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Teaching listening and reading


Unit 3 The Teaching and Learning of ESOL Module 2 Listening and ReadingAt the end of this module you will:a) be able to identify a range of skills needed for successful reading b) know ways of training learners to develop those skills c) understand why learners have difficulty with listening d) be able to help students to develop listening skills e) begin to be aware of how a skills lesson is put together

THE SKILLS - INTRODUCTION There are 4 primary language skills, usually referred to as: speaking, listening, reading and writing. It is important to distinguish between them (though they are very much interlinked in many situations) as they demand different abilities, eg giving a speech requires a different skill from understanding what you hear when someone else gives a speech, or to presenting the information in the speech in written form or to reading what someone else has written on the subject. All these four skills must be included in a general English teaching syllabus. There are courses in English for Specific Purposes, which need to be heavily weighted in one or two of the skills eg courses for telephone operators teach more listening and speaking. However, even courses as specific as that need a certain amount of the other skills - a telephonist may need to read a memo, or leave a written message for someone, thus needing the skills of reading and writing. There are further sound reasons for including all the four skills in the syllabus and often in a single lesson: 1. People get tired after a certain period of activity, they need a rest or change of activity - the saying - 'A change is as good as a rest' certainly applies to the language classroom. 2. In any group there will be several different styles of learner. For example while some adults need to write what they learn in oral practice because they get comfort from the written word, others will not need to see the written word. If you give the class the chance to hear and say and see and write a piece of language you will be catering for all styles of learner.

Unit 3


Module 2

SKILLS AND THE TEXTBOOK Some textbooks put emphasis on one or two skills and either omit or downgrade the others. Books which lay great importance on grammar often focus mainly on reading and writing, whereas audio-lingual course books concentrate on listening and speaking (they are however course books which have been written and need to be read). Before taking on a new class, look carefully at the textbook to see if it provides insufficient practice in any of the four skills. Plan ahead and be ready with supplementary material should the book be lacking in practice in any particular skill. Writing is the most commonly neglected, by the way! Authentic texts, readers, recordings of dialogues, extracts from DVD and contemporary news downloads or articles from the internet will be very useful for this purpose. Start making your collection now! Although real life communication rarely consists of only one of the four skills, it is important to look at the skill areas separately to begin with in order to identify what learners need to be able to do, and how we, as teachers, can best help them acquire that ability. What mistakes do teachers make? Look at these confessions. I translate words in texts for my students when they ask me. I play the tape over and over as many times as the students want me to, usually about 4 or 5. I usually give my students the tapescript to look at while they listen. If I dont they never understand. I like having discussions, but the same students talk all the time. I dont use long texts in class because my students cant read long texts. I dont do writing in class except writing down board work and some worksheet completion, as it wastes time. My students write for homework. I translate unknown words for my students before they read a dialogue or text, otherwise they couldnt read it. Think about these as we go through the next two modules.


Listening skills are so important that we have to make sure a range of training techniques are employed and not rely on students to 'pick up' by themselves what the language sounds like. This rarely happens, and leads to the situation where learners may be highly competent in written skills, or have an excellent knowledge of grammar, but are unable to comprehend the simplest of listening passages. It is essential that we recognise areas of potential difficulty and plan our listening activities and materials accordingly. First, however, we need to consider problem areas in listening and then possible solutions to those difficulties.


Unit 3


Module 2

Listen to the sound file (Listening Task.mp3) and complete the table below:Problems learners have 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Ways we can help

(Please submit all tasks together at the end of the module.)

DIFFERENT KINDS OF LISTENING It is convenient to think about listening in terms of two types of listening, Intensive listening and Extensive listening. INTENSIVE LISTENINGUnit 3 5 Module 2

When our attention is focussed and we are listening for a particular purpose, we call this 'Intensive listening'. For example, we could be listening for details of the weather in our region, a train departure time or the football results of our favourite team. As we listen carefully, we select the information we require and ignore the rest. Because we know beforehand what we want to hear, it becomes easier to concentrate and focus our attention to listen selectively. There are several ways of training our students to develop the skills required for intensive listening. a) Prediction By asking students to predict what they are going to hear, based on a topic word or sentence, you are preparing your learners for what to expect, and guided questions help them decide what to listen for, and keep them focussed on the main points. This technique can be repeated towards the end of the listening text by asking students to predict the ending. This can be done in pairs or groups and is particularly successful with narratives. This keeps students actively involved in the listening process. b) Questions Different types of exercises will ensure that listening skills are being developed. As with reading skills, exercises can be set midway as well as at the end of the listening text, and can be in the form of true/false questions, 'wh' questions (who, what, where), sentence completion, gapfilling, error correction, table filling, form-filling etc.

EXTENSIVE LISTENING There are times when we listen to something in order to get a general idea of the context or 'gist' rather than for specific details. Sometimes we need to recognise the function of the dialogue, for example, is the speaker making arrangements, expressing an opinion, making an enquiry or even having a row? At higher levels, intermediate and above, students need practice in recognising attitude (by work on intonation patterns) andUnit 3 6 Module 2

by recognising changes in direction or topic when listening to speeches, or longer listening passages, or taking notes in university lectures. Exercises in extensive listening A general pre-set question given before listening can prepare the students and encourage them not to worry about details but to concentrate on understanding the general idea. Questions given afterwards such as 'How would you describe A's feelings?' allow them to interpret what they have understood without worrying about specifics. It is almost impossible for students to do both. They cant listen intensively for a long time and they dont notice mood while they are listening for precise information. Check tasks to make sure that you do not have them trying to do too many things at once. SELF-CHECK 3:2 1 Here are two different listening activities: a) listening to a group discussing the British Royal Family and deciding whether the general feeling is pro- or anti- Royalists b) listening to the travel news for motorway hold-up information The first involves extensive listening. The second intensive listening for specific information. In a) what helps you identify the general feeling of each of the speakers? Who is the most negative or positive? A B or C? In b) what specific information/key words would you be listening out for if you were hearing this in the car south of Knutsford on the M6?

Transcript (a) (3 speakers chatting) A: Yeah, but I mean whats the point of them? They dont do anything very much to help the country B: And its not like I mean Prince Charles - he may or may not get to be King - its about being useful C: The Queens all right though and shes doing well for 80 something how old is she now? Her mum lived to be over 100.Unit 3 7 Module 2

B: The Queen should be in good shape - wish I had that many people to look after me when Im old and its not real work like C: Yeah, all those dinners and stuff like parties - but I bet she gets bored, poor thing - oh no another local Balmoral special. A: The main problem is there are too many of them minor Royals. B: I agree how many is it now? A: Loads, I dunno. Transcript (b) News is coming in now of diversions in place northbound below Junction 19 for Knutsford on the M6. The northbound carriageway is completely closed due to a lorry shedding its load of chocolate sauce across all three lanes. Northbound drivers are being directed to leave the motorway at junction 18 for Holmes Chapel and rejoin the motorway at Junction 19. The diversions will be in place for about 6 hours and motorists are advised to use other routes if possible as tailbacks are building up back to Junction 16. COMMENT Every text that you use in the classroom needs to be looked at carefully. If you are going to design useful questions then you need to be able to identify the import