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sexta-feira, 5 de outubro de 2012

Silent moments in ELT lessons can be golden!

One of the most usual issues in ELT is the amount of teacher talking time (TTT) vs. student talking time (STT). There are a number of strategies to be used in order to enhance students’ production but my point today is to explore why teachers fear so much silent moment in class. My assumption is that in many lessons situations, a high TTT ratio results from teachers’ anxiety and even fear of some seconds or minutes of sheer silent in class. Given that, as teachers we have to take into account that sometimes silence is the best approach. Have you ever seen a TV interview where the interviewer asks a question, lets the interviewee answer, and then says nothing? What happens? There's a pause, maybe even a pregnant pause - and then the interviewee just keeps on talking, very often revealing something s/he never intended to reveal. The thing is:  People just can't stand silence! But in a learning situation, silence can have another truly beneficial effect. They need silence sometimes, to catch up, to reflect, to rest, to process. Those ten seconds of silence, or thirty seconds or two minutes, may be far more valuable to them than yet more TTT! For this reason, I list below 6 tips, written by Thomas Topham for TEFL.net to give the right value for these silent moments:

1. Don’t Echo
Here is a common classroom script:
T: So, what are your ideas, where shall we go?
S1: Bolivia.
T: Bolivia, yes, great, we can go to Bolivia. Where else?
S2: The Marshall Islands.
T: Ooh, the Marshall Islands, yes, we’ll put the Marshall Islands on the list, ok…
Even though the lesson is to some extent interactive, the students have no reason to listen to one another – the teacher is repeating everything that needs to be heard. “But they might not hear each other!” Tell them to speak up. Or better yet, if a student can’t hear, she can ask the other student to speak up.
2. Wait
It takes time for learners to hear and process what you have said, and adding more teacher talk doesn’t help. Shutting up and waiting does.
“So where should we go? (1.5 second pause) Let’s make a list, we’ll write down our ideas here, what do you say guys? (1.5 second pause) How about Tierra del Fuego, is that a good place, should I write that? Yeah, OK…”
The only way for student voices to enter the classroom is by the teacher allowing the space. After you ask a question, wait. Wait a long time, if need be.
3. Don’t Answer Right Away
Chances are one of the students knows the answer, if the teacher
strives to shut up! Compare:
S1: Why is that?
T: Ah, yes, you see here we have the auxiliary, so blah blah blah…
S1: Why is that?T: Mmmm. (pauses, looks around the room, waits…)S2:
I think because, is question…
T: (pointedly shuts up, open body language, waiting…)
S3: Yes, “Do” because it is question, same like in yesterday lesson…
Here not only do we have students speaking and the teacher shutting up, but as an added bonus the students are doing the thinking, and are showing evidence of their learning! Big Win!
4. Groupwork Is Better, Always
Because when the students are working together in groups it is impossible for you to speak. Well, not impossible – resist the urge to interrupt the groupwork for “just a second” to “just explain this one more thing”
5. Ask Open-Ended Questions
They require more from the students, and therefore require less talk
from you. Compare:
T: Is it a boy, or a girl?
Ss: Girl.
T: Yes, a girl. And what do you think, is she happy?
Ss: Yes.
T: Ooh, yes, she is. Maybe she got a good mark on her test, do you think so?
Ss: Yes.

T: Look. What’s this? (shut up. wait)
S1: A girl.
T: (continuing to shut up)
S2: She is schoolgirl.
S3: She is going to school, she has book bag.
S4: No, she is going home, she is happy. (laughter)
6. Make Use Of Your Written Materials
If the instructions are already there in the coursebook, why are you spending valuable class time blathering on about how to do a gap fill?

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