Creating your own listening texts – One sided phone conversations

We recently ran a CPD in our school, EC LONDON, on creating your own listening texts and (t)exploiting them in the classroom. In preparation for this, we created a simple listening and used it in the CPD. This is the lesson that goes with this listening.

You can use the audio below or alternatively, you could just create your own.

ONE-SIDED PHONE CONVERSATIONS

The idea is to record your side of a functional phone conversation and then use it in class to teach the language of that function. We chose 2 close friends, confirming plans for later that day as the function. A good idea is to just give yourself a function and then record yourself speaking into your phone without planning too much. This usually results in a more natural recording with:

  1. false starts
  2. natural functional language
  3. natural pronunciation (connected speech)

It’s also fun. Try it out.

Level: Pre-int and above

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Audio

ProcedureProcedure one sided convos

After we used this lesson in a workshop at IATEFL, we spoke with the wonderful Richard Cauldwell (if you haven’t come across his blog or his book, I highly suggest you take a look) and he very kindly made some suggestions on additions to this lesson. I’ve included them below along with the audio files he created for us from our original recording.

His idea is that we tend to teach connected speech “rules” or “patterns” but the reality of what we say in ordinary natural speech is far different from what we think we say and we really need to be preparing our students for what is actually being said. He proved this by taking a few snippets from our recording.

when you play this snippets you can really hear that what we think we’re saying is not always the reality. Either at the end or at the beginning of this lesson play these recordings for your students in isolation and just spend a few minutes with them trying to work out what’s being said. Then play the whole recording and see if they can get it.

Little and often is the key here I think. If you’re going to play a real recording, try taking a snippet of it and breaking down the reality of natural speech for your students. Otherwise we’re only preparing them for coursebooks!

Tip: There is software that you can buy that will help you with the above but Audacity is one that I’ve been recommended that is free and reasonably easy to use.

 

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You’ve got Voicemail

So this lesson is based on something I did for my DELTA many years ago.  Back then I had to phone each of them and leave them all a little voice mail message.  Now, just create a what’s app group and share it.  Much easier, and less time consuming.

Why make it a voice mail, well a lot of the listening practice that we do as teachers involves us playing the text to them, in the real world they normally only hear things once, unless watching T.V. The exception is voice mail, I think everyone has had to listen to a voice mail a few times to get a long number or to catch a name.  So in this lesson, students can listen as many times as they want, the power is in their hands. Literally!

The context for this is looking for a flat, which is something many students may have had some personal experience of, especially living abroad.  One of the main focuses here is on prediction and script work, getting students to think before listening about what information they really expect to hear.

Also be prepared for the fact that a lot of house vocab can come up in the discussion stage, monitor and board the language that you think would be beneficial for the whole class.

  • Time: 30-60mins + follow on activity
  • Level: Int +
  • Aim:  To help students listen better for specific information in a natural context
  • Sub aim:  To raise awareness of stressed and weak forms in natural speech patterns.

 Procedure

Before going into the classroom you will need to have recorded the text, either yourself or using someone else – it is important to make sure it is natural sounding.

1. The context: Explain to students that the context is that they have contacted an estate agent looking for a flat for them and a friend. They have been told about two, property A and property B.  You can show them the details to the property at this point and ask them to discuss with partners what they think and which place they would prefer to live in and why.

2. Prediction: Tell students that they are going to get an answerphone message in a minute about another house on their phones.  Get them to predict what might be said, what vocab they expect to hear and also if there is any grammar that they think will be used in the recording.

3. Strong and weak forms: Write the first line of the message on the board

“Hi , this is (name) calling from Fairhouse”

Ask the students, in pairs/groups, to think about which words they would expect to hear clearly, if you have done some work with them previously, they should be able to identify them, if not, then give them time and help when monitoring.

Play the 1st line of the recording only and ask students to see which words are stressed

Hi , this is (name) calling from Fairhouse

Say only the stressed words and ask if they can understand the meaning of the sentence

Hi, (name) calling Fairhouse

Get the students to reflect on why those words are stressed and why the others aren’t – ie, it gives meaning, the others don’t.

