1. Teacher / Student

Teaching Ideas

‘Teacher –  Student’ refers to when one student takes on the role of a teacher and the other(s) follows the teacher’s lead. It works very well in pair-work, with both participants taking turns in the two roles, but it can also be very effective in small groups.

The reasons for adding this approach into the activities are manifold, but here are some of the more salient:

1) Students can go along at their own pace.Going at their own pace is important for many reasons, not the least of which is to provide each student with the feeling that the course can be adapted to his/her learning needs.  (Selection of who is to be paired up together can be an important element at times.)

2) Flexibility. Of course the stronger students can go through the tasks more quickly and those that need more time have it. But there is also room to play with the task. Deviate a little from the path, explore some subarea in greater depth, add a new dimension or interpretation to the existing model, or try completing the task in a different way. These variations can help motivate the student, increase the interest and even meet needs other than those set out in the primary objectives.

3) Student involvement is very high. The students are very concentrated on completing the task at hand. Because of the low number of people involved (normally 2 or 3), the interactions are more intimate, thus increasing the attention and investment given.

4) Extra details. It is not usually expedient to list all the exceptions, quirks, details and special considerations when covering a particular area of the language in the class, but many of them do have to be addressed. The task could be deliberately designed to incorporate or exclude some or many of those elements. You, the central teacher, can elicit or bring to light some interesting information directly to one pair of students as the occasion arises or as you see fit.

5) Benefit from different perspectives. In some ways, the ‘teacher’ can find their role easier (for example if s/he has the answer key) but has to learn to redirect that knowledge in a way that helps the student overcome his/her obstacles. If they share a common language, they could look for help there, or to focus on other references to provide some guidelines.

6) Intense & (more) relaxed. Either role requires a certain amount of focused attention but for most tasks it is the student that has to do the lion’s share of the thinking and producing. When the student switches roles, s/he can relax a bit and be comfortable seeing the answers next to the questions. This new teacher now can be the patient one, generously guiding his/her partner in their struggles to achieve the goal. Taking part in both roles maintains a strong investment of interest yet allows for breathers between those pockets of more intense dedication.

7) It’s not only me. When the struggling student takes on the role of the teacher, s/he can see their partner not getting it perfectly either. This becomes even more prevalent if the students don’t always work with the same partner.

8) Freedom for you. As the central guide, you are freed up to see how the students as individuals are making out as well as getting a feel for the general state of the class.


The task should be very clear. This includes the objectives (what they are working towards) as well as the instructions (how to go about it).

It’s usually better to model what you want done first, perhaps yourself with another student, and/or have two students do it with the class observing. You can fine-tune the directions and details during and after that example.

While monitoring the different groups, pay special attention to the interactions of the participants. Some may need extra guidance while others prefer to work it out on their own.

Make a point to listen in on every group. Some people feel uncomfortable with this at first, but they usually learn to accept it over time.

Give all groups some attention. While some may need more guidance than others, all those participating will appreciate being included in your distribution of time and effort.

Keep the students focused on the activity but allow them the freedom to experiment as long as you feel it’s productive or beneficial in some way.

Decide how and to what extent you want to interact with the groups. You may wish to keep it to a minimum or you may want to become momentarily involved, freely offering some of your own opinions and experiences. Correction can be done immediately (if it can be done quickly and simply), or left until the end of the activity when you address the whole class. Your approach may vary according to the current class you are teaching.

Give feedback at the end. Maybe several were having difficulties with a particular aspect and you may want to clarify some points or to later set up another activity which can better help them overcome those difficulties. Let them know where they’re making progress and encourage them to continue.


See how the teaching idea can be used in a classroom activity

Teacher / Student in THE ALPHABET

In pairs or small groups, one student becomes the teacher and the other(s) follows his or her directions.  The ‘teacher’ tells the students which letters to pronounce and helps out on occasion.


The ‘teacher’ gives a definition and quizzes the student(s) to see if s/he can recall the expression.

Teacher / Student in SMOOTH n STICKY

The ‘teacher’ asks &/or uses gestures to elicit target vocabulary (adjectives of size & shape) from the students.