Teacher talk analysis Essay Example

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Teacher Talk

Table of Contents

3Elli’s Lesson Transcript


5a. Content

6b. Teacher’s role

8d. Teacher/ student interaction


9e. Simplifying L2

10f. Elaborating L2

11h. Paralanguage


11i. Visual support


Elli’s Lesson Transcript


Aaaaa. Listen.

Teacher draws students’ attention.

This is a story about me.

Builds up curiosity.

My story.

Slow and unexaggerated.

This weekend. Ok.

Slow and unexaggerated.

Are you ready?

Consolidates attention.

Just listen.

Issues command to create enhanced focus.

Don’t speak.

Reassures that it is a listening exercise. Gestures sealing of lips.

Just listen.

Inquisitive. Seeks attention again. Gestures towards ears.

You are ready? Ready? Okay.

Normal speed. Drawing attention further, seeks reassurance.

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to buy a present for my son.

Slow and calm. No high intonation.

Because it is his birthday very soon.

Slow and calm. No high intonation.

On Saturday I am going to have lunch with my daughter.

Slow and calm. No high intonation.

And on Sunday I am going to go for a walk with all my children.

Slow and calm. No high intonation.

Seeks response.

Slightly high intonation in the question.


Again please

Response from students.

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to buy a present for my son.

Increased emphasis on the line. The pitch goes high.

Because it is his birthday very soon.

Increased emphasis on the line. The pitch goes high.

On Saturday I am going to have lunch with my daughter.

Increased emphasis on the line. The pitch goes high.

And on Sunday I am going to go for a walk with all my children.

Increased emphasis on the line. The pitch goes high.

Which one?

Turns, picks up and draws students’ attention to a picture on the table.

Because it is his birthday very soon.

Follows the action by an emphasis on this line. Slow and calm though.

Aaaa. No writing.

Sees student trying to scribble on the notepad. Emphasises it is a listening exercise.

Just listen, listen, ok?

Signals towards her ears again. Slow.

Repetition of lines 17 to 20

“You know my daughter?” asks students. They respond with affirmation.

Repetition is calm, no high intonation.

Signals three groups with hand movements and sounds.

Repetition of lines 17 to 20 again.

High intonation, rising tone on many words.

Listen, and watch, look.

High intonation, rising tone on many words.

Repetition of lines 17 to 20 again.

High intonation, rising tone on many words.

What is this word?

High intonation, rising tone on many words.


Response from students

Ok, watch again

(followed by repetition again, then)

Slow and unexaggerated.

Buy a present (followed by repetition)

Emphasis on this portion, but slow and steady.

How many words?

Seeks feedback from students quickly; rapid and slightly high intonation.


Response from students.


a. Content

To see whether content is relevant to students’ needs/ interests, it has to be understood that students are the receivers of teacher’s narrative in this talk. Even as relevance is a perception, the way they seem to be engrossed in the narrative conveys relevance. While this point is debatable, in what seems the teacher in this 2 minute 40 second video has attempted her best by way of her body language, pauses and intonation to make this interesting to the three pairs present. In this regard the teacher has utilised several strategies to make the content relevant to the students. At one point when the teacher asks them if they know her daughter and they reply in affirmation, it denotes their active involvement in the teacher, someone from her family around whom she has weaved this story and the narrative as a whole.

In doing so, the teacher, in a way, fulfils Keller’s (1983, pp. 383-434) ARCS model of motivation, where A is for attention, r for relevance, c for confidence, and s for satisfaction. This model has explicitly remarked that in order to make teaching relevant to students, the responsibility of gaining students’ attention lies on the teacher. In this video, it can be seen that the teacher does not falter in gaining her students’ attention. When she has built the early momentum in the classroom and grasped students’ attention, she embarks on the second step which is satisfying their needs. The heightened expectation is evident when students’ ask the teacher to repeat what she narrated earlier.

No sooner had the talk begun than a student starts scribbling something on her notepad, which means the student has begun to feel involved with the content, proving relevance. It also demonstrates her motivation to learn. Keller has remarked that course content can be said to be relevant to the students when they start demonstrating increased motivation levels. When the focus of the camera shifts to the students, their expressions are suggestive that they are listening to the teacher with rapt attention and they are making efforts to assimilate the content. It demonstrates that they are finding the content relevant to their needs and goals.

