Teacher Talking Time, also known as TTT, is a term used to describe how much a teacher talks during a lesson. Methodologies and approaches that favour student participation and communication during a lesson (such as the Communicative Approach and Task-based Learning) usually regard TTT as something which should be reduced. This comes from a belief that Student Talking Time, or STT, should always be maximised. However, depending on its use, TTT can also be advantageous in the classroom.
Reducing high TTT
Some techniques can be employed to keep TTT under control. Some of them are:
Don’t be afraid of silence:
When we ask a question, students need thinking time to figure out what they are going to say. Many teachers tend to regard this silent moment as something negative, and end up filling in the space by making comments and, sometimes, by answering their own question. These habits make TTT go up. Give students time to think - silence means students need to process the information they have just received.
Keep instructions simple and clear:
Most of the unnecessary TTT in the classroom takes place when teachers are giving instructions. An effective way of reducing unnecessary TTT is to model activities instead of explaining to students what they need to do. Also, using commands and checking instructions using ICQs might help you keep your TTT under control.
Elicitation can be used in different stages of the lesson and is a way of maximizing students participation and contributions. For example, if you are using an image to set the context of a lesson, think about the questions you may ask in order to guarantee students participation, instead of telling students what that image is showing. The same can be done during language presentation: instead of explaining language to students, think about techniques to foster students’ participation, such as guided discovery.
Favour pairwork, groupwork and nominate students:
Handing over to students is usually an effective way of reducing TTT. Think about moments of the lesson where you tend to front the interaction and question whether it would be possible for students to take over. For example, if a student asks a vocabulary question, encourage peers to help. Another idea is to get students to give each other feedback, check activities together and peer teach.
Using TTT in a positive way
TTT can be an invaluable source of language to students. Here are some ideas to use TTT in a productive way:
Talk to your students:
Natural conversation is part of everyday life and students can profit immensely from interacting with their teachers in a real-life situation. Making small talk might give learners the opportunity to take risks and engage in meaningful interaction, thus, making learning more memorable. Depending on the learners' level of ability, teachers might need to grade their language – but that does not mean that the interaction should be unnatural.
Live listening and storytelling:
Instead of using a recorded audio, teachers can use a personal story or anecdote as input for a listening activity. In order to do this, it is important to plan how the story is going to be told and the language that is going to be used. In this case, more important than keeping TTT low is to provide learners with high quality input - that means to provide students with an accurate and natural model of language.
Preparing students for tasks:
Helping students with strategies to perform tasks and activities is another useful instance of TTT. Now that information and resources are easily available, the expertise of the teacher and the ability to provide useful 'tips' can help increase sense of relevance of the activities proposed.
Andreia Zakime is an Academic Coordinator at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo and one of the co-founders of What is ELT?