Teaching Strategies: The Joy of Reducing ‘Teacher Talky Time’

Teaching Strategies: The Joy of Reducing ‘Teacher-Talky-Time’

We all love a bit of talky-time

Teachers love to talk, they are naturally a very sociable group of professionals. We all use teaching strategies that seek attention and focus from our students. Enjoy a challenge? Get a group of well aged, experienced, professional teachers in a room and good luck in getting them calm, quiet and focused on the task in hand; …just pause and consider the irony there.

Adults aren’t the best examples

The administration teams that run schools and professional development days are no better either, events on ‘improving the quality of teaching’ are invariably long, drawn out affairs, full of waffle, doublespeak and endless, endless talking.

One area of my teaching that I currently have under the spotlight is the time I spend talking to the class as a whole – when talking to my middle school classes and high school classes we refer to this as‘teacher-talky-time’. It’s one teaching strategy I have been working hard on.

Reasons to curb talky-time

As a teacher myself we all depend on ‘teacher talky time’’. Instructions and guidelines have to be outlined and feedback delivered…or are there better ways to achieve this? Adult human beings find it hard to listen for more than 20 mins, for adolescent students this amount of time is likely to be far less. How can we expect focused students maintaining a working atmosphere if the teacher continues to bellow out instructions across a sea of heads for the entire lesson?

Five teaching strategies to reduce teacher talky-time in class:

Here’s my five teaching strategies that have worked for me and the colleagues in my department to reduce ‘teacher talky time’ and increase effective independent work in my class or tutor group:

1. Starting the lesson: getting ready and starter activities. Get the students accustomed to arriving, getting ready and getting on with a simple task on the board. This naturally calm and settles the students as they slot into their regular routine. Less time spent shouting out instructions as student know what is expected of them at the beginning of each class

2. Harness the use of devices: Computers, laptops and tablets can be tricky in the classroom but if used in a planned, organised way they can really allow students to get on with work at their own pace, with instant access to the instructions in text format and , crucially, not from you at the front of the class.

3. Use google classroom to your advantage. Make a google classroom page for your class. Put the materials you need for the class on there. Once they have finished their starter activity, get their full attention, explain what to do, check understanding and direct them to the materials you have placed on their google classroom. This ensures less interruptions from students needing to recheck that slide or video – they know that have it all in google classroom. You’ll have more time to move around the class to speak to individual students as they work quietly.

4. Micro and nano presentations: make the students do the (effective) talky-time for you: If, like me, you teach a content heavy subject, then you’ll need ways to get away from the board and still ensure your students are covering the material.

I use micro and nano presentations to help me with this. In summary students come up with an image and key word presentation that last for 5-7 mins on a small area of the topic. This to force students to use images as a background to a (hopefully) interesting presentation and be succinct; keeping everything within 7 minutes.

Assessment within a micopresentation helps keep stakes high

Each presentation must also include some sort of assessment, this could be in the form of a quick kahoot challenge or simply some questions on the board for student to discuss as a group. Crucially all students fill in a summary sheet with notes on each each section. The result is that the topic is covered over 1-2 lesson and students advance with a good set of notes and a small library of presentations in google classroom for revision purposes.

This also requires far less talking and instruction time from me and pushes the learning responsibilities firmly onto the plate of the students.

5. Just let them work: Once they have their instructions and know what to do: let them get on with the task. Many teachers find this a challenge and constantly interrupt their classes with updates on the task – I really, really try hard to avoid this. But it’s a simple teaching strategy that really works.

I find if you are clear with deadlines and expectations, and student know where to find additional help online and possibly in a 1:1 situation with you – then you’ ll get that joyful long section of working, studious atmosphere that you’re looking for.

Teaching strategies: Less talking in class means more time for learning, challenge yourself to talk in front of the class for less than ten mins per lesson. 


Medium Article: The art of Keynoting – 20 Minute rule for great public speaking on attention spans and keeping focus


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