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TalkTime is easy??

A new volunteer joined me at Talk Time.  We had never met before, only talked on the phone.   Beforehand, I tried to describe what kind of ESL teaching she would be doing,

“You’ll be facilitating student conversation, listening and asking questions.”
“Oh! It sounds like a Talk Time.”
“It IS a Talk Time.”
“Oh, that’s easy.”

I was a shade skeptical.  I’ve known wonderful people who have foundered on Talk Time because their brilliant personalities kept popping out and stunning the students into submissive spectatorhood.  It’s not easy to veil a brilliant personality.   Pulling the veil back a bit from time to time can inspire and relax students, but if facilitators don’t stay low profile and major on listening, the students won’t get to be the stars. 

So, my new volunteer came and every one introduced themselves.  A picture of a leprechaun was on the table.  One of the students asked me,
“What is that?”
“Hmm.  Does anyone here know?”
“I know,” said D.
“Do you want to tell the others?”
“No.”  (She smiled.)

The new volunteer whispered to me, “That’s great.  You didn’t answer the question.  You asked if the students could do it.”

After observing the students divide into pairs and groups and converse amicably for some time, the new volunteer said,

“Do you care if they don’t follow the topic sheet?  They started with it but now they’re talking about something else.” 
“Nope.  Don’t care.  As long as everyone is engaged, it’s all good.”

A little later, she said,

“This is great.  I love it!  The students do the talking.  It’s like what I do at work, where I listen to my clients’ stories!”

Talk Time is not easy IMHO.  But my new volunteer is off to a great start – she’s observant, asks questions, relates what she sees to her own experience and loves listening to the students.

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