Thursday, 21 April 2011

Week 3: About a listening strategy

In my third week's blog I am going to reflect on the types of materials used for developing listening skills.

Today almost every course book comes with a package of various supplementary  materials and nearly always the first one to be included is a class tape or CD with recordings  and listening materials.  Although more often than not of a very good quality and designed specially to build and develop this particular skill, I often feel  that their purpose is to prepare the students for 'the real thing', i.e. the opportunity to  do something with the language they have acquired, in this case to gain some understanding, get the message or merely enjoy themselves during the process of listening instead of  offering  the right answer. For that reason,   I am very much in favour of authentic materials.  When I think of young learners and what they listen  to (while watching) most of the time, it is, with little doubt -  television.  Unfortunately, there is very little possibility for my students to have access to any good online TV broadcasts for children. Why?

 Well,  that one's off, apparently.

 But, where there's a will, there's a way. Films, then. They are not so hard to find and download as good TV shows.  I really like playing them to my students.   Even when I find the ones with  appropriate topic and length of no more than  30' (luckily, there's a Charlie Brown and a  Muppet Show one  for almost every occasion and holiday)  it may be difficult for them to grasp and follow the whole story.   That is when I apply the  Grade the task rather than the material strategy. We discuss the topic as a pre-listening activity and I tell them some key facts about the story, but not the most interesting part or the twist. Then I give them the task, usually some very simple question which they are to come up with the answer  by the end of the film. Sometimes it does happen that they get bored or frustrated by not being able to understand everything, but gradually they have come to expect this way of watching films and enjoy it as much as I do. As a post-listening activity, we usually discuss what they have learned (about  the topic, not the language), liked or not and why. What I try  is to demonstrate how a new language brings in a whole new world.


  1. Dear Nada:

    I just love reading your posts and today I realized that your blog is also very educational for me.

    I couldn’t agree more with what you mentioned:“when there’s will there is a way”, I think most of teacher have the will to do our best and to make our students do their best as well.

    Having videos in class is an idea that I personally love. I think that is totally simple to get them and since there is a wide variety is not complicated to choose a good one according to our students´ age, level, interests and needs. Besides, while watching a video our students learn more than just English. I think they can also get at least the gist of a different culture which will open their minds and help them see the world with a different eye. As you say: “ A new language brings in a whole new world.” That is an enormous and beautiful truth.

    Another positive fact of videos is that in some places like my work, where there are not enough facilities, you can always have a T.V. to play the video for the entire class and students just love to get out of the routine and learn while having fun.

    So, keep on doing such a great job


  2. Hello Nana,

    As the situation in your country, teachers in Taiwan always get whole package with CD, DVD, flash cards and textbooks for English teaching. Of course, teachers like to use it in their classes because it saves their preparation time. I notice from students’ reaction, they always feel bored during practicing textbooks’ songs and chants over and over because it is not fun to them. It is written for study only but lack of realistic discourses. Lots of audios, video clips and interactive website have native speakers to deliver the authentic language, which immerses students in English environment. So if teachers can try to guide students’ self-direct learning, students will become more familiar with using technology themselves. Your sharing gives me some more ideas for using videos in my class. Initiating questions can facilitate students to think critically and inspire them to pay attention to the answers.

    Yet, my students are young with very low English proficiency, so, I can only ask them to discuss the content with their mother language. In order to increase their exposure to English, I sometimes type some key sentences for them to put into an order relating to the plot of play.


  3. Hi Nada.
    I also like to use videos in my lessos. In fact, some months ago I bought a whole BBC series pack "oliver Twist" to try to get a class interested in English. Actually it worked as the episodes are about 30 minutes and I usually create additional exercises mostly on vocabulary, cultural or grammar topics. As Rachel focused, coursebook material save us preparation time but they are often boring for the kids and ourselves so, like many teachers and you too, I overwork myself trying to get new, useful and interesting materials.
    Keep up the good work. It's good to know we are in the same "battle" to do our best for our students! :)

  4. Hi Nada

    When you say that your students come to enjoy listening to a program and not understanding everything, then I believe you have succeeded! So many new ESL students to the US want to know every word, they get so bottom up, that they miss the forest for the trees. They could get the main idea, but they freeze and don't get anything because they are so worried about missing a word or two. Once they learn to "let go" if gets much better for their listening.

    It is interesting to read about some content not being available around the world. In the earlier days of the internet, providers were not so good about restricting access like that. Unfortunately they are getting better. Too bad.


  5. Hello dearpatrner.
    That is wonderful to know something new. Well done your job cpngratulations dear friend and continue being very wise blogger.
    You have done many interestng things and I enjoy them.
    Madel carmen