Talkin’ About Teacher Talk Time


Recently a reader sent me a question regarding “Teacher Talk Time”- The time at the beginning of a lesson the teacher spends talking about the lesson before work time.  I have found that each teacher varies greatly regarding “TTT” (Teacher Talk Time), but the conversation came up regarding what amount of time is appropriate, and how much should be spent delivering the content vs. work time.

My 45 Minutes of art class can be broken down into the following:

TTT: 5-15 minutes (this all depends if we are in the beginning of the lesson, or middle) The introduction to a month-long lesson can take me 15-30 minutes to introduce and explain, but once we get into production mode, the TTT is greatly reduced to around 5 minutes to explain the next step.

Work Time: around 30 Minutes

Clean Up: around 5 Minutes

Time is so precious in our art rooms.  Students only get a few set minutes each week to create. We must set up the parameters for them to be able to do this, while still teaching and allowing for student interaction as well as clean up.  How do we get it all done?  Lets get the conversation going- I’d love to hear what you do, and what you think about this.

How much do you spend teaching the content?

How much time do you allow students to talk and contribute?

How much is left for art production and clean up? 

pssstttt. The AOE Class Assessment in Art Education starts tomorrow (Feb. 1st). Want to hop in? Sign up and pay ASAP to grab a spot!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • I give a 5 to 7 minute demo, then students go to their choice of stations. 35 min. kids at stations, 5 minute clean up. -in a perfect world :-)

  • I try and chunk the lesson so that my demos never last longer than 10 minutes. I balance my “show” with the kids “do”. I might start by going over what the plan is for the day, then hand out artwork from previous week or paper for kids to write their names on. When possible, I like to get everything set before demo so that they can start immediately. Or, if we are having an art history discussion, I will limit the discussion to 10 minutes, have the kids move and get all set up, then demo what they need to do. I am a big fan of using movement to help kids learn. –The more they move it seems like the longer I can hold their attention. Sometimes with the little ones, I will call the kids up to the rug, show one step, I say “go for it”, and then the kids return for the next step. It is a technique that really helps me differentiate and pace my lesson for my students. I still allow for open-ended creativity, but showing only a step or two at a time helps to get the basic structure down. With the older kids (4th-5th) I definitely give more work time. I still limit my demos, but stretch out the work time more since the concepts are more complicated.

    • Awesome, Theresa! I love movement examples you give. I also break down the lesson into small chunks, while striving to keep that creativity. You sound like a great teacher I wish I could come and visit!

  • Debby Sowell

    I am a first-year teacher, but starting later in life after a 20-year career in medicine. I guess I come to the field a little different. Being very organized in medicine, I bring that to the art classroom. I try to talk not longer than 10 minutes, which is SO HARD for me…and then my demo lasts 5-7 minutes. The thing that saves so much time for me is the use of ‘cubbies’…empty totes that slide into holders inside doors underneath my countertop. Each table has a cubby that they store unfinished work in. At the first of the year they named their ‘cubby’ and I provided masking tape, to which they wrote the name of their table and their teacher. I group the cubbies by class. Each table has a person who gets their cubbies each time and puts them back up. It saves SO MUCH time over handing out unfinished work each class :)

    • Another organized art teacher! A girl after my own heart!

  • My 45 min classes are set up much like you described in your post, but can vary depending on students discussion. And like Theresa said the more movement involved the better especially for the little ones.

  • my curriculum is designed to incorporate art history, art production, art criticism, and aesthetics, so overall about 1/4 of class time is actual art production. I teach middle school and have actually found that the more time I spend on history, criticism, and aesthetics, in addition to working on developing communication and literacy skills through artist statements and other writing assignments, the more the quality of the artwork improves, even though my classes aren’t getting any longer, and the art production time is getting shorter. When I introduce a new unit or concept, I often talk, or lead class discussion, for an entire class period. After that, but still in the beginning of an assignment, I talk for about 10 minutes. I very rarely do demos (other than with my 6th graders when demonstrate paper mache, to show the amount of glue and to reinforce the fact that they are sculpting with their hands, not just slapping wet paper arbitrarily on an armature.) Toward the end of an assignemrn, I usually spend 2-3 minutes reminding them of key concepts or things I have noticed need reminding, and then we get to work. We always spend about 5 minutes cleaning up.

    • Kari,
      Are you doing DBAE? I would love to see your model in action, it sounds like you’ve got a great program going.

  • sarah smith

    jessica – thanks for writing this response to my question. i am trying to reign in my talking and let the kids do more of it. it’s hard, though, because when you allow students to talk and brainstorm it can take a little longer. there were some helpful responses here.

    i have found that 5 minutes to clean up is enough, but i have started doing clean-up a few minutes BEFORE the last 5 so that there is time to process learning and have some kind of closure. sometimes we go right up until the very last second with clean-up and there isn’t a lot of time to really think about what we just did. ah, well. your blog is motivating me to be better. you must be a bionic woman! i seriously don’t understand how you have time and energy to do everything you do!

    • sarah smith

      well, 5 minutes to clean up is enough depending on the activity and the age level . . . :o)

    • Sarah,
      Great idea to consciously clean up a little earlier. I love it! I always struggle with finding time for that closure or quick formative assessment, but know how important it is. I also think clean up goes much better when you aren’t rushing students. You can take your time and make sure they follow the procedures correctly.
      Well, I sure don’t feel like superwoman this week (first week back in the classroom after maternity) but thank you! :)

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  • Clare

    Jessica my timeline is very similar to yours. But during talk time I get the students involved. I ask questions leading them to discovery! I might have them repeat vocab words. But some of our discussions sometimes get really involded because they are excited about what we are looking at. Having a prjector and ELMO helps!! It keeps them more engaged. When I demo I use the ELMO so this way no one has to move to demo table. This had been a BIG time saver for me. Of course organization is key in handing out supplies……helpers, color coded containers, table folders etc… Have student helpers of course helps with clean up as well. Thanks for your post!

  • Daevid

    Hi, Jessica!
    My classes are 50 minutes long. I start every class with “rule review” (no more than 2 minutes) and then a “remembering” (what we learned about last week). From there I intro what we will learn about this week, explain why it’s important and expand upon it via art history, examples, demos.(10 mins. for a continuing lesson/15-20 if starting a new unit) Before the kids go to work I do a quick test check (3-5 statements – 2 minutes tops). The kids cover their eyes with one hand and signal thumbs up or down with their other hand to answer tru/false statements taken directly from my presentation. This works very well to make sure the info has been absorbed or not. Five minutes is enough for clean-up unless we have used tempera paints. Then I allow a little longer. I always include a quick review of the lesson even if it is a carry-over lesson. When the class has completed a lesson I allow time to view everyone’s artwork and assess with the art criticism steps. Sometimes I have older kids trade artwork and assess each other work in writing. I love teaching!

    • Vivian

      Will you explain more your art critique steps and procedures? I like that you have the students exchange works and do it this way. I can never put all their work up to have a visual critique overall with the entire class as I just don’t have the space, but I sure do like the idea of exchanging work and thinking critically about it and writing about it.

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