Systems Presentation: Test-Teach-Test

I decided to continue with publishing a small series of posts focusing on Presentation stage.I know some teachers who consider presentation being a bit – well, how should I put it..? – boring. And it can be boring – if you deliver it in a teacher-centred way (like you do it with Presentation-Practice-Production approach). However, there’re some exciting ways to present FL/vocabulary/grammar point, and in this entry, I’ll tell you about one of them: TTT.

What is TTT?

TTT stands for Test-Teach-Test. This approach works for any level and is as simple as a pie. Consider though that you can only implement this approach with students who already have some previous learning experience since it requires them to use their passive knowledge!

So let’s say you want to teach prepositions. How would you do it using TTT?

Stage 1: Test 1

Test students’ knowledge. For example, give them a gap-fill exercise and ask to fill in the gaps with prepositions written in the box above the sentences. Students do the task individually, then check their answers in pairs. After that, they report their answers to you – and that is exactly when you can see how much they already know and how much you have to teach. Move on to Teach stage!

Stage 2: Teach

Here, you should build your presentation on mistakes students made in the previous stage. First, praise them for correct answers. Second, ask those students who got correct answers why they chose these answers. Make students teach each other! If they struggle to explain, help them. If it happens that no one got a correct answer for some sentence, tell the correct preposition and explain why this is correct. Don’t forget to ask CCQs (concept-check questions) to ensure that students got what you were saying!

If all students get wrong answers (which is quite unlikely to happen), make sure to comfort them and tell them that there’s nothing to worry about, and carry on with your teaching.

Stage 3: Test 2

You can do Test 2 either after practice or before it – you decide. If you want more time to pass between two tests then conduct some practice activities before Test 2. Otherwise, repeat Test 2 after Teach stage. Most likely, students will get all answers correct. Succeeding in Test 2 will give your students the sense of fulfilment (especially if Test 1 was a bit of a failure). After it’s done, you can move to semi-controlled practice and freer practice.

Depending on target language you wish to teach, you can design your Test 1 in a different way.

Let’s say you’re teaching Second Conditional. Provide students with some topics that will likely make them use ‘if’ (for example, ‘Imagine you have a time machine…’ or ‘Which technologies do you want to have?’). Let them talk and share their opinions. Listen carefully for any use of ‘if’. Once you hear it, put the sentence on the board. You might wish to stop Test 1 as soon as you hear the first ‘if’, or you can let students speak a bit longer in order to collect more examples.

If you don’t hear any ‘if’, then choose a couple of sentences where ‘if’ could be used and put them on the board – you will use these sentences to transform them into Second Conditional sentences. For example,

I want to have a spaceship! Then I can fly to the moon.


If I had a spaceship, I would fly to the moon.

Teach based on what you heard during their discussion. Elicit from students if they are talking about real things or not – probably not, because you don’t have a spaceship to fly to the moon, do you? So we’re talking about unreal things, yep. And when we’re talking about unreal things, we better use this structure.

For Test 2, ask students to discuss the same topic using Second Conditional.

When they are done, move on to semi-controlled practice and freer practice.

Pros and Cons

TTT is probably not the most reliable approach since, like with that box of chocolates Forrest Gump’s mother always talked about, you never know what you’re going to get – but it doesn’t mean you should give up on it without trying! TTT requires teachers to adapt quickly depending on Test 1 results, that’s true. While this might sound scary for beginning teachers, the more experienced you get the more you enjoy using TTT. Of course, if you’re a control freak you might want to stick to some less adventurous approaches (for example, Deep-End), but if you want to make your lessons more student-centred, if you like to improvise and get inspired by the feeling of something unknown, go for it!

I remember my first time ever to try using TTT: it was during CELTA, I taught a lesson on vocabulary (‘Emotions’). It wasn’t a particularly successful lesson since I failed to provide sufficient written record support during Test 1, but still, students enjoyed it, understood all the words (after Teach stage) and were able to use them successfully during freer practice. As we say in Russia, the first pancake you bake is always an ugly one, but just keep practising, and you’ll get there. Now, I enjoy teaching FL with TTT approach and I hope you’ll find it as exciting as I think it is!


*Next entry will introduce a sample lesson plan on teaching vocabulary with TTT. Feel free to download and adapt it to your needs! 


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