

Remember, foreign language study is full of funny misunderstandings and mistakes.  If these tips to reduce Teacher Talk Time in the EFL classroom don’t work for you, remember you need to give your English students a chance to make some funny mistakes; otherwise, what are you going to write home about?