In all the question si does it draw on students’ knowledge? The teacher has picked up a personal story, the ultimate aim of which is knowledge acquisition at the students’ end. Students are recording what the teacher is saying — in their mind, as the teacher repeatedly insists on not writing anything but listening only. In other words this is literature being transmitted from the teacher to the students, where literature here refers to the content on a given topic or scenario. Relations among human beings and individual-society-nature association are part of this literature being communicated in the form of a narrative in this video.

The narrative communicates about human experience, which is, was or will be. In this case the teacher speaks of what is going to happen in future; thus linking to some aspect of students’ existing knowledge of how and what future might hold in store for them as well. This is a relational context, based on the existing pool of knowledge that they have. The teacher talks as part of her storytelling activity something about family ties, their likely activities together and thus combined joys — students link the same with their own experiences, thus connecting with their personal sets of knowledge.

At this point it is important to see if the narrative is personalised or localised. In this narrative students are specific users, and it is generally accepted that if the content is to be personalised, the first step that needs to be taken is localising it. Localisation of content in a learning activity serves the purpose of meeting primary needs, most important of which is the dissemination and acquisition of the language (Türker., Görgün and Conlan, 2006, pp 1-17).

The teacher here attempts personalisation of the content in such a way that students in the classroom tailor the same to their personal preferences, context and goals. The teacher does it with a purpose because she knows that when content is personalised, its reuse becomes easier (Brusilovsky 2007, pp. 263-290). This does not only enhance the students’ experiences, but also assists them in repurposing teacher’s offerings in their personal contexts. The teacher effectively uses the narrative approach to personalisation, as stated by Conlan et al (2001, pp. 519-520).

b. Teacher’s role

As can be seen the teacher is making target language as much comprehensible as possible to the students. And it has to be seen is she telling or providing input? She is limiting vocabulary, constantly repeating sentences and in-between asking simple questions, making frequent comprehension checks and using succinct and short grammar. At times it seems she is using what is popularly known as «pop-up grammar». What she is narrating is being supplemented by her through numerous gestures; the narrative, in fact, is replete with such gestures. She executes the lecture in three easy steps: vocabulary structures, combination of gestures and personalised questions. In the process she builds tempo on the story. She is storytelling which, remark Ray et al (2004) holds key to students’ development of language fluency and accuracy. Though it might seem on the contrary, she is more asking the story than telling it. By using a stray skeleton script, she is providing an input.

Now, another important aspect of this narrative is to understand is she explaining language points or not? There are not many words in the narrative that are suggestive of this; neither in the content nor the tone. The teacher is simply telling a story, with her expressions remaining the same and no hint of positive or negative emotions. Her narrative is neutral; probably a deliberate attempt at being more informative and questioning rather than being emotional on her son’s birthday present or daughter’s lunch. So it cannot be concluded that she is using language points in her narrative. That she is keeping in line with what Burns and Joyce (1997, p. 14) have remarked that «spoken texts are results of one-shot production». For the teacher this narrative is a that one-shot production.

Apparently the teacher has rejected drilling perhaps knowing that it is fraught with the danger of lacking communicative quality as it is normally undertaken in a highly controlled, teacher-centred manner. She does not make any effort at making students’ practice pronunciation, which is one of basic hallmarks of drilling. Teachers use drilling for modelling a sentence or a word, except at one instance, which can be found in Line 36.

Does that mean she is scaffolding? During a learning process when a teacher provides support to the students after tailoring the same as per their needs so that they are able to achieve learning goals (Sawyer, 2006). The scaffolding is normally provided in the form of compelling tasks, resources, guides and templates, and any help on the development of social or cognitive skills. These are removed one by one after the teacher realises that students have gone one step up on the learning tasks. In this video nothing of that sort is used by the teacher.

