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Maximising the amount of time the student can practise producing the target language

Making lessons student-centred

Diary submitted by Ruth H, Madrid

“Maximising the amount of time the student can practise producing the target language”

It is very easy to practise listening by watching movies or series and grammar by researching online, but very difficult to practise speaking without a native speaker there to guide you. For this reason, many students who take English lessons struggle with speaking and writing more than the receptive skills, so it makes sense to ensure that each class is as student-centred as possible, to maximise the amount of time the student can practise producing the target language.

One way to make the lesson more student centred is by reducing teacher talking time (TTT), this allows the student to practise the skills they need the most, rather than just listening to the teacher, which they can practise in their own time more easily. Ways of reducing teacher talking time include using elicitation rather than explanation. For example by asking students more questions and encouraging them to try to explain something themselves or make a guess if they’re not sure, you may find that the student understands more than they realise and they are also more likely to remember what they have learnt if it is through this guided self-discovery than through an explanation from the teacher. Even when a student is not talking, it is important not to always fill the space with another question or an explanation, as the student may just need time to think and process what they want to say before they say it. It is a common occurrence that a student has understood the question but appears as though they haven’t because they are taking too long to answer, but it is important that the teacher keep the lesson student-centred by allowing the student time to think and attempt an answer before repeating or rephrasing the question, which can be very frustrating for students.
While the lesson should be focussed on the student, it is also important that the teacher keeps control of the lesson. During my teaching experience in Madrid I met one very high level student who was very confident and had a high level of English but his confidence and command of the language meant he was often able to drag out the initial warm-up chat to last the whole lesson, with the result that he only ever practised English that he already knew and didn’t learn more advanced or more varied vocabulary. In this situation, it was important to occasionally take control and direct the student more firmly with regards to the lesson plan. Although this may have made the lesson slightly less student-focussed, it was more beneficial in the end as the student was challenged more and had more opportunity to improve rather than just practise what he already knew.

Sources:

  • Steve Darn. (2008). Teacher Talking Time. TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC. Available at: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/teacher-talking-time [Accessed 29.06.2018].
  • Funda Çetin. (2010). Eliciting. TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC. Available at: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/eliciting [Accessed 29.06.2018].

Maximising the amount of time the student can practise producing the target language

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