A letter to English teachers: 69How to develop listening skills in your students (2) [Archives:2004/796/Education]

December 6 2004

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
Did you read my last letter? Did you look at the activities in the Workbooks? If you have, you could have found that they differ in the level of difficulty, as they are meant for different levels of learners; but one thing common in all of them is that they present some information and set a task for the learners to use that information and do something, either they have to answer some questions or fill up the blanks with the information or draw something etc. So the listening activities can be as simple as 'listen and repeat' or as difficult as 'listen and do or draw' or 'listen and answer the questions given'. You could also have seen that there is a gradual increase of difficulty in the activities in the Workbooks.
In addition to such activities, in the beginning class (Level 1), the lessons are put on the cassette for the learners to listen to (marked by the picture of a cassette) on the pages. What is the purpose of this? This is to give an opportunity to the learners (as well the teachers) to listen to native pronunciation; teachers whose pronunciation is tolerable need not use these cassettes, they can read the lessons themselves instead. But the information for the listening activities recorded in the cassette must be played to the class; in case your learners find if difficult to follow the native pronunciation on the cassette, you can read the information to the class. What is important is that they should listen to the information and not read it themselves. After reading the information you can get them to do the task given in the book.
How do we teach listening? These are the steps involved in each of the listening activity: first of all, introduce the listening activity to the class in simple English (use Arabic, if necessary) telling them what they are supposed to do after listening to the information from the cassette or you. Make sure that all the learners are aware of the task. Secondly, play the cassette or read the information once or twice or three times, if necessary. Make sure that all learners listen to the information well. Then, ask them to do the task based on what they have listened to. No listening is complete if it is not followed by the task, as your learner's listening and understanding is made sure by their successful performance of the task.
In addition to the activities in the textbooks, in higher classes you can devise a few more listening activities which are authentic. For example, you can tape record an announcement in the airport (if there is an airport in your city) and play it to the class and ask a few questions based on it. You can tape record the English news bulletin from the TV (Yemen satellite, for example) and play it to the class and ask a few questions to check their listening comprehension. You can tape record a conversation in English (natural or arranged for the purpose) between two educated Yemeni speakers and use it for the listening activity. You should see that all these activities are challenging enough to your learners. These and similar activities will definitely create interest in your learners and they will look forward to your English classes, instead of jumping out of the windows from the classrooms (which I noticed with pain in one of the schools I visited in Hodeidah for my practice teaching work!). You can invent more activities, if you seriously think of helping your learners. Good luck.

Yours fraternally,