Published 15th December 2015

If you think of a teacher, you might think of the typical teacher standing at the front of the classroom, talking to the students and explaining concepts – lecturing, in other words. This is the traditional way of teaching and it is now quite out of fashion. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is teaching in a much more communicative, interactive way, with the students contributing towards the lesson as much, if not more than, the teacher.

While this might sound like great fun, sometimes it doesn’t quite work out as easily as we would like. On the one hand, you might find you have students who won’t stop talking. This needs to be dealt with firmly and clearly otherwise they will continuously disrupt the lesson. A much more difficult scenario, though, is the complete opposite: what do you do if your students don’t talk at all? A classroom of deafening silence is not the scenario we are looking for because it takes us back to the old-school way of the teacher talking all the time. So, what can you do?


Sometimes your students can assume that they are not allowed to talk, so they think they are being well-behaved. Encourage your students to speak by letting them know they are allowed to and then being patient enough to wait for them to respond to any questions you may give them. You might need to endure a few minutes of uncomfortable silence but if you wait long enough someone should eventually speak up when they realise you’re not going to.


Bring in a ball or some other prop that can be used as a “microphone”. When you would like your students to talk, throw them the ball and they need to speak. Only the person holding the ball can speak so it is a good way to let everyone have their say. They can then nominate the next student to speak.

Use buzzgroups

Sometimes your students don’t want to speak because they are shy in front of the rest of the class. You will find that students find it easier to speak when they are in small groups, probably because they feel less pressurised and more comfortable but also because it is more noticeable if they don’t contribute. Buzzgroups are small groups of students that discuss a certain topic together. After a few minutes, the groups are rearranged and they discuss the same topic – or an extension of it – with new students. In this way they speak to different students in the class, but they are speaking nonetheless.

Teaching should require more effort on the part of the students than the teacher. Remember: you know how to speak English; it’s your students who need the practice. If you find yourself talking more than they are, try these three tips and soon you won’t be able to keep them quiet!