English Language Learner Strategies in the Mainstream Classroom
A Strategy We Can All Consider: Increase Student Talk Time
Increasing student talk time and decreasing teacher talk time should be a part of daily routine and expectations in the classroom setting. Allowing time to talk is beneficial to all students, particularly English language learners. Teacher talk-time should be minimized to help the verbal and auditory working memory of all students. The more a teacher talks, the less the students will be engaged. Teacher talk time also affects students who might struggle with understanding the language, which would also affect what they retain. Excessive teacher talk-time can strain the working memory and comprehension.
Additionally, there are extensive benefits to allowing students time to talk. It allows for social interaction and collaboration. It enables students to be accountable for being engaged and thinking about how to express their ideas. It gives them the chance to hear other ideas and responding. Ultimately, giving them a deeper understanding. And of course, for those who are still developing language and vocabulary, using the peer talk time to help build language skills based on conversational skills, then the academic language and vocabulary will follow.
There are various ways that we can increase student talk time in the classroom. One simple and effective option appropriate for any grade level ranging from elementary to high school is simply ‘turn and talk’. The student turns to a student next to them and talk about a prompt or question. It can happen informally and organically but can also be planned into a lesson. Because of its flexibility in age range it can also be applied to various content material. It can be used to expand an idea during a basic read aloud or to discuss or elaborate on higher order mathematical equation.
Most elementary teachers are familiar with Think, Pair, Share; but another option that assists in increasing student talk time, particularly for language learners in a mainstream classroom is Write, Pair, Share. Again, this can be used to support and check for understanding in various concepts or content and is not limited to an elementary setting. The difference between think, pair, share and write, pair, share is that students have ‘think time’ while they are writing what they will share with partner, small group or whole class. Write, pair, share helps build confidence and encourages students to use oral language skills. What they write allows the teacher to observe the child’s learning and whether the student is on the right track (Reid, 2019).
Reid, R. (2019, April 25). 9 Strategies for Getting More Students to Talk. Retrieved from
WOW, in the last few weeks the students have been working diligently and cooperatively. This is not unusual but maybe you do not know exactly what some of your kids have been doing in some of their classes. If you are interested, read on…
In Science 7, the students created a poster presentation in pairs to creatively demonstrate their understanding of Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems. By comparing and contrasting three types of symbiosis, students could analyze the special type of interactions that happen between species.
In ELA, Grade 7 students played Literary BINGO to practice key literary terms such as oxymoron, foreshadowing, and paradox! They won pencils with erasers if they correctly placed their markers.
In ELA, Grade 6 students used the interactive strategy, Pass around Writing to develop and strengthen their poetic creativity of the Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, Haiku. The students each wrote the first 5 syllable line of their desired topic and then passed the paper so their peer could write the next line of 7 syllables, and so on. This strategy gave everyone a chance to clarify the meaning of unknown vocabulary or explain unfamiliar contexts.
Station work is also known as learning centers. In small groups, students move to different spots around the classroom, allowing them to complete various tasks from a variety of resources from multiple perspectives and modalities.
In Ancient History, Grade 8 students worked in various stations to reflect, evaluate and analyze the daily life of a variety of people in ancient Egypt. By examining maps, timelines, videos, images, readings, and various resources students were able to move at their own pace and explore how geography, anthropology, psychology, the economic system, political structure, and social practices determined how these interesting people lived.
In Life Science, Grade 8 students used learning centers to examine the interactions between biotic and abiotic factors within an ecosystem. In Grade 10, World History students used learning centers to identify and examine various readings and Q and A about the history related to the making of the modern world. In Grade 6 students used learning centers to write various forms of poetry.
I love creating stations with my co-teachers. Stations/Centers allow for more student voice and accountability, leverages the available resources and are basically more engaging than a lecture mode class. Like anything I write, if you have any questions or want more information, please email me or come see me, I welcome it!