The terms scaffolding owes its origin to Lev Vygorsky’s (1978, pp. 39–285) concept in which an older learner provides support to a younger learner. It is interesting to note how Buner, Wood, and Ross’s (1976, pp. 89-100) work on scaffolding matches that of Vygotsky. However, Mercer (1995) and other scholars have argued that this does not necessarily need to be limited to an older experienced person — younger learner domain; it can go even beyond that. As per this concept, when an old and experienced adult provides support to a younger leaner, scaffolding is said to be in practice. The deeper meaning of scaffolding is that when any such help is provided by the older to the younger learner, the learner is enabled to do something beyond the independent efforts. It is also interesting to see that in this video teacher neither attempts at either soft or hard scaffolding. She seldom circulates the room or makes extended conversations with her students; she is stationary around her chair. She does not even provide them hints, which is hard scaffolding.

That leads one to facilitating; does the teacher make any attempts at doing that? Mental information-processing needs more than a few seconds (Moriber, 1971, pp. 321-328). Classrooms having teachers who talk nonstop do not give their students even that many. But this teacher gives sufficient wait-time to her students. She even uses pauses in-between her sentences and goes very slow on the same. In order to increase student-assimilation of the text, she even repeats the main sentences (Tomorrow afternoon I am going to buy a present for my son. Because it is his birthday very soon. On Saturday I am going to have lunch with my daughter. And on Sunday I am going to go for a walk with all my children) a number of times. Except at one instance – sentences 30-33) – she uses slightly high intonation but not on all the words but a few.

Rowe (1971) was of the opinion that when sufficient wait-time was provided to students, their behaviour towards a positive learning increased remarkably. The teacher in this talk uses the same theory in abundance so she is facilitating teaching. Nunan (1991, pp.193) has remarked that when wait-time is given by the teacher, more students attempt to respond.

d. Teacher/ student interaction

As can be seen in this narrative the teacher does most of the talking. Can that be construed as a fact that the lesson or segment is teacher-centred or student-centred? A typical teacher-centred lesson has its focus on the teacher, the language forms and structures. In this lesson teachers normally talk and students listen, the teacher corrects and monitors students’ utterances, and periodically the teacher asks students some questions about the language. The topic is chosen by the teacher, classroom is calm and quiet, and students’ learning is evaluated by the teachers. This lesson matches these criteria, so it can be said that it is a teacher-centred lesson.

In classroom settings it is generally held that three parts underpin a prototypical teacher-student interaction. These include teacher initiation, response from learners and then follow-up by the teacher. This sequence, however, has come under ample criticism because it is thought to diminish student participation in a classroom. As part of this sequence teachers have all the rights but students a limited few, as a result of which they can neither negotiate meaning or ask questions (Cullen, 2002, pp. 117-27.)

There is one more thing to look out and that is the type of classroom interaction present in the narrative. Though the teacher is using an interactive approach in imparting language acquisition knowledge to these students, the interaction appears to be highly sensitive and formal. It is because there are no sings in this lesson that show the teacher is jumping the basic tenets of adhering to formal teacher-student relationship.


e. Simplifying L2

At any point of time during the narrative it would be worth understanding whether she makes any attempts at simplifying vocabulary, clause/ grammar, cohesion, and discourse.

The teacher sticks to the same vocabulary throughout and does not seem to be making any attempt at simplifying it. The choice of words that she has made in telling this story remains static throughout the narrative. There is no attempt either at distortion or enhancement.

Furthermore, the teacher does not simplify grammar but she makes all the efforts to convey the essence of the language through correct narrative techniques.

Nowhere in the narrative does the teacher use referring words, which help texts to establish cohesion. Cohesion is nothing but linking concepts or ideas along with relationships and controlling threads by way of substitutions, text connectives, ellipsis and word associations. Also contributing to the same are referring expressions like exophoric, cataphoric and anaphoric in nature, rhetorical questions, parallelism, and semantic fields. All these are absent in her narrative, but it should be noted that she uses repetition of structures and words throughout the narrative. That can be construed as cohesion. Since she uses not all but only one contributing factor, it can be said that she used cohesion in a controlled manner.

