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Constructive teacher-talk

Verbal characteristics of good teacher-talk [by Robert O' Neill - Hove 1994]

Typical uses or Context of Teacher Talk -

  1. Explaining lexis or structure
  2. Correcting
  3. Elicit response
  4. Modelling (giving verbal models for students to use in their own communication)
  5. Explaining or clarifying tasks
  6. Summarising
  7. Repairing break-downs in communication
  8. Story-telling and oral presentation of written material
  9. Questioning

Verbal characteristics of Teacher Talk -

  1. Fully grammatical
  2. Preserves "natural" stress & intonation
  3. Broken into sense groups
  4. Simplified but not unnatural
  5. At least 80 % comprehensible
  6. Broken into short paragraph segments to encourage or invite students to interrupt, comment and ask questions.
  7. When new vocabulary is taught, typical examples of use and usage are given whenever possible
  8. Teacher gets regular feedback through Qs & other devices,
  9. Teacher gives students chances to interact with each other as well as with teacher.
  10. Teacher gives models for students to use with each other in pair or group work.
  11. Variety of elicitation & explanation techniques
  12. Covert/overt correction techniques

Non- or Para Verbal -

  1. Teacher maintains eye-contact when talking with as many students as possible.
  2. Uses eye contact & body movement to give emphasis/invite participation (prolonged gaze to invite comment & gestures to help explain language.
  3. When a student speaks the teacher looks at the speaker but also around class to judge reactions and to see if other students are indicating that they want to speak.
  4. Walking away from the student speaking to make the student speak more loudly & engage in eye-contact with the class.
  5. Teacher uses facial expression to indicate interest, doubt, approval and occasionally disapproval.

TOPIC: YOU, YOUR VOICE and YOUR BODY: Projecting a more confident and capable self-image. Using breathing to improve our general energy levels. Breathing from the diaphragm. Voice: pitch, projection, and variety. Eye contact, Gesture and Facial Expression.

  1. Erect or slouched posture?
  2. Hunched shoulders when nervous?
  3. Predictable/Unpredictable movement when teaching
  4. Tics or physical habits?
  5. Breathing from the diaphragm
  6. What kind of voice - low/ high pitched, nasal
  7. Avoiding monotonous tone
  8. Adapting to different rooms
  9. Facial expression: smile/grim/worried/
  10. Facial or gesturial ties
  11. Eliminating eye-dart, slow-blink, soul-gaze
  12. Showing interest in what others are saying.

TOPIC: LILY WONG-FILLMORE "Input in Second Language Acquisition" Newbury House 1985 ISBN 0-88377-284-1: Characteristics of lessons that worked well

  1. Formal lessons with clear boundaries
  2. Beginnings and ends marked by formulaic cues
  3. Regularly scheduled events both by time & place
  4. Clear lesson format, instructions and lesson phases
  5. Clear and fair turn-allocation
  6. Clear separation of languages L1 & L2
  7. Use of demonstration, enactment to convey meaning
  8. New information presented in context of known information
  9. Heavy message redundancy
  10. Simpler structures used
  11. Repeated use of same sentence patterns or routines
  12. Repetitiveness, use of paraphrase for variation
  13. Emphasize comprehension
  14. Focus on communication.


TOPIC: The 25 Most Common Tips Given To Student Teachers

  1. Start by being firm with pupils
  2. Get silence before you start speaking to the class
  3. Control the students' entry to the classroom
  4. Know & use the students' names
  5. Prepare lessons thoroughly and structure them firmly
  6. Arrive at the classroom before students
  7. Prepare furniture & apparatus before students arrive
  8. Know how to use apparatus
  9. Be mobile: walk around the class
  10. Start the lesson with a "bang" and sustain interest & curiosity
  11. Give clear instructions
  12. Learn voice control
  13. Have additional material for bright and slow students.
  14. Look at the class when speaking & learn how to scan
  15. Make written work appropriate (e.g. to age, ability, cultural background of students)
  16. Develop an effective question technique
  17. Develop the art of timing your lesson to fit the available period
  18. Vary your teaching techniques
  19. Anticipate discipline problems and act quickly
  20. Be firm and consistent in giving punishments
  21. Avoid confrontations
  22. Clarify and insist on YOUR standards
  23. Show yourself as a helper or facilitator to the students
  24. Don't patronise pupils, treat them as responsible beings.
  25. Use humour constructively.
  26. Encourage Students (i.e. good efforts).

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