How To Teach Listening More Effectively
Listening plays a critical role in both communication and language acquisition; however, it is one of the least understood processes in language learning.
“Listening” is receiving language through the ears. It involves identifying the sounds of speech and processing them into words and sentences.
When we listen, we use our ears to receive individual sounds (letters, stress, rhythm and pauses) and then we use our brain to convert these sounds into messages that mean something to us.
Students Must Listen Before Speaking
Research and theories point to the importance for beginner language learners to listen first before starting to produce the language.
When beginner learners are exposed to some silent or pre-speaking periods, they will be able to speak comfortably and fluently in English.
From these periods learners will foster vocabulary and build comprehension. They will also get and store the right phonology features such as stress and intonation.
But how can these periods be like in the classroom?
1. They can be periods of listening using Total Physical Response approach:
* Giving some series of commands and learners demonstrate and act them.
* Learners can give commands to each other and show understanding of what they listen to.
2. They can be periods of listening to tape recorded conversations for 2 or 3 times next, learners answer some comprehension questions and then they act the conversations out comfortably.
When Starting to Teach Listening, Teachers Should:
1. Relate listening to students’ interests, goals and experiences to keep their motivation and attention high.
2. Select authentic material both in language and tasks. Language should reflect real discourse using videos, audio tapes and TV or radio broadcasts of actual exchanges.
3. Give opportunities to develop both top-down and bottom-up processing skills:
* Top-down activities = discussing what students already know about the topic.
* Bottom-up activities = practicing components of the language (sounds, words, intonation and grammatical structure)
4. Encourage development of listening strategies such as predicting, asking for clarification, using non-verbal cues that increase the chances for successful listening.
Take for example when using videos:
- When sound off, students should be encouraged to make predictions, and answer questions about setting, actions, interactions … etc.
- When sound on, students confirm or modify predictions.
5. Teach activities not test them:
- Don’t focus on memory rather than on the process of listening.
- Don’t give practice rather than help students develop listening ability.
Take for examples when having students listen to a passage:
- True/False questions might not focus on the learners’ ability to remember rather than help them to develop the skill of determining main idea and details.
- Pre and post listening activities should help students focus attention on what they listen so that they can transfer the listening skill to the world beyond the classroom.
Ten Steps to Teach a Listening Lesson
The EFL teachers can teach a listening lesson easily if they do ten steps in the following order:
1. Determine a reason for listening (Assign a simple task to be done during listening).
2. Give a general idea of the topic (Say the title and introduce the topic).
3. Identify the type of the speech (conversation, radio ad, passage …) and the functions
included in the text (persuade, request …)
4. Present and practise the lexis included in the text.
5. Ask students to predict the information they will listen to.
6. Activate background information and build some more knowledge related to the listening text.
7. Show and point to a visual support to assist the meaning.
8. Elicit the answer for the pre-assigned task.
9. Give some more exercises or activities to check students’ understanding of the information included in the listening text.
10. Ask some students to summarize what they have listened to (the main ideas) either orally or in writing.
Developing students’ listening comprehension is a challenge. It depends both on the teacher’s and student’s attention.
Knowledge of the listening process and the steps to follow in teaching a listening lesson enable teachers to select, create and teach listening texts and activities in the way that meets the needs of their students.
Teachers should adapt the listening activities set in the textbooks to achieve the balance that mirrors the real-world integration of listening with speaking, reading and writing.