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7 Tips to Cut Teacher Talking Time

By Altiné Moumouni
Managing teacher talking time (also known as TTT) is one of the most important areas to develop, yet most TEFL teachers neglect it
teacher talking time

There are times when a TEFL teacher must speak in class, like when providing feedback, giving grammar lesson instructions, drilling pronunciation, explaining vocabulary, and facilitating tasks. But there are also times when TEFL teacher talking time can negatively affect students’ progress.

Managing teacher talking time (also known as TTT) is one of the most important areas to develop, yet most TEFL teachers neglect it. 

Here are seven practical tips to help you cut down your teacher talking time, improve your classroom management, and make your lessons more interesting, engaging, and something all students will look forward to.

1. While creating your lesson plan, focus on explaining each activity using fewer words

  • Explain each class activity using as few words as possible
  • Use a combination of visual cues, including drawings, facial expressions, and body language
  • When using a worksheet, ask students to read the instructions
  • Ask for volunteer students to help you model the activity
  • Involve students by asking them to summarize your instructions before beginning the class activity

2. Make all your instructions imperatives

Sometimes you can hear students complaining that their teacher speaks too fast. The reason is that most TEFL teachers are not good at giving instructions and instead talk too much.

Use imperatives to ensure your instructions are clear and concise. Here’s an example of some instructions: 

  • Work by yourself
  • You have five minutes to complete exercise #5
  • Work in a pair or group of 3
  • Don’t run in the hallway
  • Be quiet when you are going to the bathroom
  • Raise your hand before speaking in class

3. Rearrange classroom seating to promote student interaction

The traditional classroom arrangement where a TEFL teacher stands in front of students encourages high teacher talking time. Instead, change your classroom seating arrangement to promote student interaction.

Here are a few ideas for you to try: 

  • Horseshoe seating arrangement where you place student desks in a semicircle. This type of seating arrangement makes it easy for students to interact with one another.
  • Groups of 5. This is the seating arrangement I currently have in all my classes, which allows me to walk around the class and give one-on-one support to less advanced students or those who need extra help.

4. Make your classes something your students look forward to

In general, teacher talking time tends to be higher in classes where students are afraid of making mistakes or don’t feel comfortable speaking.

So as teachers, your goal should be to create a welcoming, encouraging, and motivating environment for all your students. 

Instead, use different ways to encourage interactions. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Create a class group on social mediasuch as WeChat, Whatsapp, Facebook, to increase class participation.
  • Ask your students to suggest their favorite songs lyrics, movies, TV shows, or articles. Including students in choosing supporting teaching materials will increase student talking time.

5. Do every class task in pairs or groups of three

Doing every task in pairs or small groups is one of the best ways to get students talking. Most students feel more comfortable speaking in English in smaller groups. 

Dividing students into pairs or small groups will allow you to walk around the class and observe and listen to students’ conversations.

Here are some ideas for changing students’ classroom interaction patterns and reducing your talking time. 

  • Make speaking activities and games competitive. Every team with a correct answer gets a point, and the team to answer first gets extra.
  • For vocabulary, have students brainstorm in small groups first.
  • Instead of correcting every writing sample, ask your student to read them in pairs to decide which one they like the best.
  • Ask students to think about a current topic, question, or grammar point in pairs or a small group.
  • Post discussion questions on the whiteboard and give your students a few minutes to think about the questions or write their answers.
  • Debrief by asking a few pairs to share their thoughts or answers with the class.
  • Do grammar activities one question at a time and in pairs and come up with your own system. Students work in pairs or small groups to write the answer in their notebooks. 

6. Be a coach but not an authority in your class

Think of yourself as a football coach looking to increase engagement and motivation. Can you imagine a football coach kicking the ball more than the players? 

Being a coach helps create a comfortable learning environment where every student can participate and lead. Your role as a coach is to provide your students with guidance, monitor their activity, and make corrections. 

Here’s how: 

  • Offer peer teaching opportunities where a student teaches their peer by summarizing and paraphrasing lessons or instructions.
  • Walk around your classroom instead of standing in front of the classroom. 

7. Make learning, especially learning grammar, exciting again

Try to apply the discovery learning method, where you set up an experiment, act as a coach, and give clues along the way to help your students come to solutions. This method is known to increase students’ listening scores and their achievement. 

 Here are a few suggestions for using the discovery learning method: 

  • Play your students’ favorite song lyrics with certain verb tenses or adjectives removed as your students listen and ask them to fill in the missing words. 
  • After listening to the lyrics, ask your students to look at the text, identify each verb tense or adjective, and discuss how it is used and the reason for using it.

Useful links

6 Ways to Shut Up

Written by Altiné Moumouni for Tefl.NET October 2021
Altiné is from Toronto, Canada, and currently teaches mathematics at a high school in Guangzhou, China. He has a master's degree in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University in Canada and is passionate about helping people worldwide through his blogs. He writes about TEFL Teaching and Health and Fitness. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, traveling, and anything that allows him to experience the beauty of nature. You can find him at altinify.com.
© Tefl.NET


  • All Ears says:

    Wonderful tips, Altine. Thank you! I’m creating a curriculum for grades 1 – 8. I’ve always used pre-existing curriculum and infused activities. Do you have any suggestions on who provides a really strong and interesting curriculum? I’m all ears! 🙂

  • Altiné says:

    You are very welcome. I am glad you find it helpful.

  • The King Of Love From IRAN says:

    Thank you so much for sharing it with us,

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