In the previous two posts, I looked at the ...

“You only talk to the teacher” syndrome.

Yes, it seems that the claim ‘you don't talk to fellow students; you just talk to the teacher’ can be seem as a way to attract students into the classroom. In the previous two posts, I explain how it is a bad trend, only likely to take you down, and how the basis of modern language teaching is pair and group-work with other students, all in order to take you up.

But why does this claim 'you only talk to the teacher' happen? Because it attracts students, who feel talking to other students is ‘junk input’. Students think ‘what can I learn from talking with other students? I'll just learn all their mistakes.’ Maybe I need to explain a little about this.

When talking to other students, you …

  • learn talking: you learn how to be more fluent, since you don’t have a teacher interrupting you with feedback. To repeat: talking/fluency is the basis of communication, and 1/4 of your mark in the IELTS Speaking Test,
  • gain confidence, since you feel a bit freer, knowing that a teacher isn't checking everything, ready to pounce on you if you make a grammar mistake,
  • become accustomed to different accents and speaking mannerisms (which is the basis of good listening),
  • develop the accent which is natural to you, and therefore helps you speak best and most naturally,
  • find out about fellow students, get to know them better, and learn about life.


So, in my classes, you’ll talk solidly and regularly with fellow students, but in various ways, with guidance and assistance. This speaking is 'controlled', 'semi-controlled', or 'freer', and is based on …


  • grammar patterns (eg. 'Have you ever..', 'When did you last...', and 'How often do you...'),
  • speaking patterns (eg. 'divide it into good and bad'),
  • functions (eg. complaining, with models on the screen, such as 'You know what really annoys me about...'),
  • topic-based speaking (as in the real IELTS Speaking Test),


… all with structure and cues projected onto the screen to help you do it better and more accurately. You will change partners regularly while I patrol around taking notes, and then there is a feedback on grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation issues at the end - that is, the accuracy stage is at the end. This is how it is meant to be, in a good class with a properly-trained TEFL teacher. Click Teacher Andrew's Teaching Method to find out more about my way of teaching.

If you talk only to a teacher, it just stops all these benefits from happening. So, when you hear the boasts, ‘you’ll talk only to the teacher’, think very carefully.


Find the meaning of the underlined words, also repeated below.

  • fluent(adj)
  • to pounce (v)
  • to be accustomed (adj/V3)
  • mannerism(n)
  • to patrol (v)




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