A typical example of discourse in teaching is the use of short phrases in a conversation; as short as two phrases sometimes and even something as long as the whole extended essay. Either of them shows various kinds of discourse. It is one of the four systems of language; the others being phonology, grammar and vocabulary. The teacher uses two of them in abundance i.e., phonology and short phrases. She uses sounds as part of a systemic organisation. While phonology focuses mainly on phonemics, it is also linked to onset and rhyme, syllable usage, articulatory gestures, more and articulatory features. On a equivalent side she also uses sign languages to communicate linguistic meaning. For example, in Line 6 (Just listen) she points towards her ears, a gesture that she repeats in Line 24 as well. In Line 7 (Don’t speak) she takes her land towards her lips and shows a sign of sealing them. In other words she uses articulatory gestures to encode meaning of what she talks (Brentari, 1998).

f. Elaborating L2

Having analysed the simplifying aspect of the narrative, it becomes important to assess whether or not the teacher uses repetition, paraphrasing, summarising, and signalling discourse and direction.

She uses what Prof. C.A. Mace proposed in 1932 — spaced repetition. It is a learning technique in which several intervals of time, often at increasing intervals, are used so that spacing could bring about a psychological effect in learning. This is also known by the names of spaced rehearsal, expanding rehearsal, graduated intervals, repetition spacing, repetition scheduling, spaced retrieval and expanded retrieval (Baddeley, 1997). The basic idea of this lesson is to make students retain in their memory what the teacher is talking (one reason why she does not want them to jot down anything), which fulfils the principle of spaced repetition. This method is highly regarded as the most useful one for acquiring vocabulary.

No, she does not use paraphrasing. In fact, paraphrasing does not at all fit into the type of a lesson plan as this and the students for whom it is targeting for. In essence paraphrasing means duplication of the source text word for word — in this case teacher s the source herself. Paraphrasing also means putting a source passage in one’s own words — again teacher is the source herself.

Her emphasis is on telling a story, the plot of which has she derived from (or so it appears) her personal life. She tells the story the way all stories are normally told, complete in essence and spirit. All along her thematic content stays intact, while she focuses on the form by different narrative tools like hand gestures, pauses and movements so as to make it persuasive. Her effort is to treat language seriously, which rules out any scope for summarising. She doesn’t use it.

Schiffrin (1987) has stated as this: «The analysis of discourse markers is part of the more general analysis of discourse coherence—how speakers and hearers jointly integrate forms, meaning, and actions to make overall sense out of what is said«.

In any discourse, the essence of the text is perceived by several relations that hold the text together. This coherence is equally felt by the speaker and the listener by deriving meanings from these relationships. In language discourse markers are pervasive while in linguistics they are difficult to define. Normally these markers are used to link up with rhetorical relations. It has been seen that if a pair of sentences is marked with discourse relations, it enables students to process the information quicker and better. In this talk this relation is present but the talker does not make it explicit.

h. Paralanguage

Most perceivable feature of this narrative is the teacher’s way of delivering the lesson; the use or non-use of speed, pausing, and pitch and intonation.

The teacher exerts excellent pace of narration. She has balanced it with the correct speed at correct intervals. Initially, she has gone slow, the once she has been rapid — at the time of signalling three pairs (Line 29, when she expects a quick response from them).

Her pauses have generally come from her slowness and absence of exaggeration. For example, students get a pause when she reaches out to the table on her left side and picks up a photoframe.

Intonation is one of the attributes of pitch variation. It is not a single system of levels and contours; instead that of the prosodic variations, it is a concomitant feature. The teacher here uses different prosodic systems like loudness, pitch-range, tempo and rhythmicality.


i. Visual support

Teachers are known to use certain external aids to heighten the classroom atmosphere so that they can raise the curiosity during a lecture. To accomplish this, they use realia, black and white boards, OHPs, PowerPoint slides and the web.

Realia is the use of concrete objects in the classroom that help the teacher link up and build background vocabulary and knowledge. In absence of realia, teachers generally uses models. But in this talk, the only time the teacher reaches realia is when she picks up the photoframe.

Even though the whiteboard is visible in the classroom, the teacher does not use it during the narrative.

The teacher has not used all these during the narrative.


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