Part 4 - Listening to test, or listening to teach?


Something I always ask myself when i find a listening activity in a course book is: Why? Why do I need to put the students through this arduous process, what is it they will actually gain from partaking in this activity?

I believe that often, when working with a listening, we don’t really think about what we can do to help the students learn from it. We simply go through the questions, check the answers and move on.

In this case it is true that by meeting the language and gaining exposure to the lexis and syntax the students will have had a chance to improve their understanding of various areas, but it is a fleeting chance and one that has much more potential for exploration.

Pre-service courses will go over the basics of ‘zooming in’ on a listening. Using the gist question to introduce things to students and then working down to more detailed comprehension questions. This can be a good way to start on a listening but students can still be left thinking ‘I have no idea how we arrived at that answer’ or ‘those words all just sounded like a jumbled mess’.

Think about how you would feel after listening to a recording a few times. Wouldn’t it be a massive motivational boost to think: ‘I couldn’t pick out those words and understand the first time, but now it’s all much clearer to me.’

Next episode..

Part 5: Structuring listening to aid in acquisition