Published 13th May 2019


When most people think of a classroom setting, they envision a teacher standing at the front of the class with a textbook and a whiteboard behind them, lecturing to the students. The TEFL classroom is quite different as learning a language requires a more communicative and interactive method of teaching where the students are required to speak more than the teacher.

For a teacher this may sound like the dream, but it’s a double-edged sword. You may have students who never stop talking and dominate the lessons and these scenarios need to be dealt with effectively so that they do not become disruptive to the class. A far more difficult scenario is a class full of students who don’t say a word. The silence can be deafening but we’ve got some tips for how you can deal with this kind of situation:


Bring a prop like a ball or other object that can be used as a “microphone” to class. By throwing the ball to one of the students when you would like them to speak, you are nominating them. While it may be uncomfortable for them, it at least means that everyone in the class will get equal opportunity to speak and be involved in the lesson. It’s also a good way to keep the chatty students in check.


Don’t let the silence break you so that you give in and start speaking if nobody else is. If you wait long enough, someone will eventually speak up. Some cultures may feel that speaking in class is rude or not permitted so this is also something to bear in mind. Encouraging students to take part in class discussions is important and it’s vital that they know it’s expected of them in the TEFL classroom.

Use Buzzgroups

Many people don’t like speaking in front of a large group in general, so breaking the class into smaller “Buzzgroups” can be a useful way to deal with shy students. Speaking in front of a handful of people is far less daunting and it’s also a good way to encourage students to speak with one another and get to know one another. After a few minutes, rearrange the groups and have them discuss the same topic – or an extension of it – with new students.

Remember, you’re the one who already knows how to speak English and it’s your students who need to practise and should be doing most of the talking. If you find yourself speaking more than your students do in the classroom, try these tips and you’ll find that soon you won’t be able to get a word in!