Any good ESL teacher knows that an element of a successful class is a high student talking time, compared to a low teacher talking time. If you are new to teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, you might wonder why that is.

Here are four reasons why student talking time should be maximised in class:

  1. It is one of the things more and more students are expecting from class.
  2. With the high volume of resources available, they can ‘easily’ practice reading skills, for example, by reading an article online or practice their listening skills by listening to podcasts and TED Talks. Speaking skills, however, are something they desperately need to practice, and practice, and practice.
  3. Students don’t really want to listen to you – the teacher – talk all the time.
  4. Students learn more as they practice and engage with the language.

That being said, you are no probably wondering what you can do to increase students talking time in class. Never fear! Here are four great and helpful tips you can implement readily.

You could also try story-telling activities.

Tip #1: Elicit

Elicit means to ask your students. Don’t think that they don’t understand, ask them. By eliciting (rather than explaining), students are engaging rather than passively listening (and learning). You can easily make use of pictures and/or flashcards, video clips, unfinished sentences, fill in the sentence, and definitions to elicit answers and ideas from your students.

Tip #2: Pair and Group Work

Separating students into pairs or groups for activities means that they practice with their fellow students, which increases student talking time a lot. Additionally, it provides them with the chance to learn from each other, too.

Here are some ideas: Teaching Tips: Activities for Pair-work

Tip #3: Read and/or Explain Instructions

Rather than you reading the instructions every time, get the students as a class, in groups, or individually to read the instructions that are on the worksheet. If some students don’t understand, ask if there is someone who can explain it to the whole class – in English!

Tip #4: Do Summaries

Summaries are a great addition to most, if not all, activities. For example, if students completed a discussion in a group, as part of the class feedback, have one student from each group summarise everyone’s opinion. It is great to test comprehension and practice fluency, plus it is an excellent way to further increase student talking time.


There are many more techniques that can help you maximize student talking time in the ESL class; however, it is important that achieving the right balance is key. For beginner students, the ratio should generally be 50-50 for teacher talking time vs student talking time. This ratio should change to favour more student talking time as the students progress and are able to speak more English (30-70 teacher talking time vs student talking time).

Want more like this? Visit our Teaching Tips Blog.

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel.

We're hiring!

With schools around the world, Shane English School always has exciting new opportunities to offer.