Thursday, March 13, 2014

Authentic speaking and listening activity

This is a great activity as it integrates speaking with an authentic listening task, which is excellent preparation for the combination of listening and speaking that students are likely to need in real life. The version here is a ninety-minute lesson taught by two trainee teachers in their first meeting with an intermediate class of ten young teenagers.

In preparation, each of the teachers made brief notes about herself, including her past, her present activities, and plans for the future. The notes were used as a basis for semi-spontaneous talks which were recorded using the voice recorder on a phone. It was decided to use recordings rather than live talks as this made it easier to be consistent in case students needed to hear the talks twice. At the end of each talk, the interviewer asked three questions, which were explicitly linked to aspects of their lives that the interviewees had already mentioned. 

After making the sound recordings, each teacher created a worksheet for the listening comprehension activity. In one case, this was a series of open questions, in the other it was a gap-fill activity. Although the language in the recordings was not artificially simplified, the activities were designed to be appropriate to the level of the class.

At the beginning of the lesson, students were given the first handout, and instructed to answer the questions as they listened. After listening to the recording, the students were given the opportunity to ask questions about anything they were unsure of, and then the answers to the listening comprehension activity were checked. A similar procedure was then followed for the second listening activity. This took about thirty minutes.

Students were then given five minutes to make notes in preparation to give similar talks about themselves. They were told that they must listen carefully to their classmates so that after each talk, each student would ask the speaker one question linked to something in the talk. The actual talks each lasted around half a minute, but together with the questions and answers, the time was around five minutes for each student, a total of fifty minutes.

This is a very flexible activity, which can easily be adapted to higher or lower levels. The talks by the teachers should be as spontaneous and authentic as possible, with the tasks on the worksheets designed according to the level of the students. It’s important to get all the students to ask each of their classmates questions in order to ensure that they remain focused on the listening.

 Peter Beech -

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