Monday, December 14, 2009

Best Practice: Minimizing Teacher Talk and Maximizing Comprehension

Minimizing teacher talk means not only limiting the number of words you use, but also thinking about which words you use. Here are some speaking tips to aid in communicating with your learners:

*Use gestures, mime and facial expressions to help clarify meaning.
*Use picture dictionaries, realia and visuals whenever possible.
*Slow down, but don’t talk down to your students.
*Enunciate, so learners are able to distinguish where one word ends and the next one begins.
*Use fewer reductions, especially with beginning level learners. Examples of reductions are: didja (did you), arentcha (aren’t you), gonna, wanna, etc.
*Avoid idioms. Have you ever realized how many idioms in American English come from sports?!
*Avoid slang. Monitor your choice of words. Is this something I’d say to my grandmother? If so, then it’s probably acceptable.
*Use simple words whenever possible, for example, “give me your papers” instead of “hand in your papers”. Multi-word verbs are more difficult for beginners to understand.
*Be prepared to repeat and rephrase what you just said. Use synonyms and/or define new words.

The above points come from a series of online presentations, designed to help native speakers of English communicate better with international students. To listen to them all, go to:
1. click Cybertower
2. click Go underneath Study Rooms
3. scroll down and click on Watch Your Language: Improving Communication with Non-Native Speakers
4. click on a video title on the left and enjoy (the video may not work, but the audio is clear and easy to follow).

Do you struggle with minimizing teacher talk? At what point in the lesson is it the most difficult to reduce your teacher talk time? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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