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Interrupting Students in your TEFL Class

Poster for the film Girl, Interrupted.

Do not interrupt her.

Interrupting Students is not a good idea in your TEFL classroom.

In everyday speech we interrupt each other, finish each other’s sentences and so on. This should be avoided in the classroom. Students (especially at lower levels) need to have time to gather their thoughts, often to translate from their MT into the TL‏‎, and to think about phrasing.

Interrupting them just breaks this silence and can often lead to discouraged students. In some cultures, it is also considered rude to interrupt someone who is speaking.

Look at this typical example:

T: What’s happening here? [shows picture of a man swimming in the sea]
S: There is… one man… er…
T: swimming in the sea. Good.

No it’s not good! Instead, the teacher should embrace the silence and wait for the student to gather their thoughts and complete the sentence.

If you do not do this, the students will subconsciously realize that they do not need to finish their utterances and speak and that the teacher will do the work for them. If, on the other hand, you remain silent and wait for the student they will understand that they need to work a little harder and keep going in class.

Useful Links

Teacher Talking Time – how to speak less in class and allow your students to speak more

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