Classroom Discourse #ELTchat summary


August 5, 2013 by gemmalunn

This is a summary of the 9pm BST #eltchat summary from Wednesday 26th June 2013. The topic was ‘Classroom Discourse’ and the pre- reading was the post Classroom Discourse by Geoff Jordan.

It was a bit of a slow, quiet chat with reasons ranging from long days and problems with TweetDeck to hot summer evenings!

Definition and types of classroom discourse

After some pleasantries we got onto defining the topic, but I‘m not sure we actually got a solid definition of classroom discourse so here’s one from the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics:

“The type of language used in classroom situations…often different in form and function from language used in other situations because of the particular social roles students and teachers have in classrooms and the kinds of activities they usually carry out there”.

Photo from @NotyetLanguage eltpics

Marissa then suggested “…analysing types of teacher talk & student talk first?> What do you think” @Marisa_C

“suppose irf/display talk and real talk is one difference” @LizziePinard irf = initiation response feedback

“and some t talk is classroom management & giving info” @MarjorieRosenbe

“two very important functions of teacher talk – Informing and Directing – the third one perhaps being Eliciting?” @Marisa_C

 “The distinction between discourse that is ‘real’ or pedagogical is an interesting one that I hadn’t considered before” @theteacherjames

@theteacherjames: The distinction between discourse that is ‘real’ or pedagogical . #eltchat >as in talking 2 SS in order to really listen?” @naomishema

@naomishema A real conversation vs a conversation with a specific learning outcome in mind so the true meaning is less important” @theteacherjames

@naomishema A very good point of comparison!” @theteacherjames

“certainly works in B2+ Lower levels also- thoughts? @MarjorieRosenbe

@MarjorieRosenbe @naomishema I think it’s something we do with all levels at some point, mostly subconsciously” @theteacherjames

Classroom discourse and class size

There was a brief conversation about the type of discourse used with larger class sizes:

“Has anybody encountered anything on the connection to class size? The larger the class the more T talk becomes lecture like, IMO” @naomishema

Phtoto from @eannegrenoble eltpics

“agree, difficult to have ‘natural’ conversations with 35 students!” @GemL1

@naomishema I don’t have that experience, but I imagine it’s very hard to resist when you’re in that situation” @theteacherjames

“In previous course there was an external event &only 22 ss showed up to class (of 38). Really felt the difference” @naomishema

“think that Richard Smith spoke about TTT in large classes at IATEFL this year –… #eltchat@teacherphili

@naomishema no but there might be sth in the study i tweeted – class size abt 40” @Marisa_C  – “how teacher talk affects learning

Ways of analysing classroom discourse

“Aren’t new teachers told to record themselves to see how much they talk?” @MarjorieRosenbe

“they are but not all teacher talk is to chuck out so some evaluation tools useful” @Marisa_C

Marisa then gave a link to some very useful discourse analysis tools, this link contains the BIAS (Brown’s Interaction Analysis System) 1975  This BIAS analysis is a good one to apply to recordings to analyse one’s talk and CD in general” @Marisa_C, Bowers’ Categories of Verbal Behaviour in the Language Classroom – 1980, FIAC (Flanders Interaction Analysis Categories) 1970, and Sinclair & Coulthard’s List of “Acts” (1975) #ELTchat

@muranava added to this list – there’s some int analysis projects e.g. The Dortmund Historical Corpus of Classroom… #eltchat

We then discussed some ways these tools could be used to discover your own classroom discourse profile:

“maybe recording various parts of classes & categorising them, see if it matches what u thought your CD was / should be” @GemL1

“with a grid or checklist e.g. TQ TL etc – then tot up and see how you measure up!” @Marisa_C

“many Ts using such checklists – ticking appropriate column ever 3-4 seconds or so often shocked at their CD profile” @Marisa_C

@Marisa_C I keep hearing about the effect of checklists used in this manner but I can’t imagine teaching and ticking off items!” @naomishema

@naomishema you couldn’t – you would need to record your lesson and do afterwards – or have a colleague do it” @Marisa_C

“I think what u were talking about earlier-how natural lang use in the classroom is – u could create a diff checklist for that” @Marisa_C

 “…. an even simpler way is to reduce to just three simple categories – Instruction – Direction – Elicitation” #eltchat @Marisa_C

saw an interesting talk today about CA vs what ppl thought they did in interactions, big differences… was tutor to ss, ss-ss and tutor to tutor interaction analysed” @LizziePinard

 “@LizziePinard your idea is another good way how much T to Ss etc” @Marisa_C

Finally, we talked about observations:

“having colleagues observe you is very enlightening!” @LizziePinard

“but observing yourself is a very good second option!” @theteacherjames

“sometimes the only good option available to many Ts!” @Marisa_C

“Any time I’ve been involved in observing/being observed, I’ve found the feedback very valuable …… It helps me to see others and how they work. Others also can see what I fail to see on my own.” @nathanghall

“I found the book by Gebhard and Oprandy, Language Teaching Awareness to be really good @nathanghall

“yes, just read this it’s really useful, ‘Classroom Observation Tasks’ by Wajnryb is also useful for obs ideas” @GemL1


Pre chat reading:

A good summary of analysis tools:

The Dortmund Historical Corpus of Classroom English:

A study about how teacher talk affects learning

Researching large classes: a questionnaire with impact:… #eltchat

A recent #ELTchat about Teacher Questions, highly connected to our topic summary here:

Gebhard and Oprandy, Language Teaching Awareness:


2 thoughts on “Classroom Discourse #ELTchat summary

  1. ratnavathy says:

    Very interesting ELTChat there, Emma. Somehow I’ve never been able to join any of these chatrooms! Really got to do something about it.

    Anyway, in light of classroom discourse, many useful points have been highlighted above. Apart from class size, I’d say students proficiency level also strongly influences classroom discourse. The objective of TTT in a higher proficiency class may differ than that of a beginner class (where classroom discourse is deliberately repetitive or rather, standardized set of language and instruction setting is used to familiarize learners to the TL.

    Also, the course type as well as class size also played a part. When I had to teach research skills (in Business English : Academic Writing) to a class size of 30, there really wasn’t much leeway, except for lecture style classes (that was when I tried the flipped classroom method and it worked!)


  2. gemmalunn says:

    Thanks Ratna,

    You should definitely try and join a #eltchat when they start again after the summer.
    I very much agree that students’ proficiency level affects classroom discourse. Also agree with you re class size, I’m now teaching 6-15 students and the CD is v.different from when I had 25+ students in Korea!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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