Imagine a 50-minute lesson where there are 25 learners and 1 teacher. If the teacher talks for 50% of the time, how much practice can the students have? The learners need to hear good models of language but they also need to practice so keep TTT down to less than 20% of the lesson. Some experienced teachers would say that even this is too much!
Sometimes teachers speak a lot to prevent the learners from speaking in their mother tongue. Instead, let’s accept that especially at lower levels students will use mother tongue in group or pair work. Ask them to report back to the class in English but do remember to give preparation time for them to get ready.
They need to rehearse what they are going to say first. If you ask a question and no one volunteers immediately, try asking the students to work with a partner for one minute to prepare what they are going to say. You’ll find these two techniques make students speak longer.
We know that people only learn when they are engaged with the material to be learned. Students can’t take in long explanations by the teacher so let’s challenge them by setting a puzzle or a problem to solve. For example, when presenting the second/unreal conditionals, you could prepare a task and say, “look at this list of sentences. Which ones are about things that will probably happen and which are about impossible things?” Students will decide which category to put the sentences in and then we can ask them to try to explain the difference in tense use. This can be done even when presenting the language for the first time!
Use your TTT to ‘preview’ new language that is coming up, for example start using the simple past the day before you teach it! Students soon figure out what you are doing and begin to ‘notice’ the new language.
You can also use your TTT to make jokes, guide students to the correct answers, to chat with them – natural language use rather than ‘teacher-ese’ explanations. Sometimes all the genuine chat with learners is done in mother tongue and only the lesson material is handled in English. This makes English into a school subject rather than a means of communicating.
Finally, listen to what the learners say in class and respond to them. Use what they have said to move the lesson forward. If students see that are genuinely interested in what they tell you, they’ll be keener to contribute.