What’s wrong with listening? (2)
Some basic problems and ideas on how to solve them in a Student-friendly way.
Hello 🙂 Today, as promised, I’m going to present some more of my (hopefully practical) tips and ideas on solving problems connected with teaching listening comprehension. Off we go…
A bit of repetition perhaps, but it’s really important: most Students don’t know how to plan their time efficiently in order to perform a listening task. If we don’t teach them properly how to organize this time, they are more likely to fail. What instructions is it advisable to give to Students to remedy the situation?
- Read the instructions and the task carefully. Make sure you understand what you are asked to do (give specific information, take notes, answer open questions, etc.) and how many times you will hear the recording.
- Before you listen, try to imagine what the recording will be about. Sometimes it is easy to predict.
- If you have a gap-filling exercise to do, try to guess the missing words or phrases before you listen. If you cannot determine what is missing, at least identify the part of speech or type of word (e.g. number, date, name, adjective, etc.). That will help you understand what you need to ‘listen for’ when you hear the recording.
- When you listen for the first time (in the case of the “traditional” model when you listen to a recording twice), do your best, try to understand as much as you can, but also relax. Attempt to note down as many answers as possible.
- Use the pause between listening for the first and the second time and the minute right after the second listening to complete your answers. Your short-term memory will provide you with the required information (at least some) even though you have actually stopped listening, because what you have just heard is still in your brain.
- While listening for the second time, check the answers that you already have, correct them if necessary and complete what is missing (I call it CCC: “check, correct and complete”).
- Don’t get distracted while listening. Don’t talk or look at your friends’ answers. Concentrate. It’s listening time.
Attractive or not…
Our “digital age” Students are used to acquiring information from different visual media, so traditional listening exercises may not be very attractive to them anymore. Therefore, it is our role to show our Students the benefits they will gain from doing such “CD player” audio tasks. We also need to make our Students interested in the subject matter of any listening task by, for instance, showing them some video materials related to the topic and developing some relevant tasks to go with the videos. An example – if your Students need to listen to “another boring” recording related to the Nestlé company (Business Result Pre-Intermediate Student’s Book, pages 8-9) and do “another boring” task, show them first two or three Nestlé commercials to entertain them and make them engaged before you play the CD.
If you guide your Students properly, they will not only become interested in the topic, but also aware that they really know the company and use its products every day. The listening task will then become more digestible.
If you have a choice, it would be a good idea to do more “video listening” – that is, to prepare traditional listening tasks on the basis of video materials, so that Students may not only hear people in communicative situations, but also see them. Such tools help our Students understand the context of any such situation and also make them more engaged in listening tasks, because they become more attractive (visually).
An example of a video-listening task:
Soft skills in business
The content is excellent, although the speakers talk fast and the sound quality isn’t the best. Students watch the video from 00.00 to 04.00 (at least twice) and answer the following questions:
- What does the phrase ‘from across the pond’ mean?
- What are soft skills, according to Mark?
- What 2 types of handshakes are there mentioned? What’s wrong with the second one?
- What shouldn’t you do when you get a business card?
- How do you make yourself look arrogant/interested when you sit down at a meeting?
- Why shouldn’t people sit facing the window at a meeting?
Then the answers can be checked in a group, although students should first compare and discuss their answers in pairs.
It is the task of a Teacher to make sure that all listening tasks are carried out using the best quality equipment, copies and recordings available. We need to be able to predict and prevent any associated problems. For example:
- If there may be no CD player available for your Students at your school (because at the given time there are more Student groups than CD players and computers) – take your laptop just in case.
- Before you play any recording in the classroom, check its quality. The sound (and video) quality should be very good. An exception may be higher-level Students who may be challenged to do a listening task on the basis of a poor-quality recording.
- Make sure you test your recording (or video) using the classroom equipment before you play it to your Students. It may appear that the “best quality” file or track that you played using your PC at home is useless in the classroom because of different equipment quality.
- Test the equipment that you are going to use during a lesson before you start this lesson.
Making it more practical…
Here’s my final tip: if our Students need to practice doing specific types of listening tasks before an exam or a test, our role is to make sure they have an opportunity to do so – many times! So, if in a given book there are only “open question”- or “true/false”-type listening tasks, we need to transform them into “multiple choice” tasks, for example. Just like here:
Source: International Express Intermediate Student’s Book, Keith Harding and Liz Taylor, OUP, 2009.
Listen to the conversation between a journalist and a chef – Eric Carlin, and fill in the gaps with correct answers. You will hear the recording twice. Choose a, b or c for each gap. Eric was born 1) ______. His parents moved to another place when he was 2) ______. There he grew up and went to school. Eric first learnt cookery (i.e. how to cook) 3) ______ when he was a teenager. His mother went out to work, so he cooked for his 4) ______. He discovered he liked cooking a lot. So, after leaving school, he did a 5) ______ cookery course. When he finished the course, he started working as a chef. He first worked in London, then in France and Italy. He really 6) ______ speaking other languages. Altogether, Eric spent 7) ______ in each country. He then came back and bought his own restaurant. He’s had it for six years now. It’s a lot of work, but he enjoys it. Eric is busy – he has 8) ______ per cent of free time. He enjoys playing tennis in the summer and skiing in winter. He also has an ambition to open 9) ______. He wants to do it 10) ______.
|1||a) in London||b) at the seaside||c) in a big town|
|2||a) five||b) six||c) four|
|3||a) himself||b) at school||c) during courses|
|b) brother and sister||c) brother and sisters|
|5||a) three-year||b) two-year||c) one-year|
|6||a) hates||b) doesn’t like||c) likes|
|7||a) half a year||b) twelve months||c) three months|
|8||a) 15||b) 5||c) 25|
|9||a) a school||b) another restaurant||c) a café|
|10||a) very soon||b) next year||c) in a few years|
Thanks for reading!
More on Student-friendly teaching coming soon…