Been listening

So, two weeks into the new trimester and all is well.

On the last proper teaching day of the project, before the Christmas madness kicked in, I carried out a feedback lesson with the students. A few useful and entertaining activities to gauge how much they think they have improved since the start of the course and what they would like to work on in the new year. I also managed to video all of the class talking about how they think the course is going and their feelings on the unplugged approach to teaching. All positive stuff.

The three main things to come out of the feedback session were these;

  • More listening
  • More grammar (explicit focus on grammar)
  • More videos

No surprise with the grammar or the video one. Although, I was a little surprised with the listening one. A lot of the students had mentioned how they disliked listening activities and that they really liked listening to the teacher (me) as it was natural and I spoke slowly and clearly for them. Anyway, this was what they wanted, so this is what they got.

After a very quiet and poorly attended first lesson, which focused mostly on what had happened during the holidays, we had a near full house for the second lesson. The lesson was based around some old videos I had made while travelling in New Zealand. I started the lesson by bringing in some of my hiking equipment and getting the students to ask me questions about them and what they were used for. Then I briefly mentioned why I loved hiking and because of this I travelled to New Zealand to hike as much as possible. Cue the videos. I had prepared some listening for detail questions, which when I looked back on them straight after the lesson, were simply too hard..

The students were trying really hard during the exercises but I could see that it was just too difficult. What I should have really concentrated on was things such as connected speech and probably more general questions such as how I was feeling or how they thought I would be feeling at that particular time and so on. Lesson learnt. The lesson went well, but I think that the listening had perhaps taught all of us that it’s an area that needs a lot of work and specifically for me, careful consideration of material selection.

Below are the videos I used. I’ve never really shown anyone these, so please don’t laugh. I would be really interested to hear how you would use these particular videos and what exercises you think might be worth trying out with them.

To follow-up the above lesson I decided to do another listening. This time I used my Dictaphone to record the staff in the school talking about the thing they enjoy doing the most. The only rule was, they couldn’t actually mention what it was they were talking about.

After reviewing the last lesson and getting some feedback about the listening exercise, I introduced the Dictaphone and announced we would be doing another listening. I was expecting some moans and groans, but I was surprised when what I actually got was some enthusiastic nodding and people drawing their chairs closer to the Dictaphone itself. The exercise was simple. The students would listen to each extract and have to work out what that person was talking about. They were free to write down anything they heard. During the first listening everyone was listening with great determination and not writing anything down. Some good guesses, but still struggling. Next I asked them to work with their partner and to make sure they write something down as it will help them when discussing it, after listening. I asked them to concentrate on the content words only. During the second listening there was a lot more writing. They discussed in pairs. We reviewed the vocabulary they had written down in open class feedback. I pointed out that if we put these key words together we might be able to find a common topic to help us work out the answer. Words like chords, playing, practising song and strings came up. Suddenly the answer came. “Guitar! They like playing the guitar.” We continued doing the same for the next three recordings. Working on picking out the key words and working out the answer from these. It worked well and we managed to get the rest of the answers and the students seemed a lot happier after this listening than the previous one.

So that’s the listening practice they wanted. There will be more where that came from. Now onto finding some interesting videos to build lessons around and ways of feeding in the grammar they so eagerly want to learn.


6 thoughts on “Been listening

  1. NZ must have been stunning! I didn’t know you went down there – no wonder I had to report you missing to the Dogme Patrol 😉
    It’s strange that, or maybe not so strange, you know that about what you want and what you need… Mine want more listening & grammar too but I think that’s because they feel more comfortable with it because that was the way they had learned before or they feel they need more practice because they want to prepare themselves for the exams. It’s the same old story – they aren’t willing to sacrifice more non-class time to learning on their own. For me, there isn’t an easy way to improve listening skills but by continual exposure: films, music, news… In other words, they’d have to work on it away from the class. There’s no shortage of listening material on the Net.
    But, I agree, sometimes, we have to bow to demands just to please them – we have to, after all, create rapport between teacher and students. Rapport is essential to successful dogme (see Anthony’s post on dynamics and rapport).
    So, I’m actually thinking of killing two (or three, in your case) birds at once: I may show them a video of a teacher teaching a grammar point, and then I’ll ask them to explain the rules.
    Watch out for a review on that!

    • Hi Chiew.

      NZ was amazing. I highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance. I went down there in 2008, for 5 months. Good times
      My course is shifting towards preparations for the PET exam. So, I am building Dogme type lessons around parts of the exam and this seems to be working quite well.
      I like the idea of watching someone teach a grammar point via video and getting the students to summarise and explain it back to you. I look forward to reading that post. Perhaps something I can try with my group, as grammar is next on the list to tick off.
      Thanks for dropping by Chiew. Always appreciated. Sorry for the late reply.


  2. I think your procedures sound good. Something I often do is split the class in groups, give them 2 or 3 platings to note down as much as possible (starting with key words). They then swap groups and build up the text (like a dictogloss), finishing off with some grammaring at the board. Only works with a short passage though..

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