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What Is TTT When Teaching English?

teacher talking time vs student talking time

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.

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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.

Learn more about TTT vs. STT and other common ESL terms in the 120-Hour TEFL/TESOL Master Certificate course.

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:

  • If your class is an hour long, you only speak for 12 to 15 minutes.
  • You step into a facilitator role most of the time and often let students learn by themselves.
Teacher letting learners speak more in class

Teacher letting learners speak more in class

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.

  • By minimizing TTT, you are simultaneously encouraging students to participate in class. As you create a void for them to speak during the lesson, they’ll realize that they can talk as much as they want!
  • Nothing makes a class more boring and monotonous than lengthy lectures or excessive comments from the teacher. To avoid this, you can keep your class dynamic and your learners more involved just by getting them to speak more.
  • The more you let your students talk in class, the better you get to know them! You won’t find out what their favorite dishes are or what their childhood was like unless you let them share these during class time.
  • You can easily check if students have fully understood and applied what they’ve learned in class when they speak more. Even if you give a comprehensive description of the present perfect tense, you’ll never know if learners have actually grasped it until they start making their own sentences (or telling the class about their experiences!) using that particular grammar concept.
  • By speaking more, students can recognize and correct their own mistakes by themselves or with the help of their classmates. Fixing their pronunciation, vocabulary, or grammar errors on the spot could make it easier for them to remember rules and improve their speaking skills on their own.
  • Finally, providing more space for student talking time will result in learners having a sense of fulfillment after each class. A lot of students enjoy having conversations even if they’re about trivial topics. And, even if they haven’t learned new words in class, they’ll still be happy that they’ve spent a part of their day practicing English!
Teacher eliciting answers from students

Teacher eliciting answers from students

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.

Find out how to use concept checking questions (CCQs) in the ESL classroom.

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.

Get your adult learners talking through these speaking activities.

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.

online English teacher

EFL teacher, Rachel Cordova, using non-verbal cues in her online classes

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.

  • To help keep yourself from making unnecessary comments or giving long instructions, you can use Total Physical Response (TPR), a technique that makes learners react to a teacher’s body language, gestures, and facial expressions.
  • You can also point to particular words (or underline them in online classes) during a reading activity, for example, which will let a student know that they mispronounced something and that they need to say it again.
  • You can boost learners’ confidence while speaking in class with a simple thumbs-up, or even just a smile to show you’re proud of them!

Aside from TPR, here are more ESL teaching methods that you can apply to your classes.

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:

  • Especially for beginner students, you may have to model pronunciation and vocabulary use, then later make necessary corrections while learners read words out loud.
  • For activities that involve storytelling, a teacher may have to share his or her own anecdotes or experiences as an example before students tell their own stories.
  • A teacher may have to provide further explanations to help students comprehend concepts.
  • In conversations, especially if you’re only teaching one student, you may need to react to what a student has said or participate in a discussion.

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.

Want to learn more about reducing teacher talking time and implementing other effective strategies in the ESL classroom? Take the 120-Hour Master Certificate course!

Back in her hometown in the Philippines, Krzl worked as a writer at a TV station before moving to Chile. After she completed her TESOL certification, she worked for language institutes and then decided to become an independent English teacher to business professionals. When she’s not giving classes, she’s either surfing along Chile’s long stretch of coastline, traveling, or practicing photography by the beach.