As English teachers, we know how to listen. But not many of us have taken listening classes, at least not in English. How then does a person teach listening when she’s never had a listening class of her own and has no model to follow?
We do listen in English, but those skills come instinctually. And when we have no experience of our own to fall back on, how does a new teacher know what to cover in a listening lesson? The perfect listening lesson is easier to accomplish than you think. With 5 simple steps you can take any listening material and use it to create a successful educational opportunity for your ESL students. Here’s how.
How to Teach a Perfect Listening Lesson
Wake up Their Brains
Before your students ever listen to the material you will be using during your lesson, it is important to get them thinking about the topic it will address. Your students already know more than they think they do about your topic and their own English skills. When put on the spot, though, it is hard for anyone to remember what they already know about a topic. By discussing the general topic that will be covered in your listening material, your students will bring any knowledge they already have about the topic to the forefront of their brains. For ESL students, this may include specific vocabulary and grammatical structures as well as content knowledge. In addition, learning makes connections between the things that we already know and the new information presented to us. When you present new information to your students in conjunction with what they already know, they will retain the information faster and for a longer time than if you present the information cold. So if your students will be listening to a zoologist’s presentation, ask them to share stories of their favorite animals or a trip to the zoo. When listening to a conversation at a restaurant, have students discuss who they like to eat with and what they talk about when they are out. In addition to talking about the subject, you can give your students some basic knowledge about the material they will listen to and have them make predictions about it.
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
A good listening lesson gives students a chance to listen to the material multiple times. Each time they listen, though, they should have a different goal. The first time through, you will want your students to get the overall message of your listening material. After your students have discussed what they already know about the topic and made some predictions, present the listening material to your class for the first time. This first time though, your students should be listening for main ideas. Taking notes is optional at this point. You can have them discuss the general points of the listening material in groups after they listen or have them write down the main points of the presentation.
Now that you have gotten your students thinking about the subject and given them a chance to listen to the material once through, have your students go back to their original discussion groups and questions. They should spend a few minutes talking about what they got right and what they got wrong. This is also a good time to clear up any major confusions. Do your students have any general questions about what they heard? Have individuals share these with their groups and see if the other members can clear up any confusion. Your students will then be ready to listen the second time through.
What’s the Nitty Gritty?
Your students should already have an understanding of the listening material, so now it’s time to get to the specifics. As your students listen this time, they will be taking notes and listening for specific information. You might want your students to take notes as they listen and then answer comprehension questions. (Give them the questions before they listen to the material again.) You can also have students fill out an outline as they listen. If you are teaching specific vocabulary, have students listen for and write a definition for each new word. You can even ask students to make inferences based on the information in the listening passage. Don’t feel like you have to limit your students’ listening to only two times, either. Play the selection for them as many times as they need to hear it to get the information you are asking for. If you are asking for two or more types of information (vocabulary, comprehension questions, etc.) give your students a listen for each set of information you want them to note.
Step it up
Now your students have listened to the passage multiple times and should have a thorough understanding of what they heard, it is time to apply that information to another context. Think about what your students could do with the information they heard. If they heard instructions on how to care for a dog, ask them how they could care for a cat. Ask your students to write about how they would go about finding a new job if they listened to a lecture on job searches. If your students listened to a conversation between two people at a café, have them role play a conversation between two people on a dinner date. The point in this final step is to take the information they received and apply it to a different situation or use it to complete another task. Be creative but be practical. Your students will appreciate a real life application of the information they have worked so hard to understand!