November 13

Listening: teaching skills or testing students?

Huge thanks to everyone who came to my ACEIA talk yesterday – I hope you went away with a few practical ideas for how we can make our learners more effective listeners and support them in making the most of the one-way listening they do outside the classroom.


Here are some links from the presentation you may be interested in:
Learning to Listen, Marc Hegelson
Challenges and Issues in Second Language Listening, Tony Lynch
Teaching Listening and Speaking: From Theory to Practice, Jack C. Richards
Grab it! – How I see it now, Hana Tichá
Five Ways to Listen Better, Julian Treasure
November 2

Fortnightly Focus #5 – Listening

Well, my talk for ACEIA is coming together, although admittedly I haven’t had the chance to try out all the activities in class just yet as we had a four-day weekend 🙂  However, one thing which preparing the talk made me think about is how it can be quite tricky to isolate the different sub-skills of listening in order to teach them effectively in class.  It’s very easy to approach the listening text as coursebooks often do and I find that this often means that we are testing learners’ listening comprehension rather than working on the skills which would make them more effective listeners.  That said, the Face2Face series often uses phonology as “Help with Listening” which is one approach which will benefit learners immensely.  Do you know of any other resources which provide learners with more support in listening?

My next fortnightly focus is going to be working with my 10-year-olds who are quite weak linguistically.  Having taught the material before to much stronger groups, I’m struggling to pitch the coursebook to their level, but also aware that they need a lot more routine review of much simpler language too.  So, I’ll be working on that and hopefully make the lessons more engaging and beneficial for them.

January 24

PET – Listening Part 1

This is an activity which I’ve done with a couple of groups and they respond quite well to it – it gives the learners a space for a bit of creativity and provides an enjoyable lead-in to Listening Part 1 of the PET paper.

Give the learners a sample paper and divide them into pairs (you can also do individuals depending on the question type).  Assign each pair one of the questions and explain that they are going to write the dialogue. They must include all three of the options and shouldn’t necessarily introduce the correct answer last.

It works with a nuber of skills as the pairs must first write then perform their dialogue whilst others listen.  This is also an opportunity to brainstorm new vocabulary which they may be unfamiliar with – recently when I did the activity, one of the answers included a hot-air balloon ride.

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June 7

What a planker!

Here’s a fun lesson plan for teens which gets their creative juices flowing and includes authentic listening from the other side of the globe.

To begin, show your students the following pictures, which can be found on facebook’s Planking Community page, and ask them what they think the person is doing.  My students came up with some great ideas, as you can see from their comments below…

PlankingThen explain to them what planking is…if you’re not sure yourself, check out the video below.

Show the video to the students, then ask them to watch again and answer the first four questions on the handout, which can be found on my Activities for your Classroom page.  Correct the handout and discuss the next three questions, before asking students to do the gapfill activity, adapted from a BBC news article, at the bottom.  You can then show them a second video of the news report following the young man’s death.  I think it’s important to see both the fun side of the activity and also the dangers, I certainly wouldn’t want to encourage students to try stunts like these.

March 17

Song dictation

Here’s another great activity from Catherine Morley’s TESOL-SPAIN workshop…

Type up the lyrics to part of a song and stick them on the wall outside the classroom.  Put students into pairs and then explain that student A has to go outside, read and remember part of the text and then come back in and dictate it to their partner who writes it down.  This works well if you put a line halfway through the song so that the students swap roles.  Remind students that they can’t shout and (depending on space) can’t run.  When students have finished, check the lyrics for spelling mistakes and then play the song for them to follow.

I did this activity with a Primary group the other day, using one of the songs from their coursebook – as you know, I’m always looking for ways to exploit those songs!  They really enjoyed the activity – it was competitive but very inclusive: the stronger students perhaps did it a little quicker, though they still made some mistakes, and for weaker students it was an opportunity to use the skills they have, but which are sometimes afraid to show when doing group or whole class activities.  And even though there was a competitive nature to the activity, there was no “reward” for doing the activity faster.