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Different Forms of Teacher Talk Time - How to deal with Echoing

During my training session with a group of LT’s in DG I have noticed one thing from the teachers, there’s  “ too much echoing” and teachers being scared of silence in class. Students need time to talk. More importantly, they need time to think, prepare their thoughts, translate, and decipher how to say it out loud. Embrace silence in the classroom as a good thing, and give your students time to think.

It's amazing how almost every new teacher has the same problem-talking too much. No wonder we call it TTT ( teacher talk time). The whole Idea is to reduce it. Here’s what you can do to cut down on talking in your class:

Talking too much as a teacher usually comes in three forms: echoing, self-talk and filling up silence. Although not really harmful in itself, too much TTT takes away from the students' talking in class-which is the whole point of English Language teaching. It's the students who should be doing most of the talking-not the teacher. Make sure that you are producing good TTT.

Let’s look at echoing.

Echoing is repeating what the student has just said-usually in response to a question from the teacher. For example:

Teacher: "What did you do yesterday?"

Student: I went to the park

Teacher: OK! You went to the park. Okay great. You went to the park.

Quite simply, you want the student to talk more than you. When you echo what they say, it gives them less talking time. In addition, when you echo, they start to learn that they don't need to listen to anyone but you (the teacher who repeats everything). If you catch yourself doing this, stop it.

Nobody knows exactly why echoing occurs, but it most likely has something to do with a new teacher's confidence-or lack of confidence. Repeating what the student says, perhaps, buys the teacher a moment of time to figure out what to say next to the student.

So how should we stop it?

The first thing is to become aware that you're doing it. At first, you may need another teacher (who you may ask to observe you in class) to subtly signal you when you do it. At first, you will receive signals almost every time you respond to a student. You'll be surprised at how often you do it.

But that's the first step to stop echoing. The next step is to train yourself to come up with another kind of response to a student. Generally, it should be something to encourage the student to continue speaking in English. For example:

Teacher: "What did you do yesterday?

Student: "I went to the park."

Teacher: "Really? What did you do there?"

After a while, you will begin to reduce your echoing. At first, prepare yourself with responses such as--good; yes; go on-even uh huh-anything to say after a student responds...except repeating what the student has just said. ( excerpt from Irene Springer )

Remember we echo once in a while, especially in the beginning of a class. But once you catch yourself doing it, you'll wonder why you didn't stop earlier.


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Comment by Cathy Sim Jayco on May 31, 2013 at 10:31am

I did. It was pretty good :)

Comment by Gregory Orton on May 30, 2013 at 11:35pm

Nobody knows exactly why echoing occurs

I think that a lot of teacher echo because they think they're actually helping. Quite often, pronunciation of the answer might weak, unintelligible, or just quiet (if a student if shy or naturally soft spoken). I do agree that it can be a confidence issue, but I think there are a number of other real candidates for explanation including (particularly in big classes)

- They're repeating a great answer that they think other students need to hear
- That simply through echoing they're re-enforcing the correct model of the pronunciation
- They're very aware that they are TEACHERS and don't see the teachers role as one to engage students in conversation, only helping them with learning. They haven't been made aware responding naturally to students, recasting in a natural way; that this brings on a psychological validation for the student, that what they said carried communicative meaning.

I say this, because I feel it's where to begin to start eradicating it.

The best teachers are those that are reflective. They reflect on their actions and the responses to their actions by the students.

A lot of the time teachers are made aware that echoing is bad, and that it should be stopped, but they aren't asked to question why. If we stop to ask, you'll probably hear some of the reasons above.

Asking the teacher then, why this could have a negative effect, beyond just taking up more time, can help the teacher to realise ramifications beyond perhaps just a negative and prohibited practice.

Moreover, teachers can be asked to reflect and take ownership of the benefits of responding in the more natural way.

Teacher: "What did you do yesterday?
Student: "I went to the park."
Teacher: "Really? What did you do there?"

Well, it's obvious to us: that the student has another chance to speak, to push themselves and use a great range of their L2, they know for sure that what they said was meaningful AND understood, and that the teacher is interested in them.

Have you seen Jill Crawshaw's video on good and bad TTT? It's riveting stuff.


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