Are you ready to press play?
Don’t say yes until you’ve read and readied these seven steps for the perfect listening lesson. No matter what recording you have for your students, a prerecorded dialogue from the text book, a podcast, a movie clip, you can guarantee a great lesson with these seven simple steps. They will take your and your students from start to finish, challenging their listening skills and teaching them how to be better users of the English language.
7 Step Plan for a Perfect Listening Lesson
Get Them Thinking about the Topic
Before you do anything with your recording, you want your students to think about what they already know regarding the topic they will be listening about. The fancy teacher words for this stage are activating the schemata. Basically, you want your students to think about the topic before they listen to people talk about it. The reasoning behind this is simple. When you get them thinking about the topic at hand, it will bring their knowledge to the forefront of their minds. They will remember vocabulary they already know and be reminded of the context of their experience. All this will help them understand better what they hear and will also give them better retention since they will be making connections between what they hear and what they already know. You might get them ready by showing them some pictures related to the topic or giving them some general discussion questions, questions that prompt them to remember and share a situation similar to the one they will be listening to.
Get Them Ready for Your Activities
Before you have your students listen to your English passage, think about what you will want them to do with that information after they hear it. Will they be writing a summary? Then they need to know what a summary is. They might also need to know transitional words for showing sequence. Do you want them to compare and contrast what they hear with something else? They may need to know how to use comparative and superlative adjectives. When you get your students ready for the activities you will ask them to perform, you want to make sure they have the vocabulary and language skills necessary to understand and perform those tasks. This does not include vocabulary and grammar they will need to understand the listening assignment. Those you will cover later. At this point, just make sure your students will understand the instructions you will give them after they listen to the recording. When you cover this material now, they will be able to concentrate on what they are hearing throughout the rest of the lesson.
Listen the First Time
The first time through your listening material, you should not give your students any specific comprehension questions to answer. Instead, you want to give them questions that help them get a feel for the general topic and purpose of the listening passage. Some questions you might give at this stage are as follows: Is the speaker generally happy or unhappy? What is the purpose of the conversation? Where is the conversation taking place? As long as your students are getting the gist of what they are hearing, this first listening activity will be a success. If they are unable to understand even the most general of information at this point, the listening selection may be too difficult for them right now.
Listen for Specific Information
Now your students have heard the passage once and have a general idea of what it’s about. It’s time to ask some specific questions. Any general comprehension questions will do. You might want students to answer multiple choice or true/false questions or give short answers to some observational questions. Depending on what your students listen to, you might also have them sequence events from the story or label parts on a diagram. Before you play the recording, let your students read over the questions or task you have set before them. (They should have no problem understanding the directions since you covered the necessary vocabulary and grammar structures in step two.) If students already know the answers to some of the questions, great! They did even better than expected on their first listen. Let them write down their answers and guesses and then play the recording again. Then play the recording and let them answer the questions as you go. Then give them a few minutes to check their own work after you press stop and before going on to the next step.
Review the Answers
Don’t leave your students hanging when it comes to the comprehension questions in step four. Take a few minutes to review the correct answers and clear up any confusion your students had in this step. Consider having pairs of students compare their answers before going over them as a class. That way you’ll get an extra speaking activity in, too.
Go over Any Necessary Grammar
Odds are, you had more in mind than just a listening lesson when you chose the recording that you did. Often in ESL instruction, we model a grammatical structure for students before explaining it to them. (In fact, the discovery method of grammar instruction expects students to figure out the rules based on the language samples they are given.) You don’t have to make your students figure out new grammar for themselves, though there are advantages to this type of instruction. At this point in your lesson, go over any new or unfamiliar grammar structures your students encountered in the listening passage. For example, if the speakers were planning a vacation, they might have been using the conditional structure. If so, take some time now to review that with your students, and give them some practice using the structure themselves. This is the time to review unfamiliar vocabulary, too, if your students still need help with the words in the recording.
Do a Speaking Activity
Now that your students have thought about the topic at hand, listened to your recording at least twice, and learned the grammar and vocabulary used in that recording, it’s time to put that knowledge to use in a speaking activity. What activity you choose depends on you, your students, and what speaking activities you have done lately. You might want students to do a role play that is similar to the interaction they heard on the recording. You might have students discuss the topic and share their opinions with a small group or the entire class. You might choose to have students do a debate on the topic or give a presentation. Almost anything will be good with one exception. Do not just have students practice reading the same dialogue they heard in the recording. While this is sometimes useful in class, more often students come to rely on canned dialogues and fail to acquire conversations skills instead. So instead, get students using the grammar and vocabulary they learned in an original conversation rather than memorizing what they just heard.
You’ve done it.
You’ve taken your students from start to finish of a great listening lesson. The beauty of this process is that it is so versatile. You can use any listening material and fit any kinds of activities into the framework you have here. Flexibility plus effectiveness – the perfect combination for any teacher making lesson plans. So get ready to press play by setting up these seven steps, and you will have a listening lesson that your students will learn from and love.
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