Gone are the days when teaching the English language meant giving long grammar lectures or listing vocabulary words all class long. Now, minimizing teacher talking time (TTT) and increasing student talking time (STT) in ESL classes can be a game changer both in the physical classroom and online. Let’s answer the question, “What Is TTT when teaching English?” and explore the benefits of reducing TTT, as well as some techniques to get your learners speaking more in class.
What is TTT?
When it comes to teaching English, creating a student-centered class significantly depends on how much a teacher lets learners participate during a lesson. A key factor to this is being aware of teacher talking time (TTT), which is the amount of time a teacher spends speaking in class, such as when giving instructions or taking part in discussions.
What is STT?
On the flip side, student talking time (STT) refers to the time during a lesson where a learner speaks. This is also when ESL students get to practice the new language and apply what they’ve learned in class, whether they’re reading a text or commenting on a particular topic.
What is the appropriate level of student to teacher talk time?
Although teacher talking time is not entirely a negative thing, an English lesson should be focused on allowing students to maximize the time they have to use the language. Teachers, therefore, should try to cut their speaking time as much as they can in class.
There isn’t really a standard ratio of teacher talk time vs. student talk time. Nevertheless, the ideal amount of time teachers should speak in class is around 20-30% of the entire class time. This means:
Why is it important to reduce TTT?
Now that you know that there should be more student talking time in your English classes, let’s look at the reasons why this is key to the success of your lessons.
What are some classroom strategies to manage TTT?
Are you ready to build your English students’ speaking skills further? Here are some tips for how to reduce TTT and let students do most of the speaking:
1. Elicit, elicit, elicit
Instead of providing explanations, one of the best tips for reducing TTT is to let your students learn by presenting intelligible examples and guiding questions. For instance, when you teach a grammar concept, you can show sentence examples and ask the class what they notice about verb forms and other details. This way, they can discover the answers on their own and comprehend even the most difficult concepts better.
2. Ask open-ended questions
Encouraging learners to talk more also depends on the kind of questions you use. Asking a student, “Do you like your school?” will not generate as much information as when you ask, “What do you like about your school?” Try to move past questions that only require yes/no or one-word answers, and aim to make queries that demand more information or explanation from your students.
3. Incorporate more speaking activities
It’s not uncommon for English teachers to worry about which activities to add to their lesson plans. If you ever have this dilemma, just remember that anything that gets your students speaking works.
There are a plethora of ESL icebreakers, games, and conversation activities that you can incorporate into your English classes, from guessing games to picture descriptions to debates. You can even add a twist to pronunciation drills by turning them into ESL pronunciation games or making students give mini-speeches in a fun way by adding speaking tasks to classic board games like Snakes and Ladders, for instance!
Aside from these, you can always find an opportunity for students to take over the tasks that you usually do as a teacher. For example, you can have them read the instructions for an activity or let them answer their classmates’ questions.
4. Organize pair or group work
If you have classes of two students or more, you can make your lessons more interactive by letting learners practice or do activities with their classmates. You can make them role-play as a pair or group, for instance, or set up interview or presentation activities that they can do with a partner.
5. Replace words with non-verbal cues
When it comes to classroom strategies to reduce TTT, try using as many non-verbal cues as you can.
6. Don’t be afraid of silence
Silences will be inevitable in English classes, as learners may need time to organize their thoughts, formulate sentences in a different language, or even process what you’ve just told them. If the class suddenly goes quiet, you don’t really need to fill the silence by talking! Just give your students time to think and answer, and only resume speaking if they ask for your help.
7. Ask for feedback
Instead of assessing your own lessons and your students’ progress, why not solicit their opinions instead? You can get their thoughts on the activities you assigned or ask them how they feel about their speaking performance at the end of the class. This will similarly increase their talking time and make them practice commenting in English.
When is it okay to use teacher talking time in the ESL classroom?
There are some instances when teacher talking time can be beneficial to an ESL class:
Reducing teacher talking time is essential not just to enhance English learners’ oral skills but to keep them engaged in class. This may be challenging for some, but by applying the techniques above and using TTT only when necessary, you can definitely boost your students’ talking time and help them achieve their English-speaking goals sooner than you think.