Is the prospect of a listening activity met with groans and terrified faces? More often than not I would say YES!
So how can you boost your students’ confidence in their listening skills and make their experience a fun yet meaningful one?
Rachel Moss from ‘ATC Language Schools – Winchester’ gives us some tips and techniques below…
Pre-listening preparation is crucial; It primes students by giving them a context and a focus for their listening. This may seem like stating the obvious, but in our haste to get to the ‘real’ part of the lesson, i.e. the listening, it’s easy to rush this important stage.
Textbooks usually provide pre-listening activities, but one of the most effective ways I’ve found is brainstorming. That is, getting my students talking about the topic of the listening.
This works because it activates the students’ background knowledge, which helps their comprehension. This stands to reason – in real life how often do we listen to something without some idea about what we will hear?
Extra Speaking = Extra Listening
Students may worry about listening, but they often say they want more speaking practice – brainstorming gives them that, and it gives everyone extra listening practice too. Write it into your lesson plan, don’t be afraid to use it to supplement your course book, and enjoy it. It could turn those looks of horror into smiles of pleasure!
It works best in small groups, or a whole group if the class is small enough. Pairs can soon run out of steam, but in groups your students will hear a range of ideas. Use the other students in your class.
Students in multilingual classes especially usually come from very diverse backgrounds with a depth of knowledge in various areas. If someone lacks background knowledge of the topic, their classmates may be able to provide it.
Someone else’s background knowledge is still background knowledge!
What’s Your Experience?
Ask students to close their books, put down their pens and listen to each other. Give them the topic and ask them what they know about it.
Do they have any experience of it, or know anyone one who has?
Move between groups and encourage all students to speak. This is about the flow of ideas, so make notes to go back to later to correct errors. But correct pronunciation – make sure they are hearing and pronouncing any key vocabulary correctly so they recognise it in the listening.
Get students to make predictions about the listening, and don’t forget to check them in post-listening feedback. This stage often gets missed, but if a student can think back to their predictions and say whether they were right or not it shows them that they’ve understood the text, a great confidence booster and a satisfying way to wrap up the listening.
I like to use the first listening as a chance for them to check predictions and compare their ideas, then subsequent repetitions of the listening for other comprehension activities.
Use Your Instinct!
Use your teacher’s instinct to judge when the momentum is slowing or when you feel the students are most engaged and ready for the listening, but I find 5 – 10 minutes is usually enough.
By Rachel Moss – Teacher at ‘ATC Language Schools – Winchester’
Chang, A. C-S. & Read, J. (2006). The effects of listening support on the performance of EFL learners. TESOL Quarterly, 40(2), 375-397.
Graham, S. (2017). Research into practice: listening strategies in an instructed classroom setting. Language Teaching, 50 (1), 107-119. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1017/S0261444816000306
Long, D.R., (1990). What you don’t know can’t help you: An exploratory study of background knowledge and second language listening comprehension. SSLA, 12, 65-80, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0272263100008743