Teacher Talk Observer Commentary Suggestions

Teacher Talk

Teacher talk is just one of many elements of an ELT lesson assessment that is covered in the ELT lesson Observation & Feedback Handbook.  ‘Teacher talk’ in this article refers mainly to the time during which the teacher is talking to the whole group – informing, instructing or correcting.  In the book, there is a different set of comments to cover the area of instruction giving, although there is, of course, a lot of crossover.

The purpose of the notes below is to make the observer’s life a little easier. The idea is that you can cut and paste the comments or adapt them to each observation. Try adding in modifiers and emoji’s if this works for you.


Suggested observer commentary

Positive comments Areas for development
Your teacher talk is economical and well-graded, so students understand what to do at all times


You use your voice range and gestures well to reinforce /clarify your meaning


You do a great job adapting your teacher talk to the needs of the task and the learners.  You use direct language and tone for instruction, and then more informal, natural (although well graded) language when in a more reactive role.


You have mastered the art of grading language for greater comprehension but keeping an adult-to-adult tone to your communications.


You have great wait time* for your learners and for yourself too. It takes confidence to slow down and actively plan your own output


Create clearer instructions and increase the time students are on task by reducing unnecessary and confusing teacher talk. This can be done by reducing the echo* or top-up*


Rehearse, script and practice your classroom language in order to reduce unnecessary teacher talk and to create greater clarity in your management


Try to find a way of keeping language simple/graded while avoiding talking to adults as if they were children.  Expressions like ‘ok class, pay attention and ‘look and listen to me’ can put off adult learners who are already feeling somewhat vulnerable because of their lack of language competence.


Breathe before you respond, take a little time to work out in your head exactly what you want to say before you speak – learners appreciate the space this technique creates


Try recording yourself in the future so you get a sense of where you can reduce any confusing extra teacher talk



*                Echo                        Repeating what the learners say

*                Top up                     Eliciting a satisfactory response but then adding in

additional, usually unnecessary information

*                Wait time             The time a teacher allows between a question/ comment and a

response. For example, with lower levels, learners need a longer to produce a response to a question so rather than reformulate the question or repeat it a teacher can just gently wait a bit longer – wait time.  It’s generally a very positive attribute in a teacher, with newer teachers tending to jump in too quickly.


Teacher Talk Observer Commentary

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