Published 17th January 2019
It’s not often that talking in the English as a Foreign Language classroom is looked down on. During tests, presentations or listening lessons it is preferable for our students to be quiet, but those are about the only times we want to actively discourage our students from talking. But those are the students. What we need to talk about are the teachers. Teachers like to talk. It can be difficult to get them to stop and let the students have their say. The thing is, it’s not the teachers who need the practice speaking English! If you feel like you are guilty of dominating the airwaves in your EFL classroom, here are a few ways to talk less:
Take a breath
When you ask a question, introduce a topic or make a comment, take a breath before continuing. Allow some time for your students to process what you have said and formulate a response. You may find that if you pause between sentences a student will fill in the silence, so you don’t have to. It may take a few moments and you may find it uncomfortable but when you realise that your students are probably thinking and formulating language, then you may not find it so awkward.
Traditionally teachers have stood at the front of the classroom by the whiteboard. This immediately puts them at the centre of attention, because that’s where all the students will look if they are facing forward. If the teacher moves them self away from the front of the classroom and stands to the side or at the back of the class, this will automatically open up the channels of discussion for the students. In other words, they will not feel they need to wait for direction from the teacher and feel they have more opportunity to speak up.
Use sign language
It’s not always necessary to speak in order to communicate. Teachers can use signals and gestures to communicate with students instead of talking. Teachers can invite students to speak, signal the beginning and the end of an activity, and begin and close the lesson using hand signals and gestures. This reduces the amount of teacher talk time in the lesson and gives more space for the students to speak.
This one might seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t this the job of the teacher? Well, yes and no. Teachers need to ensure that the students understand linguistic concepts but this does not necessarily mean that they need to explain things. Instead, prompt the students so that those who do understand can explain to others who don’t or together they can try to come to the right explanation by thinking aloud.
These days there is a focus on creating a learner-centred classroom. Giving your students more opportunity to speak (and yourself less) is the first thing you need to do to give more power and autonomy to your students, which will only enrich their learning experience.