Tell students that it will be important to listen out for only the key information while doing the task.

4. Note taking: Get students to reflect back on what information they expect to hear and then share the message with them using what’s app or another similar method.  Hand out the questions on the worksheet and let them listen for the answers. Give them 3-5 minutes, remember the whole point is that they can listen as many times as they want.

Hand out the final property information sheet (C) and now ask the students if they would change their first choice of property and in pairs/groups ask them to discuss this and why?

5. Language focus:  Ask the students to listen again and make a note of any grammar structures they hear used.  They should hopefully notice the repeated use of conditionals.

Then ask if they can write them down – a bit of dictation.  Encourage them to listen only twice and then try to reconstruct the rest of the conditional with a partner (dictagloss).

Then pass on the small section on function or put the information on a board.

(this section is short as I don’t want conditionals to be the focus of the lesson, if you want, feel free to go into much more detail on them)

6. Pronunciation: Ask students what happens to the first ‘I’ in if when saying a conditional.

Write this on the board

/faɪ wə juː/

explain that the first sound often vanishes when native speakers talk quickly.  Highlight the fact they therefore need to be prepared for this while listening.

Get them with partners to practise the pronunciation of the three conditional sentences or drill chorally, whichever you prefer or more importantly your class respond best to.

7. Reflection: Place students in small groups / pairs and ask them to think about what different aspects of listening skills they have focused on and why.  Then share as a group discussion.

Optional

8.  Follow up: Ask students to make notes for a reply to the estate agent explaining which house(s) they would like to view and putting forwards ideas for a time. Remind them of the use of conditionals for giving choices. Once they have ideas, get them to record it, don’t worry about mistakes at this point.

Ask them to listen, focusing on their pronunciation and get them to think about two parts they could improve.  Ask them to record again, trying to improve those two things. When they have done this and are happy, ask them to send the recordings to you.

Listen to them, make some notes on the different recordings and work on any issues in forthcoming lessons.

 

Materials:

Property details

worksheet 1

 

Vox Pop

I was teaching this week and was wondering what I could do as a warmer for a coming class on clothes and fashion.  As I walked from my classroom to the teacher’s room, it hit me.  Mini interviews with other teachers on what my clothes said about me.  So I pulled out my phone and started interviewing colleagues.

30 minutes later, I played them in class and they were a great mine of vocab and also grammar, used naturally, with lots of lovely aspects of pron there too.  Sometimes, it is easy to forget how easy it is to make our own listening exercises.  All you need is a phone with a record function, preferably some speakers to play it through,  and someone to speak.  Happy days.

Procedure:

1. Choose a question: mine was just “what do my clothes say about me?” Then record as many answers as you want / need, for the record, I chose 4 people and the total time for the recording came to just over 1 minute.

2. Play the recording: I played the recording three times and asked them to one of these each time:

  • listen for the opinions of each speaker and then summarise them.
  • Write down any interesting vocab that they heard, with a focus on adjectives.
  • Write down any grammar they heard

the language that came up was great – teachers tend to have quite large ranges.

These were all in the 1st speakers answer, which was 15 seconds long.

“Maybe you choose things which suit you, which is good”

“if it’s work attire, then, it’s probably not what you would wear normally outside of work”

“you might have a slightly geeky looks sometimes”

There is so much you could do with any of those, but conditionals, modals and relative clauses came up regularly in the answers. Good to provide a model for students and proof that what we teach them does get used by people every day, not just in course materials.

Fillers could also be worth looking at, I chose not to as I was only looking for a 20minute activity

However, my favourite answer was “it makes you look like a pretentious knob”.  you can’t say fairer than that!

3. (optional) Focus on any elements of connected speech that come up, or stressed / unstressed words

4. Students can either: ask each other the same question, or if you are feeling brave, send them out to interview other people about their clothes, it’s up to you and go with whatever will work best with your class.  But, do record it and ask students to listen back for the same things as above.

That’s all folks, let us know if there were any great questions you used.