In this post, I wanted to cover another topic that many people struggle with on the CELTA courses and in LT in general.
The topic is teacher talking time or TTT. This is an important part of your teaching practice on CELTA, and one of the most common mistakes noted by CELTA tutors on early teaching practice feedback.
Meaning and Background of Teacher Talking Time
As you might be able to guess, teacher talking time simply means the amount of time that the teacher spends talking during the lesson. You might come from a traditional education background and think, “Well, the teacher is there to talk, what is the problem with that?” This is where the CELTA is different from many of the traditional education styles.
As the CELTA uses a communicative approach, you will be expected to speak far less than the teachers from your school days probably did. This is because interactions with students are viewed as key to helping them learn and practice their English.
However, if you, the teacher, spend the whole lesson talking at the students, they will have less chance to practice and learn, thereby less chance to practice communication.
This is very much embedded into the ethos of a CELTA course. Whether you personally agree or not with it, you will have to go along with this approach!
Common Problems with Teacher Talking Time
There are several common problems that students experience on the CELTA course in regards to TTT.
The first one is usually a lack of self-awareness on the teacher’s part. This might be because a new teacher may have not been told about how much time they spent speaking during a lesson. It is also quite easy to start talking at length during a lesson as the students are often quite happy to sit and listen to you.
This is something you want to avoid as your own tutors will give you teaching practice feedback about this. In fact, the website Better Language Teaching notes that the appropriate level of student to teacher talking time should be around 20 to 30% of the lesson, with the remainder is left for students to speak.
Another problem is that when you stand up in front of a class of learners with very low-level English, and try to get their involvement, there are often long silences or pauses.
These are very common and natural for students, particularly when teaching the lower levels. However, something many CELTA trainees try to do is to fill the silence with their own words.
Although this is well-meaning, adding more words to a situation where students are already confused might not help things!
The third most common problem is simply a lack of careful lesson planning before beginning the teaching practice session on your CELTA course. If you fail to plan properly, you may find yourself confused and simply making things up as you go along.
This is unlikely given how rigorous most CELTA centres are in terms of checking lesson plans before an ATP session. However, even with the details on paper, a lack of thought here can still lead to confusion and lots of unnecessary chatter from the teacher.
Solutions for Teacher Talking Time: How to Reduce Your TTT
To address all of the points above and help you to reduce the teacher talking time on your CELTA course, here are some solutions.
Becoming more self-aware to reduce your teacher talking time
To help you become more self-aware during teaching, there are a couple of things you can do.
The first is to try a practice session before or outside by yourself. You can record this with your phone or ask someone else to record it. This will give you a picture of how much or how little you are speaking as a teacher.
You might be surprised at how wooden and long-winded some of your explanations can be. I say this because I know I was waffling badly when I started on the CELTA course!
How to avoid teacher talking time when students are silent or confused
To help you deal with long, and perhaps awkward, pauses or silences from students, simply prepare yourself for this mentally in advance.
Remind yourself that these will happen. Also, remember to give your students time to think. This might be simply because they’re processing what you’ve told them or it might be because they don’t understand. If you give them a little bit of extra time, and I mean only a few more seconds, then you will soon see if they have understood.
Their understanding is often helped by giving clear instructions and using simple and succinct language. Check out the article on concept checking questions or CCQs for more on this.
As such, you can try repeating the instructions using simpler language, using more gestures, or simply drawing something on the board. Speaking a little slower can also help you to communicate clearly.
Reduce your teacher talking time through detailed lesson planning
And finally, the last solution to the points above. Make sure you plan thoroughly and that you consider all aspects of the teaching experience before you start.
When working on your lesson plans for your TP sessions on CELTA, it is very easy to get lost in the details. Since there is so much detailed work involved, this is extremely easy to do.
To avoid this common pitfall of the CELTA, try to think about the exact language you will use at certain points.
You will have to write CCQs on your lesson plan, as well as specific instructions. Thinking about these clearly will be a huge help for you. If you want specific examples of language to use as a teacher to help you with your TTT, check out the dedicated concept checking or CCQ blog post for more on this.
But also try to imagine how the lesson will be, what kind of questions they will ask, and how you respond to all of the tricky points and any awkwardness during the lesson. Simply visualising this will go a long way to help you.
I should also add that you will also have to anticipate problems in your lesson plan, so some of this will come out in the plan if you do it properly.
Bonus Tip: The Right Mindset to Manage Your Teacher Talking Time
One additional hint to note is to think of yourself as the conductor of an orchestra during the lesson. This is helpful because you are trying to get the students to produce the right things at the right time. If you do it properly, it can be effortless on your part. The students should be doing all the heavy lifting and they will want to do this! Try to keep in the mindset of being a facilitator, rather than a teacher.
Hopefully, if you bear this in mind you will go a long way to help you reduce your teacher talking time during your TP sessions on your CELTA.
In summary, to help you control your teacher talking time, remember the following points to help you focus and prepare in the best way possible:
- Remain aware of how you are in the classroom – if you tend to waffle (like me!), then remind yourself to stay quiet.
- If you can record yourself teaching somehow outside the CELTA lessons, this will show you how you truly are.
- Plan for silences and confusion in the lessons. Just allow a few more seconds or have a backup set of instructions to deal with these.
- Approach your lesson plans in a very detailed and thought out way.
- Try to picture yourself delivering the lesson and all the kinds of issues you might have. Think about how you will deal with these in advance and avoid talking constantly at the students!
- Think of yourself as a facilitator, not a teacher. Make the students do the heavy lifting and speak more than you!