Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol 2, No 5 (2012), 980-988, May 2012

Interactive Patterns and Teacher Talk Features in an EFL Reading Class in a Chinese University— A Case Study with Communicative Teaching Method

Ping Zhang


The purpose of this case study is to explore the patterns of teacher-student interaction and the strategies that the teacher adopts to facilitate student learning and promote comprehension in a reading class in a Chinese university. The researcher made an audio-recording of one session of the reading class she taught, transcribed the recording and analyzed the teacher-student interaction, looked into teacher talk and student talk. The emphasis was on teacher-talk. The study finds that the interaction pattern in this reading class follows the IRF (Initiation-Response-Feedback) or IRE (Initiation-Response-Evaluation) pattern recognized by many researchers. In order to promote understanding and elicit student responses, the teacher consciously repeats her questions and chooses alternative and tag questions. The teacher’s feedback toward students’ responses in class is to encourage and guide the students’ inductive or deductive thinking. The research helps the teacher to find strengths and weaknesses in her way of organizing class activities and some language issues which she had not previously realized. The findings of the research may shed some light on the problems that non-native English teachers face and help them to consciously improve their instructional language as well as teaching strategies on their way of professional development.


teacher talk; IRF or IRE patterns; repetition; self-correction; feedback



[1] Allwright, R. L. (1984). The importance of interaction in classroom language learning. Applied Linguistics, 5, 156-171.

[2] Casa, T. M., & DeFranco, T. C. (2002). Examining the nature and role of discourse in the teaching of mathematics: A case study of two preservice teachers. Retrieved January 14, 2011, from

[3] Cazden, C. B. (1986). Classroom discourse. In M. C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 432–464). New York: Macmillan

[4] Cazden, C. B. & Beck, S. W. (2003). Classroom discourse. In A. C. Graesser, M. A. Gernsbacher & S. R. Goldman (Eds.), Handbook of discourse processes (pp.165–197). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

[5] Chaudron, C. (1982). Vocabulary elaboration in teachers' speech to L2 learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, No.4, 170-180.

[6] Chaudron, C. (1988). Second Language Classrooms: Research on Teaching and Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[7] Ellis, Rod & Barkhuizen, Gary. (2005). Analyzing Learner Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[8] Gaies, S. J. (1977). The nature of linguistic input in formal second language learning: Linguistic and communicative strategies in ESL teachers' classroom language. In H. D. Brown, C. A. Yorio, & R. H. Crymes (Eds.), On TESOL '77: Teaching and learning English as a second language: Trends in research and practice (pp. 204-212). Washington, DC: TESOL.

[9] Gaies, S. J. (1979). Linguistic input in first and second language learning. In F. Eckman & A. Hastings (eds.), Studies in First and Second Language Acquisition. Rowley. Mass: Newbur House.

[10] Ghabanchi, Zargham & Malekzadeh, Shirin. (2011) The Study of EFL Teacher Discourse in Reading Skill--Using Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy. International Journal of Linguistics Vol. 3, No. 1, E18 doi:10.5296/ijl.v3i1.812

[11] Harmer, J. (2005). The Practice of English language Teaching (3rd edition). Harlow: Longman.

[12] Hedge, T. (2002). Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

[13] Hellermann, J. (2003). The interactive work of prosody in the IRF exchange: Teacher repetition in feedback moves. Language in Society, Vol.32: 79-104. Retrieved December 19, 2011, from

[14] Howard, Amanda. (2010). Is there such a thing as a typical language lesson? Classroom Discourse, Vol. 1, Issue 1, 82-100

[15] Liu, Yanfen & Zhao Yuqin. (2010). A Study of Teacher Talk in Interactions in English Classes. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics. Vol. 33, No. 2, 76-86

[16] Long, M.H. (1981). Input, Interaction and Second Language Acquisition. In Winnitz (ed.): Native Language and Foreign Acquisition. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 379, 259-78.

[17] Long, M.H. (1983). Native Speaker / Non-native Speaker Conversation and the negotiation of Comprehensible Input. Applied Linguistics Vol. 4, No.2, 126-41.

[18] McCarthy, M. (2002). Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

[19] Meng, Xuemei & Wang, Xuesong. (2011). Action Study of Teacher’s Language on EFL Classroom Interaction. Theory and Practice in Language Studies. Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 98-104 doi:10.4304/tpls.1.1.98-104

[20] Mercer, N. (1995). The Guided Construction of Knowledge. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

[21] Mortimer, E. F., Machado, A. H. (2000). Anomalies and Conflicts in Classroom Discourse. Science Education, Vol. 84, 429 - 444.<429::AID-SCE1>3.0.CO;2-#

[22] Sinclair, J. M., & Coulthard, R. M. (1975). Towards an analysis of discourse: The English used by teachers and pupils. London: Oxford University Press.

[23] Sinclair, J.M & D. Brazil. (1982). Teacher Talk. London: Oxford University Press.

[24] Smith, F. et al. (2006). The impact of interactive whiteboards on teacher-pupil interaction in the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, British Educational Research Journal. Vol. 32, No.3, 443-457

[25] Viiri, J & Saari, H. (2006). Teacher Talk Patterns in Science Lessons: Use in Teacher Education. Journal of Science Teacher Education. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from

[26] William Littlewood and Baohua Yu. (2011). First language and target language in the foreign language classroom. Language Teaching, 44, pp 64-77 doi:10.1017/S0261444809990310

[27] Willis, J & Willis, D(Eds.) (2002). Challenge and Change in Language Teaching. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

[28] XU, Xiao-hui. (2010). Analysis of Teacher Talk on the Basis of Relevance Theory. Canadian Social Science Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 45-50. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from

[29] Zargham Ghabanchi & Shirin Malekzadeh. (2011). The Study of EFL Teacher Discourse in Reading Skill--Using Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy. International Journal of Linguistics. Vol. 3, No. 1.E18.

Full Text: PDF

Theory and Practice in Language Studies (TPLS, ISSN 1799-2591)

Copyright @ 2006-2014 by ACADEMY PUBLISHER – All rights reserved.