Attending an international conference is such a rewarding experience. You learn so much and you exchange so much knowledge. There were many presentations I loved, but I’d like to share one that I found particularly interesting.
This presentation had a curious title: “Let the Teacher Speak!” At a time when most methodology books, teacher developers and evaluators insist on the importance of reducing TTT (Teacher Talking Time), and of providing more and more opportunities for students to speak, this title sounded... well, peculiar.
However, there was nothing peculiar about the presentation. On the contrary, the presenter, Dr. Brian Tomlinson, a prolific writer since the 70s, had some very interesting points to make. First and foremost, he argued that the issue was not how much the teacher talks, but what he/she says, or in his own words, “it’s not the amount. It’s the quality.” He added that, perhaps, what needed to be reduced is Teacher Teaching Time, but Teacher Talking Time should actually be welcomed.
The reasons why a teacher should speak more in a class are: (1) it provides exposure to the target language; (2) it engages learners cognitively and affectively; (3) it develops a positive rapport, and (4) it provides communicative feedback. I started thinking of my own classes, and I realized that this is true. Students do engage when we tell them anecdotes. They start seeing us as human beings, and they can relate to that. It gets them thinking and isn’t it something that we often complain about; that students don’t think?...
Of course, Tomlinson doesn’t propose that we turn our classrooms into mindless chit-chat hubs. Remember he mentioned quality, not amount! He proposed some activities that include a great amount of teacher participation, such as reading a poem or a short story and engaging students in a conversation about it. It’s OK for us to talk in the classroom. We should remember that, for some students, the teacher is the only model they have to go by. The important thing is not to lose the teaching/learning perspective.