When your students are on-task and engaged in a speaking activity where are you and what are you doing?

This may sound like an odd question as you could be doing a million different things. You may be thinking about what to do next, you may be cleaning the board and tidying up your desk, you may be looking out of the window counting the minutes until the end of the class…. or you may be monitoring your students.

Monitoring styles vary greatly according to teacher, from strolling wisely around the class to sitting on a chair with wheels whizzing around. There’s no right or wrong way to monitor your students while they’re doing speaking activities in class, but here are four simple tips to ensure efficient monitoring.

  • Take notes
    As you listen to your students make notes of the most important mistakes they make and think about how you are going to give feedback to the class. One way of doing this is to have a ‘correction slot’ in the class. For more information about correcting mistakes look at the Error Correction tip in the archive:
    It’s a good idea to make notes of good language you hear too and to give some positive feedback rather than focusing only on the mistakes.
  • Be mobile
    To monitor effectively you’ll have to be able to move around the class and get in between the tables. Think about the classroom layout as you’re planning the class and if the furniture is moveable, take the time to arrange it so you can monitor comfortably.
  • Be at your students’ eye level
    If your students are sitting down to do the activity it’s better for you to monitor by crouching down or sitting down too. If you’re crouching down you don’t have to be looking at your students, in fact it’s often better if you’re not. You can be looking away but listening and making notes. If this isn’t your usual monitoring style students may find it a bit odd at first (especially if most of their teachers usually sit behind a desk to give a class) so explain to students what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you find crouching down uncomfortable try to put a chair near the students you are monitoring. If you’re at their level it’s much easier to tune in to hear individuals.
  • Be available but not intrusive
    As you’re monitoring and making notes students may ask you questions and need you to feed in new vocabulary. Try to be available to help your students and let them know it’s okay to ask you if they get really stuck. However, try not to intrude and over correct. This will be demotivating for your students. The odd on-the-spot correction may be justified, but if you over do it they may lose the will to carry on with the task.

Happy monitoring!


By Jo Budden



Hello Jo Simple as it may be, this practice adds up to a whole lot of what we do at Cultura Inglesa in Brazil (wonder if you've had the chance to come by, as I understand you've already worked in Brazil). There's a couple of good reasons as to why we do this, but foremost is that it caters a lot for the students' sense of progress. It's true that to most of them this practice still feels a bit strange, epecially because at regular schools this is not what happens at all. But as we teach smaller groups in language schools, monitoring suits the class style perfectly. I recall one particular moment when a beginner student noticed that I wasn't just standing by the board (a place where I find particularly comfortable to do my monitoring from), and interrupted what she was doing with her partner to cry "My goodness! He is listening to us!" They grasped very quickly what I was doing and value this very much. They saw that I was still with them, although not interacting, and at the correction moment, they understood how it workd. Some of them were (and often are) surprised when they realized the mistakes they made and saw that they didn't go unnoticed (at least not my me). This helps them to understand more than just how a piece of language works, they see that not necessarily there's sync between understanding and usage. Another bit I think is worth mentioning is that this is also a moment when stronger students, or students with 'a different learning style', feel that they can approach you to ask about other issues. They feel as though you were giving yourself a break, or doing nothing. I even experienced a student getting angry thinking I deliberatly wanted to give my back to them. It's of the utmost importance to make it very clear to learners that this is a very 'active activity' (excuse the pleonasm) for the teacher. And that they are the ones to profit from it. I would like to hear what other teacher have to say about this. Is it regular practice for you? How do you do this? How did/do your students react to it?

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