This is exactly how some upper-intermediate and advanced students perceive those long, boring recorded dialogues: an endless string of words and phrases. Two minutes into the text the words and phrases start sounding meaningless and students start zoning out.
Before your students slump over their desks to catch z's, try something new: get rid of those long recorded texts. Here's why you should do it:
1) They're usually about something students are not interested in;
2) Students often have difficulty unpacking the meanings of the words and phrases;
3) They don't usually mimic everyday tasks unless your students listen to podcasts or to the radio on a regular basis;
4) they are boring;
5) Some of them are beyond boring;
6) Teenage students have a short attention span and will quickly lose interest;
7) The vocabulary might be a bit too hard to grasp all at once;
8) Some speakers have accents that are unintelligible to some students and it seems to me they've gotten some extra money to sound even more unintelligible;
9) Filling in the blanks and answering listening comprehension questions while listening? They've been there, done that.
So what can we do to change this?
First of all, add actionto the listening tasks. Ask your students to take notes, draw, connect dots, cut and paste, whatever you think they can do to focus. Movement enhances short-term working memory and higher-level mental skills. it also improves vigilance and controls anxiety. All of these enable learners to put their thoughts into action.
Secondly, give them some short-term goals. They give students a sense of control and direction. they also need to put their thoughts together quickly to achieve better results.
1) Choose a youtube or a video snippet instead. Images keep us focused. You can use the video with the sound off at first and ask them to describe what they see and then play the video with the sound on. This is a classic and students like it. You can pair up the students and have one of them sit with their back to the screen while their partner describes what they see. You can also minimize the video on the computer screen and play the video so that they only have access to the audio. Students try to guess what's going on and set the scenery. (I particularly like this one).
2) You can split the class into two groups. Set a pre-listening task and a while-listening task. One group stays in the classroom and listens to the audio while the other group goes out of the classroom and reads the script. After doing that, they get together and share their ideas. Who remembers most: the students who listened to the text or the ones who read it? It's a good moment to talk about learning styles and the differences between auditory and visual learners.
3) Break down the text into parts and prepare different tasks for each part. Include apparently silly things like drawing, for example. Drawing decreases distraction and adds an element of surprise to your class. You can ask the students to transform what they've heard into a picture, a comic strip, a graph, a glossary of words and expressions, or whatever your imagination allows. Keep your students on their toes. Ask them to use their hands and their bodies while listening. It helps them focus and gives them something challenging to do.
4) Lack of vocabulary may be a major issue for most students. If that's the case, work on the vocabulary first. Give them a chance to understand. Dealing with the vocabulary doesn't mean you'll spoonfeed the students. Prepare an activity in which they can find out the meanings of the words. It could be a puzzle, a dictionary search, or a matching activity.
5) If it's a dialogue, give them the partially complete script and let them complete one side of the conversation. After they have completed the dialogue they can compare their versions and listen to check. The good thing about this task is that there are no wrong answers as long as they make sense.
6) You can ask a couple of students to act out the dialogue or read the text to the others. It's like live listening except that it's the students who have to do it themselves. You need to point out the importance of intonation, rhythm, and pronunciation for clarity. They can also do it in pairs. Make sure the 'listeners' have a task to do while listening.
7) You can conduct a running dictation. You can use the entire script or bits of it. Group the students and one of them must dictate the text to the group. Make sure the text is placed far from the group so that the students actually race to get the job done. This activity combines listening, speaking, and writing. You can have a different text for each group. Then they can share their texts. This one is a hit every time I carry it out.
The photo above shows my 11-year-old students during a listening activity. This is a class of young learners but I guess it pretty much illustrates the idea. In this task I asked them to mime a dialogue between a doctor and his patient.
They'd already heard the dialogue once and had done the activities in the book. Then, I asked them to mime the dialogue. It was really silly but they loved it, as expected. It's too silly for adults and teens. OK, fair enough, but I'm sure that deep down inside they'd love to do get to their feet and do something different, too --- especially when it comes to those long, boring listenings.
Okay, I didn’t get this idea myself. It came from a guy named Steven; who goes by the Digg name sjbdallas.
Teresa Carvalho's insight:
I'd like to thank Shelly Terrell for sharing this. This could be the start-up for other discussions: 10 signs you're in love/angry/turning into a teenager, etc. I just love nonsense to spark creativity.
Faça esta prova rápida e científica para determinar o tamanho do seu vocabulário de inglês.
Teresa Carvalho's insight:
How many English words do you know? This is the Portuguese version but speakers of other languages will be able to take this practical test and determine the size of their vocabulary. The test result will be included in a statistical analysis of vocabulary size among non-native speakers of English vs. native speakers. It's easy and quick.
10 Words That Don't Translate Into English Have you got a backpfeifengesicht? Find out here, along with 9 other terms that don't translate into the English l...
A simple lesson plan for this video:
Levels: Intermediate to advanced
Agre groups: Teenagers to *adults (some adult learners might not feel comfortable making up words depending on their cultural backgrounds and assumptions)
Length: 45 minutes - You may choose to skip a few steps if you are pressed for time.
Arouse your students' curiosity by writing the following question on the board:
"Have you got a backpfifengesicht?" (as suggested above)
Ask them what they can do when they come across a word they don't know. They'll probably mention dictionaries. This is a great hook to talk about dictionaries and what information they provide.
You can talk about the different types of dictionaries and if you have time, ask them to share their opinions of the ones they use and how often they use dictionaries (online/print).
Expose them to a couple dictionaries and ask them to think about the information provided and the vocabulary of dictionaries (entry/idiom/noun/verb, etc.)
Use the board to sketch a dictionary entry (you can use the word from the example) and elicit its word class, definition, and a couple examples with the word. Encourage them to use their imagination.
Tell your students that this word doesn't actually translate into English t because it expresses a very specific idea and feeling. Ask them what language it is.
Before showing the video, tell the students they're going to find out what this word means. They're also going to see other words in other languages that don't translate into English.
Tell them they should choose their favorite word.
Ask your students to talk with each other and talk about their favorite words.
Divide the class into trios or pairs and ask each group to create an English word for a specific feeling or idea, e.g. "walking in a hurry in the rain."
Show them that one way they can do this is by adding suffixes and prefixes to existing words or by putting words together.
Of course they can also make up new words.
They must come up with a dictionary definition and a couple examples of how the word is used just like we have in dictionary entries. Refer them to the dictionary model on the board.
They can choose what type of dictionary it is. Is it the Urban Dictionary type or would they prefer a more traditional one like Merriam Websters?
If you have internet connection, you can also ask them to look up a picture to go with their new words. If your students use tablets they can prepare their presentations using a presentation app. Tney can also make posters or use the board for their presentations.
Make sure they know chunks for agreeing/disagreeing, etc.
Monitor for accuracy, vocabulary, and fluency.
The students are now ready to present their new words and explain what feelings and ideas they express.
With the ShowMe iPad App you can create beautiful ShowMes in seconds.
Teresa Carvalho's insight:
I like simple things in my classes and this is one of them.: It hardly needs any instructions. Students can prepare short, simple presentations and the the voice recorder does the trick. In a few minutes you can have a neat presentation or a story that others can watch. I wonder what my students will come up with. It's recommended for almost any age group.
"For all the considerable resources that go into marketing Hollywood movies, it would seem that scant attention is paid to checking the grammar and punctuation of film titles...TIME copy chief Danial Adkison and copy editor Douglas Watson offer their professional judgment on some other suspect movie titles.