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o Listening for General Understanding

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In the example I’ll give you students listen to a conversation in order to get a general idea of what the main points are. The ability to get the general picture without getting too stuck on individual words and phrases is something that students must be trained for.

The teacher tells students that they will be watching a video in which Ann is talking about her new friend Jeff. The task is simply to answer the following 4 questions:

1. How did Ann feel before Jeff came into her life?

2. What does she feel about Jeff now?

3. What does she feel about Jeff’s son?

4. How does Ann get on with Jeff’s son?

The students are told not to worry about anything else:

o Listening for Detail: Script Dictation

One way of having students listen to a tape in a detailed way is to give them a script dictation. This means that students are given the tapescript with some of the words blanked out. All they have to do is fill in the words.

It is easy to create script dictations. Let us imagine that students have already listened to the text about National Gallery and answered the questions. The teacher now asks the students to try to fill in the gaps before listening to the tape again. Then the students listen to the tape again with intense concentration.

Script dictations encourage students to listen in detail. They can be very useful in highlighting features which the teacher wishes to concentrate on. They can be extremely useful in reminding students of the difference between written prose and the way people speak. Tapes which the teacher makes are often the most exciting ones for the teacher and the students to use. A warning needs to be given, however. In the first place it is difficult to get good quality on some tapes and tape machines. If students are only given home-produced tapes they may miss out on one of the main advantages of using taped material – the variety of speakers and voices that the students can be exposed to.

· Dealing with listening problems

As we have already said, listening can cause problems. In general these can be summarized as panic and difficulty.

Students often panic when they see the tape recorder because they know that they are faced with challenging task. Two things are guaranteed to increase that panic! The first is to refuse to play a tape more than once and the second is to expose an individual student’s lack of success in the listening.

It is almost always a good idea to play a tape all the way through on a first listening so that students can get an idea of what it sounds like. Then the teacher may repeat segments of tape for detailed work (e.g. script dictation).

If students have listened to a tape to answer a comprehension task it can be very threatening for the teacher to point to individuals and ask them for their answers to questions – especially when they know that they don’t know! That’s why, with listening especially, it is good idea to let students check their answers together in pairs or groups before organizing a feedback stage. The individual’s lack of success can be extremely demotivating: shared confusion is not so damaging.

Some teachers and students find that listening to tapes is extremely difficult, especially when tapes are fairly long. And yet we may want to use long extracts because they contribute to our overall teaching plan and because the topic is interesting. If the tape is difficult there are a number of things you can do to make it easier.

o Don’t play all the tape straight away. Play half of it and then get students to predict what will happen next.

o Give students the first third of the tapescript.They can read it at home if they want. In class they discuss how the story is going to end or what is going to happen.

o Preview vocabulary.Choose a small number of key words that students do not know. Teach them to the students before they listen.

o Use the tapescript.In general it may be a good idea for the students to look at the tapescript after the first couple of listenings if they are having difficulty in coping with the tape. You could also cut the tapescript into paragraphs – or even smaller pieces – which they have to put in the right order as they listen to the tape.

These are just some ideas to make your listening more motivating and more successful, especially where there are difficulties.

· Making your own tapes

Some teachers find it difficult to use commercially produced tapes either because the tapes don’t quite suit the level or interests of their group or because they are unavailable. In such cases it makes sense for teachers to produce their own tapes. The first possibility is the dialogue.

There is no reason why teachers and their colleagues should not write and record their own dialogues. They can write a script of a conversation around a certain topic and then record it.

The second possibility is to record interviews. Ideally the interviewee will be a native speaker.

The third possibility is stories. Teachers can adapt a text or read something from a book. Teachers can also tell stories of their own.



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