Speaking to be understood

Speaking to be understood
Teachers have a special way of speaking. Often, adult friends notice this and
say 'Stop talking like a teacher!'
Teachers adopt special strategies (called problem-reducing strategies) when
speaking to their classes. Here are ten to start with.
1. Make regular checks
Watch the students carefully to check that they understand. Check by looking at the students' faces. You can see
whether they follow your meaning or not. (Do not keep asking 'Do you understand?' because this makes students
feel that they should be understanding more and consequently makes them feel insecure.) Remember students
also adopt strategies. They may say 'yes' when they don't understand anything!
2. Use familiar words
Use mainly words which the students already know, or cognates - words which have a similar sound and meaning
in their mother tongue.
3. Use familiar topics
Refer to topics which are familiar to the students from their everyday lives, from earlier lessons, or from lessons
in other subjects.
4. Lower the cognition level
Avoid topics or concepts which students would find difficult to understand even in their mother tongue!
5. Recycle information
Repeat yourself using the same words as before, or paraphrase, to give the students a second chance to
6. Alter your style of speech
Speak slightly slower than normal (as if you were speaking to a very large group of
people) and exaggerate your intonation and stress on important words. Pause
frequently to allow 'slow listeners' to catch up. (Regular pauses after sentence
groups are more important than slow speech!)
7. Simplify the language structure
Slightly simplify your range of structures when speaking and make sure you repeat the structures you use.
8. Use a range of sensory focus
Support what you say with pictures, words or phrases on the blackboard,
gestures, actions and facial expressions. Make sure that the students can see
your face and mouth whenever you speak!
9. Use clear discourse markers
Use regular signalling language to show what you are doing: 'Now', 'First of all', 'Good', 'We have done…' and
'Now we are going to do…'. Indicate clearly what the students should do: 'Now, listen carefully', 'Now, watch
carefully' and so on.
10. Follow a routine
Follow regular routines and patterns in your lessons so that students know what is happening and what is going
to happen. These regular patterns help comprehension and provide security.
For some more ideas look in Teaching English through English by Jane Willis.