Unit 5a: A Note on Listening.

There is no separate unit in these materials on developing Listening Skills. The principal reason for this is that the topic cannot be successfully dealt with without access to audio-visual equipment which, as I said on the opening page of this website, is often not available in many parts of the world where short in-service training programmes may be held. The overall approach taken in these materials is that the only equipment needed is some sort of board (black or white), something to write on the board with and the facility to make copies locally or to take with you.

If you should find yourself in a situation where equipment is available to play recorded texts and if you can find appropriate listening material, you should be able to put together a worthwhile unit following the approach taken in the unit on Reading, e.g.

  • What have the course participants listened to recently?

  • What do people listen to in the real world? - List of text types.

  • Why do people listen?

  • How do they listen?

  • What happens after they have listened?

Use the above to present the Communicative Profile of a listening event.

Compare listening "in the real world" with what usually happens in classrooms.

Compare the characteristics of natural speech (some of the text types) with written language (most of the so-called "listening texts" used in classrooms) and with text that is written in order to be spoken (e.g. news summaries, public announcements).

Needed for classroom listening practice:

  • a range of text types;

  • reasons for listening (contexts of use);

  • realistic, potential results of listening - appropriate things to do after listening - related to the reason for listening;

You will also need to discuss ways of listening in the classroom - how many times (realistic?), individually, in groups, group control of playback.

Discuss the question of Authenticity. Should all the texts used in the classroom be "authentic"? What does this mean? Can you use authentic texts with lower level learners? - Answer can be "Yes!". You can vary the difficulty of what you ask learners to do with a text while using the same text at various levels.

How much can you/should you use video material rather than aural only?

The possibility of organising a workshop activity will depend on the availability of enough playback facilities for groups to work independently.

There are many situations where playback facilities are not available. And even where there may be a tape recorder in the school, it is quite likely that the school cannot afford to obtain any valid listening material. In spite of this the local syllabus will still have a section on listening skills. In this case you can encourage teachers to attempt to add some variety to the texts they present (i.e. read aloud). They can, perhaps, invent news summaries, weather forecasts and public announcements, for example, but your main focus will have to be on the organisation of the activity and the things the teacher asks learners to do before, during and after the reading. It is still possible to put the text in a context, give a reason for listening and give realistic tasks to do while listening and, especially, after listening.

Dragon Dragon