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Interaction Patterns – Part 1

How to get the most out of interaction patterns

We will all probably agree that varied interaction patterns contribute positively to classroom dynamics and can also be an instrumental classroom management tool. Let’s explore in a bit more detail what each individual pattern can do for us in a classroom.

Teacher to the whole class

This might as well be called the love-or-hate pattern. Depending on your training and your setting, you probably either feel fairly comfortable teaching like this or you might believe that this pattern is doomed as it tends to be associated with high TTT (teacher talking time). Whether you like it or not, it does have its place in a language classroom.


This pattern certainly gives you, the teacher, a greater amount of control over the class. Ideally, everybody can see you and hear what you’re saying and everybody pays attention. There’s a sense of belonging in this pattern.


It can lead to a high teacher talking time, especially during explanation stages. It also tends to place the students into the role of receptacles with very little responsibility for their own learning: ‘I the teacher will now pour knowledge into your heads.’ The problem is that you have no way of telling what happens with that knowledge after the pouring is done. Is the student actually critically thinking about what you’ve just presented to them or are they thinking about last night’s soccer match?

Suitable classroom tasks:

That being said, there are stages in the lesson that would be very difficult to carry out in any other way. Namely:

giving instruction
giving feedback
error correction
showing visuals
board work
explanations of grammatical items & new vocabulary

In Part 2 of this post, we will explore the benefits and pitfalls of individual work.