Published 4th August 2016

When you first start out as a TEFL teacher, there are so many things on your mind during your preparation that by the time you are standing in front of the class, sometimes things can get a bit muddled. If you are focussing too much on your lesson plan and making sure you are doing everything you need to do, you can forget the other important considerations like your teaching manner, and your language.

TTT, or Teacher Talking Time, is a concept which is often neglected during planning because it may not seem as important as it actually is.

TTT is very important because it relates not only to what you say, but also how much you say and how you say it. You may think how you speak is natural and so cannot be planned, but it’s actually an essential part of your classroom management and needs to be considered before you walk into the classroom.

Particularly with lower levels – though it applies to all levels – it is important to grade your level of English so that your students can understand what you are saying. This means not only the level of difficulty of your vocabulary but also the speed at which you speak. While you may spend a lot of time thinking about how to make your instructions as simple and comprehensible as possible, it won’t make a difference if your students don’t understand what you are saying.

How do you make sure your TTT is at the right level for your students?

The first thing to do is to become aware of how you speak naturally and to practise speaking more slowly. When we chat with friends or other native speakers we tend to speak really quickly and use a lot of slang or colloquial language. For our TEFL students, this can be extremely difficult to understand both in terms of identifying individual words and then understanding the meaning.

Once you become aware of this you can practise speaking more slowly and more simply. Pare down your language so that you are only saying the essential.

 This basically means cutting down on train-of-thought speech.

Many new teachers feel the need to fill the classroom with words and noise, so they will speak what is going on in their minds so that there is no silence in the classroom. This can be confusing for your students who will try to translate and understand every word you say. As you can imagine, this can become exhausting and is unnecessary when all you are saying is Now where did I put my pen? I thought we would start at page 5 and then jump to page 8 but actually I think I’m going to change my mind and stay on page 5.

So when you are planning your lessons, spare a thought for your TTT just as you would your materials or your lesson plan. In the classroom, pay attention to yourself and your students and see if they are looking at you blankly because they have no idea what you are saying. Grading your language appropriately and using less of TTT will make your classroom a more student-centred learning environment.