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Living tape recorder Draw some tape recorder controls on the board. Check with students that they understand what these symbols represent (play, rewind, stop). Explain that you will play (or dictate) a listening text. The students should write down the text. While you are reading it students can shout 'stop' at any point. You will then 'stop' until you are told to continue ('play'). If a student wants you to repeat a particular part, they should shout 'rewind to XXX'. You will then go back and continue from that point until you are told to stop.*
This activity allows students to dictate the speed at which they listen to a particular text. It allows them to focus on individual words when they need to and gives them the confdence needed to develop their listening skills. Of course, it is important that you don't overuse the activity, or students may become lazy listeners! And the next word is …
Choose a recording. Tell the students the topic of the recording. Play a short piece and then press the pause/stop button. Ask the students to predict the next word (they can do this by whispering their ideas to the student sitting next to them). Press play and let the students hear the word. Don't make any comments at this point. Play another piece and repeat the process. Do this with the whole of the recording. At the end ask the students how successful they were in predicting the next word. You will be able to tell from the students reactions how well they are doing. This activity is particularly effective to recycle language from a text, written or spoken, that you have already studied. With the class.
Predicting vocabulary based on the topic is a skill that we all employ in our frst language before and while we are listening. It is also important NOT to check or comment on the accuracy of their predictions while the activity is going on. The aim is not to get it right, but rather to concentrate on the content and vocabulary in order to make it possible to guess. My students won't listen to each other! What can I do?
This is a complaint that is often heard, especially in multilingual classes. However, even in monolingual classes students often complain that they shouldn't be listening to each other (I can speak better than X, I don't want to hear their mistakes, I want to hear 'real' English speakers etc.). But one of the best sources of listening material is for students to listen to each other. Teachers often say to students that most of the people they will use English with are non-native speakers and so it is good to hear each other. Teachers also point out how good it is for students to speak as much as possible (and most students accept this). But, if they are going to speak a lot, who is going to listen? Other students, of course! It is therefore important to
try and make listening as important as speaking when students are doing pairwork. If you have any students who insist that speaking to their classmates who are less fuent / accurate them, then direct them to Chapter 2 of Language Hungry which accompanies this handout.
Different or the same?
Put students in pairs. Ask them to talk to each other about a topic e.g. last weekend. Set a task, e.g. fnd three similarities or fnd three differences . This then focuses their attention on what their partner is saying rather than it simply being a monologue followed by a second monologue. Alternatively, put the students in threes. Two of the students talk about the topic and the third student just listens and makes a note of the similarities and differences and then feeds back to the pair. Reverse roles. Is it wrong for the teacher to talk a lot? No. One of the problems here is that many training courses and books on 'how to teach' talk about TTT (Teacher Talking Time). They speak about how the more a teacher talks the less opportunity there is for students to talk. However, this makes the issue a very black and white one. It simplifes what is quite a complex situation into a simple quantity one. For the time being let's not focus on aspects such as QTT (Quality Teacher Talk) versus TTT, or whether the percentage time students and teachers speak is necessarily complementary (i.e. the less a teacher talks automatically means students will speak more). Instead, let's look at a different aspect of Teacher Talk, that is TT as a source of listening. Every time a teacher talks they are providing their students with a listening opportunity. Therefore, if they give their students a reason to listen to them, then this can only be a beneft. Anecdotes Teachers telling personalized stories can often be an excellent source of listening for the students. One idea is if you teach a class at the same time as a colleague teaches a similar level / age group of students. Divide the two classes into half (group A& B), you take all the group A students (half your class and half your colleague's class) and they take all the group B students. Both of you tell a short anecdote (two to fve minutes). Get students to make notes and compare in pairs or groups. Repeat the anecdote if necessary. Then get all your students back with you and send your colleague's students back to their class, so they have all their students. Now pair them up so that in each pair one heard your story and the other student listened to your colleague's. Get the students to retell the stories to each other.
What did you hear? Play a recording and ask students to note down who was speaking, what they were speaking about and any other things they think they heard. Emphasize that there are no ‘correct’ answers and that you want them to write down what they think and/or hear. Put students in pairs or small groups and ask them to discuss their ideas. Play the recording again, if necessary. Discuss the ideas as a class, asking people to explain why, but trying not to make judgements as to whether their ideas (answers) are right or not.
Rationale: It is extremely interesting to fnd out what students hear rather than focusing attention on what they should hear according to a set of predetermined questions. The activity probably needs to be used two or three times with different recordings before students start to feel comfortable and realize that they are not being tested (i.e. you really aren’t looking for correct answers).
Add a third Choose a coursebook dialogue (between two people). Play it and get the students to think about who the people are and what they are talking about. Then ask the students to think about the dialogue and imagine what it would be like if there was a third person involved/speaking. Get the students to turn to the transcript and rewrite the dialogue adding the third person (this can be done working in groups of three). Finally, ask a few groups to read out their new dia(tria)logue.
Rationale: Coursebook dialogues are often ‘neat’ in a way in which real-life conversations aren’t. Getting students to add a third person also demonstrates a deeper understanding of the material than standard comprehension questions ever could.
We often interrupt Choose a dialogue from a coursebook, e.g. A phone conversation. Read the frst line of the dialogue. Ask the students to take on the other role (but without referring to the transcript). Once they have heard your line they should respond. Continue the process (either by using the next line of the coursebook dialogue – this then forces the students to readjust their thoughts, or simply by responding to what the students have said). Finally, if you want, you can get everyone to look at the original transcript.
Rationale: Most coursebook listening activities put the students in the position of eavesdroppers. This is actually a very unnatural state of affairs in most real-life listening. One aim of this activity is to make the listening activity much more realistic by making the listener take on an active role.
