How Often Should Teachers Use “THE CHAIR”? A Comment

I just read the latest blog post, entitled : Increasing Student Talking Time , which is part of the  fascinating series “The Celta Trainer’s Diary ” by Chia Suan Chong.

Epstein Family Photos

Taking into account that I hadn’t had a clue to what a Celta or a Delta was until I entered blogoshpere, a year and a half ago, I find such posts (by Chia and others)  fascinating, as large portions are certainly relevant and true of teaching in any EFL classroom.

I may sound awfully nitpicky, but tonight the part about how a teacher should sit down a great deal reminded me that nonetheless, these posts are about a very specific course in a different place.

Its all about the number of students in the class.

In my class of 37 adult students I actually could be phsysically seen by all students as the room we are in now has a stage. I do not feel very comfortable as yet on the stage as I’m not an actress and this isn’t a performance. The stage is certainly a barrier of the sort Chia mentions. In the previous classroom the students in the back would not have seen me if I had sat down. The rooms are very large.

Standing up allows me to easily move to the part of the classroom where one student may be talking. In this manner I show attentiveness and draw the other students’ attention to the speaker.

In such a  large class, group work is the way to let students talk more. I simply must be on my feet so that I can move from group to group.

Epstein Family Photos

Pacing can also be very beneficial at times. While I’m aware that Chia’s post was focusing on getting students to TALK more and I’m digressing, pacing a bit actually helps students pay attention. They know I can see that they are texting or trying to do next week’s assignment in class right now and they give up trying and focus.

Finally, I feel that keeping such a large class together, learning and progressing, requires a lot of energy on my part. That energy translates into a lot of standing.

I only sit on the chair when I’m using the projector and can point to things shown on the screen using the mouse attached to the computer on my desk.

It must be stated that the course I’m teaching focuses on reading comprehension and not speaking and as such isn’t related to the post I’m commenting on. But that IS the beauty of having one own’s blog – I can write about the links formed in my own head!

7 thoughts on “How Often Should Teachers Use “THE CHAIR”? A Comment”

  1. Hi Naomi,
    It’s unbelievable how quickly you have responded to my blogpost with a post of your own! This must be a record!
    If you don’t mind, I’m going to add a link to this post from my blogpost…is that okay?

    You are right in saying that it is dependent on the number of students in the classroom…
    But I have recently taught 25 Brazilian teachers in a classroom and adopted the centralised chair position.
    I think this could be possible either by (a) putting students in a horseshoe position, or (b) putting students in a cabaret format (several tables with students sitting around each table)

    (a) would probably work better for speaking and conversation lessons, while (b) works better if they are doing lots of group tasks or writing work.

    How about using this as an experiment and giving it a try, and seeing if it makes any difference (positive or negative) to classroom dynamics and student engagement?
    Then you can blog about it!
    I’d love to read the results!


  2. Thank you Chia for linking to my post!
    Since I’m delighted to report that I wll be teaching this course again soon, I will have a chance to experiment and report back. This course is basically over.

  3. Hi Naomi (and Chia)
    I was also taught to sit on a chair in class when talking to students and swivel around when monitoring – a habit I’ve formed and stuck to pretty firmly throughout my teaching career. It has even led to clashes with admin staff when I had to occasionally steal their swivel chairs and take them to my classroom.

    1. Leo!
      That’s very interesting! Were you taught that in England? What is the largest class you have tried it with?
      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Yes, in London on my initial CELTA course many years ago. I’d say the largest class I’ve ever taught sitting in a swivel chair was 20 -25 students. It really depends on the classroom set up. Why?

  5. Leo!
    Thanks for coming back to answer my question.
    I’m concerned about the laws of physics, or optics. How many students can there be in a class when the teacher is sitting down and everyone can see her/him? As Chia said, it is worth experimenting, but I’m really interested in hearing from people who have tried it with large classes. I’m teaching in really large lecture halls that have stages in them…

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