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Some tips for teachers. Potential problems during the class

27 августа 2012

TTT (Teacher Talking Time)

Teacher: When nothing else is happening in the classroom – I open my mouth. I’ve no idea what I say most of time. But it stops those horrible silence. It’s probably useful for them to listen to me speaking English. After all, I...

The more a teacher talks – the less opportunity there is for the learners. They need time to think, to prepare what they are going to say and how they are going to say it. Allow them the time and the quiet they need. Don’t feel the need to fill every gap in a lesson. Explore the possibilities of silence.


Students: I went to the cinema

Teacher: You went to the cinema. Good. You went to the cinema.

Who gets more language practice here – the student or the teacher? If you become aware of your echoing – and then start to control it – you will find that learners get more talking time and that they start to listen to each other more. When you echo they soon learn that they don’t need to listen to anyone except the teacher – because they know that you’ll repeat everything! That has a dramatically negative effect on interaction patterns within the classroom.

Helpful sentence completion

Students: I think that smoking is

Teacher: …a bad thing. Yes, I agree. When I went into the pub…

Often a teacher is so desperate for a student to say what she wants them to say (so that the lesson can move on to the next stage) that she is already predicting the words the student will produce and eagerly wishing for them to be said – so much so that teachers often find themselves adding ‘tails’ to sentence after sentence. But this kind of ‘doing the hard work for them’ is often counter-productive. People need to finish their own sentences. If students can’t complete the sentence themselves they need help – but help to produce their own sentence, using their own words and their own ideas. By letting students finish what they are saying, the teacher also allows herself more time to really listen to the student and what he is saying.

Complicated and unclear instructions

Teacher: Well, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna ask you to get into pairs, but before that there are some things we’ve gotta work out. So just jot down if you’ve got a pen, could you write this, then when we’ve finished that we’re going to do the next thing which involves more…

Instructions: Unplanned, unstructured instructions are extremely confusing to students. They probably understand only a small percentage of what you say – and guess what you want them to do from one or two key words they did catch. Work out what is essential for them to know – and tell them that – without wrapping it up in babble.

Not checking understanding of instructions

Teacher: My instructions were so clear – but all the students did different things – and none of them did what I asked them to do.

Even the clearest instructions can be hard to grasp – so, after you’ve given them, it’s well worth checking that they have been understood. A simple way is so to ask a student or two to repeat them back to you: So, Jose, what are you going to do? In this way you satisfy yourself that the task has been understood.

Asking Do you understand?

Teacher: Do you understand?

Students: Yes…

When you want to check learner’s understanding, questions such as Do you understand? are often useless. If you get a Yes reply it could mean I’m nervous about seeming stupid or I don’t want to waste the class’s time any more or I think I understand, but…Teachers often need to get clear information about what students have taken in. The best way to do this is to get students to demonstrate their understanding, for example by using a language item in a sentence, r by repeating an instruction, or by explaining their interpretation of an idea. This provides real evidence, rather than vague, possibly untrue information.

Fear of genuine feedback

Teacher: Did you like my lesson?

Students: Yes.

In an active, forward-moving class the learners will constantly be giving their teacher feedback on what they have understood, what they think, what they need, how they feel, etc. Many teachers believe in the importance of open, honest feedback, but find that in practice it can be hard to get. This is partly to do with the classroom atmosphere, partly to do with the questions asked, and mainly to do with the teacher’s attitude and response to feedback received. The more you see feedback as a treat to you and to your position and your confidence then the more you will attempt to avoid feedback, or to defend yourself against perceived attack when you do get feedback. If you can open yourself up to the possibilities of really listening to what students have to say with a view to simply hearing them – without self-defence, justifications or arguments – then you may find that you can start to find out what they are really thinking, and that you can work on responding appropriately to that.