Timing lessons

Timing lessons

An important part of any TEFL lesson is the timing. Especially so in the academy where there was only a 40 minute slot for each lesson, and often no break between consecutive lessons. Timing a lesson correctly, therefore, is imperative for ensuring that the current student gets the full lesson to which they are entitled, while not over-running and causing the following lesson to start late. In order to get the timing right, it is necessary to adapt your teaching style to the individual student, as well as to the material being taught.


The challenge with timing is to get the lesson to last for exactly 40 minutes. One difficulty is when the student likes to talk a lot, or when an interesting discussion arises. In these cases is possible to lose track of time, and thus to allow the lesson to over-run. In order to solve this problem, I would periodically check my watch so that I would know how much time was left and therefore to try to bring the discussion to a natural close, avoiding the need to stop the conversation abruptly when the 40 minutes are over. However, it was also important not to let the student be aware that I was checking my watch, as this may be considered rude and distract the student from the discussion.

Talkative Students

Another good practice for talkative students is to tell them five minutes before the end that the lesson is ending. That way there is the possibility for some final conversation without running the risk of going into the next lesson.

Shy or Less Talkative Students

In contrast, for shy students who do not talk much, it can be difficult for the teacher to find ways to fill the time. For example, in General English lessons a student may only give short answers to questions regarding the text, or may give brief descriptions of the pictures presented. In my experience I found that teaching classes with this kind of student becomes easier when you get to know the student. Knowing that a student is shy, or does not talk much, means that it is possible to cover the material more slowly and go into more detail. However, it may be that the student does not find the material for the lesson interesting. In this case, the best option for me was to try to talk to the student to find a topic in which they were interested; this often led to the student becoming more enthusiastic about speaking English, and enabled us to fill the lesson time.


Overall, there is more to timing a lesson correctly than simply looking at the time. The teacher must change the way in which the lesson is structured and their interaction with the student in order to fill the time, but to use the time in the way that will benefit the student the most.

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