Archive for Tag: listening activity

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dare to Dictogloss!

By Ela Newman
Instructor in Developmental Writing and in ESL
University of Texas at Brownsville

newjgea@aol.com

If we step outside our ESL classrooms for a moment and think about the mode of language that we use most often in “real” life, we might say “speaking” by reflex, or we might pause and name one of the other three modes (listening, reading, and writing) after a second thought.

Research built up since the 1930s or so indicates that listening is actually number one.  Something like 45% of human language use amounts to listening.  Speaking comes in second at about 30% (Feyten 1991).  Keeping our ears pricked up appears to be key to daily human communication.

So how can we respect and use this in the classroom?  One typical classroom task that requires intensive, concentrated listening is dictation.  Here students listen not only for the gist, but rather for the entirety of the message, every word and sound.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Look at It. Listen to It. Talk about It.

Richard FirstenBy Richard Firsten
Retired ESOL Teacher, Teacher-Trainer, Columnist, Author

There were lots of times during my years of ELT when I went nuts trying to think of clever ways to stimulate my students’ willingness to participate in conversations. What could I do to get them to use all the grammar and vocabulary and intonation that they were internalizing – I hoped – and make it all come together? Well, I found four gems to help me accomplish this goal and to inspire my own creativity. Three were visual; one was auditory. I wish I had created these terrific aids, but alas, I didn’t. What I did do, however, was use what I had found and then create more of the same on my own.

It was so long ago (back in the mid-1970’s, I believe) that I can’t even remember how I was introduced to this, but I started using a wonderful visual aid called Longman’s Progressive Picture Compositions, created by Donn Byrne, and published, of course, by Longman. There was a “pupil’s book” as they called it, which I didn’t use, but there were four large wall charts that could be placed on the chalk board sill, each chart showing one of four pictures that would tell a complete story together, as you can see here. I discovered that I could use these progressive pictures starting with lower intermediate students (in a more rudimentary way) and go all the way to the most advanced students in our program.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Create a Tall Tale for Practicing the First Conditional

By Ela Newman
Instructor in Developmental Writing and in ESL
University of Texas at Brownsville
newjgea@aol.com

Have you ever caught yourself involuntarily remembering lines from a song that you’ve heard many times? Or a movie? Most people have, I suppose. But what about lines from an ESL listening exercise?

About ten years ago, I was using the “New Cambridge English Course” textbooks with most of my students. The series was written by Michael Swan and Catherine Walter, and it was very popular at the time. One of the textbooks contained a unit on First Conditional which included a listening exercise featuring a story about John and Olga. Quite a few lines from that exercise are still embedded in my memory. I always looked forward to playing the exercise recording even though I’d heard the story countless times and should have been bored silly by the tale.

What made that listening task memorable was not only the plot, but the response that the exercise evoked in students. For me, that listening activity, however simple in design, is one model of an effective exercise in First Conditional.

Instructions

The teacher plays a recording of John and Olga’s story in the usual way, except that occasionally the story is interrupted and a question on the pattern “What will happen if…?” is posed.  Students then attempt to predict a consequence of some action or event that has occurred, writing down their ideas using the First Conditional. Afterward, students read their sentences aloud and discuss their ideas. The teacher then presses the play button again and reveals “the truth” as the activity progresses.

Plot: The Key Ingredients

The key to the success of this exercise is the plot, and the significant ingredients of the plot are suspense and unpredictability. This plot comprises startling events, and a mix of people, places, and objects that we might not expect to see together in a relatively simple story. We experience a spur-of-the-moment date at the zoo and the loss of a purse in a snake pit; we meet a pretty girl and an angry boss; we encounter champagne, a revolver, and a wad of money. The mysterious Olga and the opportunistic John are caught in a web of dynamic circumstances. Oh my!

Students’ Reactions

By the second or third round of “What will happen if…?” students are laughing out loud.  But they are also beginning to realize that the story is so unpredictable that even the craziest or silliest prediction may actually be correct. The humorous atmosphere eases apprehensions about the demands of the new grammar structure. The lesson becomes a matter of fun, and the learning finds a place in students’ memories.

Bonus Learning Opportunities

This exercise, like any modeled on it, can easily be used as a springboard for various post-exercise activities. One that I have used allows students to prepare sketches during which they pose the “What will happen if…?” question at key points.

Also, this exercise, because of its unpredictable content and its openness to creative input, encourages students to use (and often look up) original or precise vocabulary.

Creating a Similar Story

In my experience, it is often possible to take a fairly ordinary story and add a few elements of danger or mystery to create a suspenseful and fairly unpredictable tale. Including characters who have uncanny problems and who are normally associated with other social contexts usually adds color in a hurry.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Teaching Articles: A Listening Activity

By Anthea Tillyer
City University of New York

Founder, TESL-L Electronic Discussion Forum
Anthea.Tillyer@hunter.cuny.edu

Ah, articles. I love ‘em! We should all love them because they keep us in business (along with prepositions, of course).

I have lost faith in teaching articles through reading, partly because if someone is reading well and fluently, they are not actually reading the articles (or most prepositions or other non-content words).

I think that listening is the best way to learn/teach articles. I mean, listening to native speakers in movies or shows or even speeches. One activity that is very popular (and successful) is with a piece of video – a very short piece, perhaps a commercial or two.

Before class, first make/get a transcript of the video; then remove all the articles and replace them with spaces or lines or whatever. Next, put some additional spaces before some of the plural nouns or non-count nouns where no article is needed, and then a few additional spaces or lines at random throughout the text. These latter ones are the “decoys” and that’s where most of the fun is.

In class, put the students in groups and invite them to insert A, AN, or THE in the appropriate places or leave the blanks blank. Of course, you have to explain that some of the blanks are just there as decoys. If the students are in groups of three, they can assign roles: one is the writer (of the group’s decisions about answers), one is the speaker (when it is time to share answers with the rest of the class), and one is the “explainer” (who will explain the rationale behind the group’s choices).

When all the groups have finished this activity, play the video and invite the students to check the choices they made for the blanks in the text against what they hear on the video. Then they can consult again. Finally, as a plenary activity, the class can go over the text and get the right answers.

You can also switch the order and play the video first and then have the students try to decide where the articles should go in the transcript.

Also, sometimes it is good to give the same text a week or so later, as a surprise follow-up, just to see if the knowledge “stuck”.

(Originally published by Anthea Tillyer as part of a TESL-L
discussion.)