"We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance
by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the
principles are the same.”
According to this statement, if you want to become a good dancer,
you don’t just watch or read about dancing, you should practice things
the dancers do. The same is true for becoming an English speaker – the
students need to speak English in order to learn English.
In this article I would like to suggest the ways to increase the
amount of Student Talking Time (STT) and quality of student practice of
English speaking. These techniques include using pair and small group
work, creating problem solving activities, minimizing teacher’s
explanation and information-giving, developing questioning and drill
techniques, using interactive games, choosing the appropriate topics for
No doubt the most teachers understand that students should have as
much opportunity to speak as possible when learning English as a
foreign language. Those students who don’t live in English speaking
countries may only have the chance to practice English during the 45
minutes in the classroom. That’s why the more students speak English at
the lesson, the better English speakers they become.
Teacher talk time (TTT) denotes how much the teacher talks during a
lesson. However, this will vary according to the aims of the lesson.
For example, the teacher needs to speak more when providing
explanations and examples of the grammar structures or giving important
information. Overall, however, the teacher should limit her speaking
to 30% of the class time. On the other hand, Student Talk Time (STT)
should be around 70% during the course of the lesson.
The following shows some benefits of increasing STT and reducing
- When students speak more, they have great opportunities to
practice the new material. Students have more chances to experiment
with new vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs or grammar structures. They
can mix previous vocabulary and grammar structures with the target
language of the lesson, as well as spontaneous conversations concerning
their individual interests.
- As the teacher speaks less, students have opportunity personalize
the language and get a lot of practice of real life communication.They
have more chances to listen to and speak not only with their teacher,
but with other students as well.
From the above, it should be clear that the class greatly benefits
from limited talking by the teacher.However I don’t always have the
conversational lessons. Sometimes, I want my studentsto analyze
listening, or to summarize briefly, or to respond in writingan opinion
essay, but I always want them to develop their abilities to think in
English, in other words to "make the most” of their practicing time and
to learn expressing their ideas in English fluently and
The main problem to the teacher for planning the conversational
classes is how to deal with "talk about what?”What kinds of topics will
keep students involved? Knowing that our learners like
computers,music, movies, sports etc, is a good start to talk about,
later, we can choose the topics that relevant tostudent interests: those
that let them share their personal experiences. Students won’t speak
in a foreign language without a model, a clear task, and motivation.
Learners are motivated to speaking if they have and want to tell
something on the topic.Also theywant to feel confident every time they
What Are Some Ways to Increase Student Talk Time?
First it is important to think about:
- Do students know the vocabulary needed to speak on the topic?If
not,present or review the key language.
- Are the teacher’s instructions clear enough for the learners to
know exactly what to do? So, always provide a support to complete
speaking tasks. Good Speaking Activities should be motivating and
should build confidence in the students; this will encourage them to
- Is the seating arrangement appropriate in the classroom? Are
there any other reasons that might prevent student’s talking and fail
the task completion, such as a task that embarrasses a learner, or
problems with partners? In this situation try to avoid awkward learning
Be careful of the following:
- Low level students benefit from a silent period of understanding,
and responding to instructions, before being involvedin fluent
communication that might make them feel embarrassed.
- Students are worried about how others will react on their
speaking. In this case I always ask shy students to try their speaking
first in pairs, then in small groups and only later I involve them in
an open class discussion.
In my teaching practice I have tried a variety of techniques that
help maximize talk time for everyone in my classes; I’ll share some of
them with you.
1."Find someone who”
This warm-up activity which I like very much help you to find out
more personal information about your students and help learners to
practice asking questions.
Formulate questions which will solicit affirmative answers to the
prompts provided below (for example, "Have you ever eaten with
chopsticks?”). Continue asking the question until you find someone who
can answer "yes” and then write that person’s name in the space
||Find someone who…
||Has never eaten with chopsticks.
||Has been on TV.
||Has broken an arm or a leg.
||Has seen a movie in the past week.
||Has been robbed.
2. "Job Skills”
Students figure out classmates’ assumed occupations by asking
questions about qualifications and skills necessary for each job.
Make a list of the occupations sheet. Cut out the separate slips.
Give one occupation slip to each student. Tell students not to let
anyone else know what is written on their slips. The task to the
students to discover which classmate has which occupation by asking
questions about the qualifications and skills necessary for that job.
Typical questions might be:
- "Do you have to read music for you profession?”
- "Do you need to be athletic?”
- "Have you got to change your appearance for your job?”
- "Is it necessary to wear a tie?
You must not ask directly, "Are you a telephone operator?” or "Are
you a basketball coach?” When time is over, the student who has
correctly identified the professions of the largest number of
3. This teaching activity based on the topic: School Life. By
answering a few simple questions and carrying out some easy tasks,
students will get to know one another in a comfortable and co-operative
- In small groups design the ideal school.
- In pairs, list the qualities of the perfect teacher.
- Design a suitable timetable for your class. Show it to your
- Homework is necessary. Discuss.
- Tell your classmates a funny story/situation that has taken place
in your school.
In conclusion I would like to say that one of the most effective
ways of increasing communication and maximizing student’s talk time is
to create comfortable classroom with positive atmosphere where
spontaneous speaking is valued and everyone has a chance to talk. It’s
also to say that the effective language teacher, like all effective
teachers, realizes that it’s not the teacher’s role in the classroom
that’s central, but the roles of students. I’m sure that practice is
the best tool of learning and as English language teachers we should
give our students every chance to practice their language in the