1 Using teacher talk

You start by thinking about ‘teacher talk’ and how you can use this for English.

Activity 1: ‘Teacher talk’: a planning activity

Have you seen small children play ‘Teacher Teacher’? Maybe you played this game as a child. Students like to imitate the teacher and can learn ‘teacher talk’, or the language of ‘classroom management’, even though no one actually ‘teaches’ them these words and phrases. So whatever you say and do in the classroom, your students will also begin to say and do. You can use this knowledge to generate language practice, spontaneously and with variations.

Read the sentences below in English. Read them aloud, to yourself or with a colleague.

Tick the ones you already use in the classroom with your students.

  • ‘Good morning/good afternoon/good evening, students/class.’
  • ‘Please sit down/Yes, you may sit down now.’
  • ‘Please stand up. Thank you!’
  • ‘Please stand up when you speak.’
  • ‘Who knows this word?’‘Put your hands up, please! Those who know the answer!/Those who have finished their work! Hands down!’
  • Yes, come in, please.’
  • ‘Please wait.’
  • ‘Let the others speak!’
  • ‘One at a time, please.’
  • ‘Please come to the board and write the date.’
  • ‘Thank you. Please go back to your place now.’
  • ‘Open your books/notebooks. Close your books.’
  • ‘You may go out.’
  • ‘See you tomorrow.’

Are there other words or sentences in English you already use that are not on this list?

Now choose sentences from the list that you have not tried out before. Practise these sentences aloud, at home or with a fellow teacher. See if you can vary or improvise on the sentences.

Gestures will help students understand you. How would you mime sentences such as ‘Open your books’, and ‘Come in’? Practise the gestures as you say the sentences.

When you are confident about a phrase, try using it with your students. Gradually increase the number of English phrases you use with your students each week. Don’t give up if at first they don’t respond to you – by using gestures the students will slowly learn these English phrases.

In Case Study 1, see how a teacher tries to improve his own English so that he can practise along with his students.

Case Study 1: Mr Meganathan practises English

Mr Meganathan teaches all the subjects to his Class III students. They are all first generation students. When Mr Meganathan started his job as a teacher, English was not taught at primary level. But after a few years, the state government decided to introduce English from Class I. All the primary teachers of the state were given five days of training in the methodology of teaching the English language.

Even after the training, I still felt insecure. My own knowledge of English was very limited and I felt uncomfortable speaking English, worrying that I was making mistakes. I decided to listen to English language radio programmes every day. I also asked my wife to converse in English with me every evening, because her English was better than mine.

I also practised speaking simple sentences in English such as ‘How are you?’, ‘My name is Mr Meganathan’, ‘I am a teacher’ and ‘I live in Bangalore’ by recording these sentences on my mobile phone. I would play them back, listen to them and re-record myself to improve further. I must admit, sometimes I felt a bit silly ‘rehearsing’ like this, but I found that it really did improve my English and made me feel more confident.

I prepared a list of everyday classroom instructions with another teacher in school, for example: ‘Sit down now, please’, ‘Everybody up’, ‘Can you come to the board?’, ‘I want you to make two lines’ and ‘Can you make a big circle?’ I practised saying these instructions loudly and clearly at home. I started giving instructions in English in the classroom, speaking slowly and using gestures and actions.

The students responded well. I try not to worry about the mistakes I make or the students make – I don’t want them to be afraid to take part. I know that mistakes happen when we learn anything new. I try to make sure my students feel rewarded for having a go rather than punished for getting it wrong.

Pause for thought

  • What were the sources of English for Mr Meganathan?
  • What else could Mr Meganathan do to improve his English?
  • What do you do to practise English?
  • Who can you practise with?
  • What sources of English can you listen to regularly?

What you can learn in this unit

2 Establishing classroom routines to use more English