05 August 2011

Teacher Talk

Recently I read a blog post on another teacher's website which suggested that, in this age of ubiquitous online content, teachers should refrain from content delivery via teacher talk.

Whilst I understand that some appropriate content can be accessed via the net, for a number of reasons I believe face to face teacher talk is an essential part of lessons. This is because good teachers know their students' academic, pastoral and social needs and tailor lessons accordingly.

Generally, teachers have a sense of their students' prior learning and current knowledge so that they adjust the content to begin where the students are at. No student likes to sit through material that he/she is already familiar or which is beyond their current knowledge. With prepackaged Internet content this could not be guaranteed.

Knowledge of the students' vocabulary means that many teachers choose their words so that the content is better understood. This can even occur within a lesson as a teacher may alter the linguistic complexity from student to student.

Teachers are frequently aware of the pastoral needs of their students. Depending on what is happening in the lives of students, this means that there would be times when certain material might be delivered in a sensitive way or not at all. Lectures and other Internet resources would not be tailored to students' pastoral needs.

In terms of students' social worlds, it seems increasingly important that teachers are aware of the interactions students are having in person and online. There are times, such as the day before a dance or big event, when the social world is a part of what happens in the classroom. After the release of the final Harry Potter novel I found that my students wanted to discuss our personal reactions to this text. It was essential teacher talk.

Although the occasional individual overdoes the teacher talk, and we all need to be aware of that, well-structured talk can go a long way.


  1. From a pastoral perspective it is becoming obvious to me that the talk that students engage in with us in the classroom may be the only real contact they have with adults in their day. The talk is filling a void that exists for many students. Increasingly, teachers are the most reliable adult contact that students engage with and therefore the role of talk takes on even more importance.

  2. Wise thoughts Maryanne. Thanks for the contribution.