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.