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Listening – Skills development or something more?

Carina Lewis When I was learning Portuguese I found that I learnt a lot of vocabulary and grammatical structures by listening to people using the language and by asking questions about the language which I was unsure about. Unfortunately, I could not do this as much as I would have liked because I couldn’t really interrupt people midflow to ask about the intricacies of the language being used. Consequently I decided to encourage my students to ask questions about the language they heard on recorded materials or from me in the classroom. I started to record myself in the classroom so that students could listen to me speaking naturally and then they could listen to the recorded version to work on the language. I have had a very positive response from my students to this technique and now I find myself using my own voice, or that of colleagues, as much as I use pre-recorded course book materials. What are the advantages of using your own voice? • I’ve found that students are much more motivated when I tell them a story or something that has happened to me or friends of mine than when I press ‘Play’ on the tape recorder and they hear the theme tune to the next unit in their course book. • Students have the advantage of being able to watch my body language which assists comprehension. • Students listen to natural language rather than actors on pre-recorded tapes. • I can choose the language I want to include. • I can grade the speed and level of the language I use by watching the students’ expressions to see whether they are following me or not. • I don’t need to spend hours searching for appropriate listening material and, better still, I don’t have to cue the tape. • I use my topic as a model for the students (more detail given later). • I can use it with all levels of students. The structure of a lesson The general structure of lessons using this method is as follows: 1 Introduce the topic. 2 Tell students a story, an anecdote or give a description, which includes the target language depending on your syllabus needs. Record it at the same time. The recording should not exceed 4 minutes. 3 Ask the students to take notes and then orally summarise the content with a partner. 4 Play the tape. 5 Extract the target language from the recording by stopping the tape at the appropriate moment and asking the students to repeat what was said. 6 Provide controlled practice of the target language. For example, a gap-fill exercise. 7 Give students 5/10 minutes to prepare a talk about their own personal experience, tell a story or give a description using my

I recently wanted to teach some phrasal verbs related to shopping to a class of intermediated students so I thought about an unsuccessful shopping trip I had been on and noted down the phrasal verbs I needed to tell the story. Teaching vocabulary I teach lexical sets of vocabulary by talking about something which involves using the target language. I think about the topic I want to talk about and then rehearse the story so that I know which vocabulary comes up. For example. 9 Teacher listens and provides feedback on the language used. We then extracted the target language and I elicited the reason for using each of the tenses. I have found that my students are happier to listen for the general gist of what I have said when they know that they will be given the opportunity to question the language they are unsure about later. The teacher helps when necessary. b. Teaching Functional Language To teach functional language I sometimes work with two teachers in the classroom as the students have the opportunity to watch and listen to two people interact in English and use spoken discourse markers in a natural way. I have found that students enjoy extracting the target language as the context is very clear so they can see how the language is used naturally. grammar or functional language. c. I have taught narrative tenses by telling the students about a memorable holiday experience. It is important that they are motivated enough by the content to enjoy summarising it afterwards. 8 Students give the talk to their group. They then have the opportunity to practise using the language in a similar context which is personal to them. Teaching Grammar I will sometimes teach grammar in a similar manner. a.recorded text as a model. I then went into the classroom with the key words in my notebook so that I could remember what I wanted to say. After giving them preparation time I asked the students to tell their group about a memorable holiday experience they had had. The purpose of giving the students 5 to 10 minutes preparation time is to encourage them to think about using the target language in their own story and to experiment with the language before speaking. For example. At that point I am able to check their level of comprehension and use of the target language. The students then had to decide which tense to use in a gapped text about a holiday to provide them with some controlled practice before moving into free speaking. We then extracted from the tape the verbs I had used and checked the meaning. I asked the students to summarise my story which they did successfully but with a limited range of language. . Sometimes I show them the grammar in a more traditional way first and then use this method to put the language in context so that the students can see how to use it in a realistic situation. After some controlled practice activities I asked them to tell each other about a good or bad shopping experience they had had using as many of the new verbs as possible. Using this technique A teacher can use this technique for a variety of purposes such as teaching vocabulary.

we asked them to work in groups of four. It is enjoyable. i. We elicited the language from the groups onto the board. They have learnt to determine the difference between listening for gist and using listening as a model to help develop their speaking skills. In conclusion. pick a topic to discuss and try to use as much of the target language as possible.For example. i. it is.e. . After some controlled practice. flexible to most language areas. Group A had to listen for language we had used to express opinions and Group B had to listen for language we used to express agreement. productive. time efficient and provides variety in the language classroom. isn’t it? We asked the students to choose topics they wanted us to talk about and write them on slips of paper. If it is not possible to invite another English speaker into the classroom then you could record the dialogue onto a tape before the lesson. I taught a group of Late Intermediate students language for expressing an opinion.e. Yeah. We then picked one of the topics and asked the students to take notes on the general content.. If you ask me …. and expressing agreement with an opinion. We split the class into two groups and they listened again.. I have found that these output-driven procedures to listening have had a positive response from my students.