CELTA - Interaction patterns in the classroom

Classroom management
Interaction Patterns
An important part of learning to be a teacher is classroom management and a big part of THAT is who is doing what in the classroom at any given time. In this video, I go through the three main interaction patterns and give you some great tips for a successful class.

In a class situation, whether you're online or face to face, there are three main types of interaction pattern that are possible between you and the learners. If you're on a CELTA course, you'll have to identify these on your lesson plan and write them in a column probably. So, what are they? And how do you choose what's most appropriate for each part of the lesson? And are there any differences when you're teaching online? Want some helpful thoughts and EIGHT top tips. Keep watching.

I'm Jo Gakonga from ELT training.com, I've got over 20 years experience of being a CELTA tutor and assessor. And if you like this, check out the other things on my website.

So interaction patterns, if you're thinking, What's she talking about? This is what happens in the classroom between the learners and the teacher. So this might be the teacher talking but learning a language is a practical skill, so you need to give the learners tasks to do and think about whether those tasks are done best alone or collaboratively.

Let's look at the different interaction patterns that are possible. The first one is the teacher talking. And this pattern is the one I guess, which is probably the first one that springs to mind when you think of a class. The teacher giving learners information and talking to them. There are of course points in the lesson when you do need to tell them stuff, but when you're teaching a language, it's hard to imagine a situation where the teacher would just be talking in a monologue without asking questions to make sure that the learners were understanding following what you were saying. So our first interaction pattern is teacher to learners.

Top tip number one, this is one to be careful of, especially if you're feeling nervous, because it's really easy, especially online, to slip into a monologue. Don't do this. If you're interested in thinking about teacher talk, I've got another video on that here. But this teacher to learners interaction pattern IS useful if you're giving instructions, or explanations or feedback, or on a task where you're addressing the whole class, and you want to elicit answers from them to involve them.

Top tip here is to nominate learners to answer your questions. If you just throw out the questions, definitely your more confident learners, or the ones who are quicker chat typing in the chat box are the ones who are going to answer. So share the love around and nominate people. Another good way to get around this online is to get people to answer in the chat box…but tell them not to post it until you tell them. When you've given them all time to write, THEN tell them to post their answers at the same time. And then you can see what they all know.

Top tip number four. Another way to involve more learners in this interaction pattern if you're online, is to get everybody to contribute their ideas to a shared screen. Google Jam board is great for this.

Okay, I have a warning for you. Some teachers get a bit over fond of this pattern. So the learners might be engaged and interested. And you might have a nice rapport between them and you as a teacher and so it feels as if the learners are participating. But you need to be aware of who is doing the majority of the talking here. Let's do a bit of maths. If we've got a 40 minute lesson for the sake of example, and we've got a smallish class of 10 learners, the teacher is speaking to each learner in turn, so she's speaking for half of the time. This means that the very best each of the 10 learners get is two minutes speaking to time each. This is just not enough. So top tip number five is to get the working collaboratively as much as possible.

Pair work and group work. It's not rocket science, if they're speaking in pairs, or in small groups, with the teacher monitoring around, there's much more opportunity for them to actually use the language that they're learning that you're trying to teach them, and this is, of course, what we want. There are other advantages to working collaboratively too. There's an increased potential for learning, you actually learn from each other, and it will usually increase people's confidence. If I'm not sure of the answer, but my friend’s a bit more confident than I am, then that will probably help me to feel more confident and also, maybe I can help my friend.

Top tip six is to think about what the best size for groups might be. Now online, you might want slightly bigger groups so that you have fewer breakout rooms to get round on monitoring. But the problem with larger groups is that usually someone gets left out, so group size is probably kept her best around three or four, not too much bigger than that. It will depend a bit on the size of your class, of course. And whether you're working online or face to face, as I said.

While they're working in pairs, or in groups, you need to monitor check their progress and this is easier in a face to face environment, because you can see everyone. When you're working on line though, you can still see who's got their mics on and who's talking.

Tip seven is another method of monitoring groups online and that's if they're doing a shared writing task, to get them to collaboratively write on a shared Google Doc. That means that you can see everybody's work at the same time. And it really helps to see if people are struggling.

In a physical classroom, learners can get up and mingle and this is a good way of changing partners but it can be a bit chaotic. So Top Tip number eight is to organize this. One idea is to have a line of learners here. And another line opposite at a distance. To change partners, you just get the learners in this line to move down a place. And the last one to go around to the end. This means everyone then has a new partner.

The interaction pattern we haven't mentioned is learners working individually and of course, this is useful, particularly if you want to know what each of your learners can do. So if it's part of some kind of formative assessment, for example. Learners sometimes like to work individually, too. They like to have a go at doing something on their own, before perhaps collaborating or comparing with a partner. So there might be good reasons for doing some tasks like this. And of course, some tasks need to be done individually; it's really not possible to read in a pair or listen in a pair. In larger classes as well, it's easier to control learners when they're doing things on their own. But this means that teachers may often see this as a default position, and not as a pedagogical decision. So I think it's worth really considering WHY you're getting your learners to work individually and not collaboratively.

And a final Top Tip number nine - an extra one! When you're writing your lesson plan, I think it's really helpful to identify these interaction patterns on it because that way, you can check that there's a good variety of interaction, and that you've got a generally learner centered approach to your class with plenty of opportunity for the learners to talk.

I hope that these thoughts and tips help. Can you remember all nine? See if you can write them down. No, go on. No cheating. It's a great way to remember things. And it's an easy technique to use with learners. To you might want to try that in your class anyway thank you for watching and I'll see you soon. Bye.
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