So, earlier this year, quite a while ago now, we spoke at IATEFL and also watched a number of other talks, which was fantastic. One thing that we noticed in our speech was how the audience got excited by the idea of making their own listening materials and so here are ideas based around doing that.
Something we’ve long felt to be true was that students need to be given access to listening materials that push them and that are also true to how people speak outside of the classroom.
One of the most interesting talks I went to was by John Hughes, you can find a link to his site at the bottom of this blog. He spoke about setting up a situation with people and then just recording it and seeing what functional language came up. In the spirit of investigation, and also as I think it really fits into the sort of thing we do, I have tried it a few times. Guess what? It works really well.
So the idea is this. Decide on a piece of functional language you want to teach, e.g. directions / buying things in a shop and just ask two/three people to have a conversation and record them. I found giving the people realia, e.g. items in a shop situation, made it more natural. This way you get all of the wonderful features of natural speech, fillers, false starts, discourse markers. Rather than making it more difficult for listeners these often help in my opinion. For more on listening definitely check Field’s excellent book, Listening in the language classroom.
- decide on situation
- record speakers, first recording is good, you want it to be natural
- listen for which language is used
- write a couple of basic gist questions
- set checking questions for grammar / vocab
- you can then get students to make their own recordings using the target language
E.g. what language was used to ask for directions “could you tell me where … is please?”
Other really useful things for lower levels could be questions about how many people are speaking, this can be really good for low levels. I tend to subscribe to the view that grading the task not the text is equally appropriate for listenings, after all in the big wide English speaking world, students are not going to have things graded for them by native speakers!