Listening Bingo Ask the students to draw a grid or table with six boxes (you can use more for higher levels e.g. nine boxes at upper-intermediate). Tell them you will play a recording
and tell them the topic of the recording (if you want you can give a bit more information e.g. You will hear two people talking about their plans for the weekend.). Ask the students to write a word or phrase in each box. These should be things they think they will hear during the recording. Monitor and check they have completed their grids. Play the recording. Every time a student hears a word or phrase in their grid they should cross it out. If they cross out all 6 they should put their hand up in the air (or shout ‘Bingo’). Predicting vocabulary based on the topic is a skill that we all employ in our L1 before and while we are listening. The task starts off with a top-down activity, predicting based on what we already know about the topic, but during the actual listening phase the focus is far more on a bottom-up process. Dictogloss Tell the students they are going to hear a short text (a few sentences or a short paragraph). Ask the students to put their pens down and just listen. Play the listening or read it out once and then ask the students to note down all the words they can remember – this should be done focusing on key words and NOT trying to remember everything verbatim. Play or read the text again and then ask the students to work in pairs and reconstruct as much of the text as they can. Repeat the process one more time and then pair the pairs and get them to compare their texts. Finally, compare their texts to the original and discuss. Initially this activity is bottom-up. However, as parts of the text are constructed students will use the co-text (working out content and languages based on what has already been said or surrounds a particular utterance) to help build the rest of the text. This then moves from bottom-up to top-down strategies and often employs both simultaneously. I have used this very successfully for grammar work, in particular contrasting two tenses. For example, active vs. passive: present perfect simple and continuous: used to and would ('d – very hard for the students to hear). An absolute life-saver activity for those days when the photocopier breaks down or paper rationing is introduced. Listening, speaking, writing, grammar, vocabulary and punctuation practice all rolled-up in one with minimal work on your behalf – just the way it should be! Gap-fll Take a listening text and remove some of the words. Students predict the missing words. Play the text and ask students to fll in the blanks and/or check their answers. Although this is a standard bottom-up approach it is amazing to see how much can be predicted and therefore how even the most bottom-up activities employ a degree of top-down processing. Dictation Prepare or adapt a list of phrases / sentences and dictate them to the class. Try your hardest and read them as naturally as possible. Students compare with a partner what they have written. Elicit back from the class and discuss any differences. Highly recommended for work on features of connected speech such as
strong / weak forms, elision, intrusive sounds. And of course the schwa sound. Note-taking Get the students to divide the page into three columns. In the frst column write 'Im sure I heard'. In the second 'I think I heard'. And fnally, in the third 'No idea'. In the last column they write what they hear, but they have absolutely no idea what it is. Get them to write it as they hear it. Students listen to the text and write information / words, utterances into the three categories according to how sure they are. You will need to play the recording a few times. It's the third column that is the most interesting and the one that should be encouraged as a tool to help them out of class. If they decide to do this, they can bring their scribbled language notes to class and ask you about it. Cue natural conversation between teacher and student (Where did you hear this? What were you doing there? I never knew you were into women's shot-putting etc.). This activity can be done with or without a lead-in or gist questions. Obviously without makes it a little more realistic and better prepares them for out-of-class. My way to work Explain to the class that you are going to describe what you did from the moment you woke up until the moment you arrived at work. However, their job is to stop you completing the story. Set a time limit of two or three minutes depending on the level and the number of times you have subjected them to this type of activity. Then, simply, begin to tell your story. They ask you questions, you answer them and then carry on with the story. You can adapt this to many of the texts found in course books and supplementary books (spoken and written). It works best with monologues – dialogues would be too confusing. If you do do it with a dialogue invite one of the students to read the other part and sit opposite each other. Make sure to give a few examples frst, and expect it to be a bit slow to start. They'll soon get the hang of it, and especially if they discover that the 'Why' question can be used to devastating effect - rather like my daughter. Once students have got the idea, they can do it together in pairs. Works nicely with any stories the students are telling (think Anecdote sections of Inside Out series) What are you on about Divide the class into groups of three or four. Send one student from each group out of the class. Instruct the remaining students to have a conversation on a topic of their choice (for more reticent groups, supply a topic). Let them get on with it and after a minute or two bring the other students back into the class. They sit down with their group and quietly listen to them speaking, when they understand what's going on, they should join in.
Sound Effects Prepare about 10 sound effects (see John, Alisdair, Mark or Dan). Students listen and write down what they think they hear. Tell them that there is no right or wrong answer. Therefore, there's nothing wrong with a little bit of ambiguity here. Elicit from the class what they heard (you can tell them what the effects were supposed to be) and then from the vocabulary you have built up on the board, the students write a story in pairs, groups or individually. Note – it helps to have a common 'theme' to the effects. Questions Rather than writing the questions yourself and spending all that time to read and listen to the text when you could be doing so many better things, get the students to write the questions. More work for them and less for you! Be careful that they don't see through it though. We wouldn't want to be rumbled! Best to sell it to them with the line about the photocopier breaking down when you were doing the questions and that you had noticed that some of the students needed more practice with question formation so you thought you could kill two birds with one stone, speaking of which..... The Last Thing Ask the students to write down the last thing that you said.
An example to outline the difference between hearing and listening
Hearing vs. Listening
What a woman says:
C'MON...This place is a mess! You and I need to clean. Your pants are on the foor and you'll have no clothes if we don't do the laundry now! What a man hears: C'MON....blah, blah, blah YOU AND I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ON THE FLOOR blah, blah, blah, NO CLOTHES blah, blah, blah, blah, NOW!
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