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How To (really) teach Listening

Objectives
What listening is not What listening actually is

Is it possible to teach listening?


The importance of context Top-down or bottom-up?

The neglected skill

Listening is frequently viewed as an enabling skill not worthy of attention on its own.
Scarcella & Oxford, 1992

What listening is not

Easy
Rather than thinking of listening as a single process, it is more accurate to conceive of it as a bundle of related processes. () Usually we are unaware of these processes in our own language; achieving comprehension seems relatively effortless unless we encounter unhelpful conditions.

Lynch & Mendelsohn, 2002

What listening is not

Unimportant
Despite a gradually increasing acceptance of the importance of listening comprehension for second or foreign language learners, the teaching of listening comprehension remains a somewhat neglected and poorly taught aspect of English in many ESL or EFL programs.

Osada, 2004

What listening is not

Passive What does passive mean?


adjective 1. Accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance
Oxford Online Dictionary, 2012

Why is listening not passive?

What listening is not

Memory
If we were to take the ability to remember a message as the acid test of comprehension, we would in some ways be adopting a view of listening in which the listener acts as a tape recorder.

Anderson & Lynch, 1988

What listening actually is

Challenging
We only become aware of what remarkable feats of listening we achieve when we are in an unfamiliar listening environment, such as listening to a language in which we have limited proficiency.

Anderson & Lynch, 1988

What listening actually is

You are going to watch a movie snippet which shows two people having a conversation.
List how many mental processes these people need to be able to do while listening in order to maintain the conversation going. How many of the listed things do students need to consider when:

o performing a traditional listening activity (students listen to recorded audio and perform a task)?
o having a whole-group classroom discussion?

What listening actually is

Active
Meanings are shaped by context and construed by the listener through the act of interpreting meaning rather than receiving it intact.

Nation & Newton, 2008

What listening actually is

Crucial for communication

Speaking Reading Writing

Listening

What listening actually is

Effective Listening
That is

9 million
Brazilians with some hearing impairement
Source: IBGE Census 2010

5%
Of the Brazilian population

What listening actually is

Task-based o In real life when we listen to someone talking we have a definite non-linguistic reason for doing so.

o Our purpose to listening will shape our expectations.

Author & Author, 1900

What listening actually is

Using the given listening transcript, think of two appropriate tasks that can be used: with a beginner group with an intermediate group with an advanced group
Taken from: Cotton, D., Falvey, D., Kent, S., Lebeau, I., Rees, G. (2010). Language Leader Advanced Coursebook and CD-ROM. Essex, England: Pearson Longman

Is it possible to actually teach listening?

Yes!
Sort of.

Is it possible to actually teach listening?

An approach aimed at teaching listening () starts from the premise that the students comprehension is blocked by specific features of the language or listening process, and that in our lessons we can focus on those features one at a time and improve the students ability to deal with them.

Swift, 2007

The importance of context Activate schemata

A schema could be defined as a mental structure, consisting of relevant individual knowledge, memory, and experience, which allows us to incorporate what we learn into what we know.

Anderson & Lynch, 1988

The importance of context

Imagine youre going to use the following video snippet with an intermediate group. They are going to answer some true/false questions and then take notes on topics mentioned. What difficulties can you anticipate that this snippet may present to your students?

The importance of context Which of these pre-listening activities would you assign your students before they watch the snippet and why? Rank them from 1 (most useful) to 5 (least useful). Have students predict the answers to the true or false questions Pre-teach some expressions that appear in the video Review verb forms used to talk about routine Exploit what students know about Irish Travellers and their opinion of them and of other modern nomadic cultures Have students read a short text on Irish Travellers and discuss it briefly

Top-down or Bottom-up?
Top-down processing happens when expectations and previous world knowledge are used to build comprehension of a message.

Bottom-up processing is when we achieve comprehension starting from the smaller units (words and sounds) and gradually build up to an understanding of the whole message.
Anderson & Lynch, 1988

Top-down or Bottom-up?

Lets see some listening exercises taken from course books. Are they more focused on top-down or bottom-up processing? Do any of them work exclusively with one type of processing?

Top-down or Bottom-up?

Top-down or bottom-up?

Why?

Taken from: Spencer, D. (2006). Global Teen Combined Edition. So Paulo, Brazil: Macmillan

Top-down or Bottom-up?

Top-down or bottom-up?
Why?

Taken from: Cotton, D., Falvey, D., Kent, S., Lebeau, I., Rees, G. (2010). Language Leader Advanced

Coursebook and CD-ROM. Essex, England: Pearson Longman

Top-down or Bottom-up?

Top-down or bottom-up?

Why?

Taken from: Clanfield, L., Pickering, k. (2010). Global Elementary Coursebook . Oxford, England: Macmillan

Top-down or Bottom-up?

Top-down or bottom-up?

Why?

Taken from: Redston, c., Cunningham, G. (2008). Face to Face Intermediate. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University

Top-down or Bottom-up?

Top-down or bottom-up?

Why?

Taken from: Clanfield, L., Pickering, k. (2010). Global Elementary Coursebook . Oxford, England: Macmillan

Listening as interaction
How can students be made aware of the listening practice they receive when listening to the teacher and classmates?

What strategies for coping with listening in the context of a conversation can we teach our students?

To keep in mind
Listening is not: easy, unimportant, passive, memory Listening actually is: challenging, crucial, active, task-based

It is possible to teach listening in the form of strategies for more effective listening Context is important and should always be worked on Know which activities are top-down and bottom-up

Questions?

Thank you!