As ESL teachers following the immersive method, we have 3 main goals when helping our students learn English:

1. To help our students reach their language goals

  • Being more skilled in speaking will in turn help our students become better readers and writers.
  • Overall, they will be better at communicating in all areas in their second language.

2. To provide the best possible environment for language learning.

  • Students need opportunities to make themselves heard in a safe and constructive environment.
  • We are often the only opportunities they have to speak in the language they are learning.

3. To help our students develop the confidence to use in natural English-speaking settings.

  • In order for them to become more confident we need to create a safe space for them to give their opinions and learn how to formulate their ideas in their second language.
  • They will be able to use their second language in more natural settings outside of the classroom if we create these safe spaces for them. 

It is all very well to know what our goals are, but it is as important for us to try and reduce our own teacher-talk-time in all lessons to help increase (removed ‘the amount of’) student-talk-time.

How can I do that?

Well, the first question that you should always ask yourself is: Do I need to say this? If the answer is no, then resist the urge to speak. It is better to lead with simple explanation and then, instead of giving the student an example right out of your own personal experiences, ask them concept checking questions or extending questions that will allow them to give you the examples from their experiences.

While teaching, try not to focus too much on reducing your own TTT, but rather use these techniques to increase student-talk-time and it will do the job for you. A lot of people focus on their own speech but it is better to focus on getting the student talking.

Techniques for increasing student-talk-time:

  • What do you think? – This technique centres around the student’s ideas and thoughts. Although it seems complex it can be used in so many ways and in both simple and complex settings. For example, you could ask a 5-year-old “What do you see?” and allow them to talk all about the picture, prompting them with colour and number flashcards or other toys. For a 13-year-old, you could ask them “What does ____ mean?” allowing them to tell you their understanding of a word in the context of the reading activity.
  • Make your own… – This is another technique that is student driven and focuses their attention on using vocabulary on their own. After doing any type of vocabulary exercise (which are often easy and simple to complete) you would simply ask the student to make their own sentences using the target vocabulary. This pushes them to use the words correctly and can help you gauge whether they actually understand them.
  • Brainstorming – This technique helps your students think about broader topics and concepts by pushing them to think of more examples. So, when doing activities about specific topics, whether it’s the house, the zoo, subjects at school etc., you ask them to think of as many words relating to that topic as they can. You can then use another technique listed here to elicit sentences with the new words the student has come up with.
  • Running sentences – This is great for helping students who struggle to initially think of their own ideas or sentences. You start a sentence based on a specific topic/vocabulary set/grammatical rule etc. and then they have to finish it. You can take turns with the student, allowing them to make the beginning of the sentence and you can complete it.
  • What happens next – This technique helps students talk more about reading activities or long texts that have no ending. You simply ask them what they think happened after the last line of text. This could also work with what happened before, asking them to tell you about how the characters got there.