Remember the rule of 25% TTT and 75% STT?
In case you donít know what Iím talking about, it means that a teacher should talk only 25% of the time during a good ESL lesson. TTT = Teacher Talk Time, and STT = Student Talk Time. In the early days of my ESL teaching career, I found this impossible to achieve, in fact I found it really difficult to get students to speak for 25% of the time! Have you found the same problem? Do you have a solution? Maybe this is one that will work for you.
This was discovered by accident one day teaching with a severe cold and a sore throat which stopped me from being able to speak at all. Itís not known if yelling a lot in order to be heard over the top of the students for several weeks had anything to do with having sore throat, but thatís beside the point.
This technique can even create an environment where students are talking 99% of the time. A huge claim! You donít believe me do you? Well read on to see how you can do it, and how effective this technique really is.
Getting noticed when you enter the classroom without raising you voice or slamming books on the desk, 101. You need to create the situation where students actually see you coming down the hall and prepare themselves for your appearance. (ESL time is Showtime!) This can be achieved through the method explained in my article ďESL, Chanting for Classroom ManagementĒ, but donít worry, you can start this without having implemented doing that first. Building a harmonious learning environment takes time and canít be established in a linear sequential process. Like everything in life, itís usually a series of overlapping circles.
Hereís one place to start:
One or two of your students have to be able to read one or two simple instructions, in order to start here, so if they canít, youíll have to go right back to basics and battle your way through teaching simple instructions like, open your book to page Ö.. Now, assuming some amount of reading ability, say, false beginner, or pre intermediate level, we can start to have some fun!
You will run an entire class without saying one single word, so tell yourself that you canít speak. Walk into the room, and go straight to the board while making eye contact with whoever is interested, and mime having a sore throat. Write something on the board like, ĎI canít speakí, now wait for some indication of some students comprehension, then write, ĎI have a sore throatí. Wait for more confirmation. Next, write something unexpected, like, Ďstand on one legí, (TPR is a great attention getter). Continue with a few more TPR (Total Physical Response) exercises. Then explain (in writing) that you canít talk and that they will have to read everything you write.
Using Ďa sore throatí is a great way to get started if your lesson is about illness related vocabulary, or body parts, but if your lesson is on another subject use your imagination to incorporate some vocabulary, or structures as you see fit.
Now that you have the full attention of your students, deliver your lesson as you would normally, but you have to write ALL your instructions on the board.
You want them talking? OK, hereís how, start by asking simple yes Ė no questions, and use your hand to ear body language to indicate that you require students to say Ďyesí, or Ďnoí. Once youíve established this, you can start to include some concept questions, always showing the need for speech from them (mime being deaf as well).
To clearly show that speech is required, itís fun to draw a stick figure of yourself and one of the students, then use a speech bubble to give instructions and a speech bubble to show that the students have to respond. If you want them to write something, simply use the speech bubble to give directions and write the gap fill or whatever exercise on the board in a designated area. If you want to include listening, use the tapes or CDs, thatís what they are for! Youíll find that this will become a guessing game and students will love it, while also feeling sorry for you because youíre not well, so now you have started to Ďconnectí. You may also notice the natural Ďpecking orderí of the group, because a few will start to take control and tell the others what to do in their first language, thatís cool, because when these other students understand what to do, they will start to learn English.
So now you have your students using their eyes to understand English, and speaking or writing in English in order to solve a problem (your sore throat, and hearing disability) both by reading and paying attention to your body language. This is ďpay dirtĒ for you, you havenít said a word and the students have done all the work. Isnít teaching ESL fun?
With this technique you can have students, chanting, oral reading, answering questions, asking questions, telling stories, playing games, and any language skill in any subject area you choose. ALL WITHOUT SAYING A WORD, and thatís the first time you try it! On top of that you have also run a valuable reading for comprehension lesson! Donít work against your students, work with them and show them respect. It will come back ten fold.
Obviously you canít fake a sore throat for ever, but you can use this ďESL, the silent way, 99%STTĒ technique as part of your overall teaching methodology. For example you can start a lesson by writing, Ďthis is a reading lessoní, so I will not talk, and you must read everythingí. Or not even mention the nature of the lesson, just start writing.
Use your imagination and remember: ďIf you enjoy what youíre doing you never have to work a day in your life.Ē
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