Goals and Techniques for Teaching Listening
Instructors want to produce students who, even if they do not have complete control of the grammar or an extensive lexicon, can fend for themselves in communication situations. In the case of listening, this means producing students who can use listening strategies to maximize their comprehension of aural input, identify relevant and non-relevant information, and tolerate less than word-by-word comprehension.
Focus: The Listening Process
To accomplish this goal, instructors focus on the process of listening rather than on its product.
- They develop students’ awareness of the listening process and listening strategies by asking students to think and talk about how they listen in their native language.
- They allow students to practice the full repertoire of listening strategies by using authentic listening tasks.
- They behave as authentic listeners by responding to student communication as a listener rather than as a teacher.
- When working with listening tasks in class, they show students the strategies that will work best for the listening purpose and the type of text. They explain how and why students should use the strategies.
- They have students practice listening strategies in class and ask them to practice outside of class in their listening assignments. They encourage students to be conscious of what they’re doing while they complete listening tape assignments.
- They encourage students to evaluate their comprehension and their strategy use immediately after completing an assignment. They build comprehension checks into in-class and out-of-class listening assignments, and periodically review how and when to use particular strategies.
- They encourage the development of listening skills and the use of listening strategies by using the target language to conduct classroom business: making announcements, assigning homework, describing the content and format of tests.
- They do not assume that students will transfer strategy use from one task to another. They explicitly mention how a particular strategy can be used in a different type of listening task or with another skill.
By raising students’ awareness of listening as a skill that requires active engagement, and by explicitly teaching listening strategies, instructors help their students develop both the ability and the confidence to handle communication situations they may encounter beyond the classroom. In this way they give their students the foundation for communicative competence in the new language.
Integrating Metacognitive Strategies
Before listening: Plan for the listening task
- Set a purpose or decide in advance what to listen for
- Decide if more linguistic or background knowledge is needed
- Determine whether to enter the text from the top down (attend to the overall meaning) or from the bottom up (focus on the words and phrases)
During and after listening: Monitor comprehension
- Verify predictions and check for inaccurate guesses
- Decide what is and is not important to understand
- Listen/view again to check comprehension
- Ask for help
After listening: Evaluate comprehension and strategy use
- Evaluate comprehension in a particular task or area
- Evaluate overall progress in listening and in particular types of listening tasks
- Decide if the strategies used were appropriate for the purpose and for the task
- Modify strategies if necessary
Using Authentic Materials and Situations
Authentic materials and situations prepare students for the types of listening they will need to do when using the language outside the classroom.
- Radio and television programs
- Public address announcements (airports, train/bus stations, stores)
- Speeches and lectures
- Telephone customer service recordings
- Help students identify the listening goal: to obtain specific information; to decide whether to continue listening; to understand most or all of the message
- Help students outline predictable sequences in which information may be presented: who-what-when-where (news stories); who-flight number-arriving/departing-gate number (airport announcements); “for [function], press [number]” (telephone recordings)
- Help students identify key words/phrases to listen for
In authentic two-way communication, the listener focuses on the speaker’s meaning rather than the speaker’s language. The focus shifts to language only when meaning is not clear. Note the difference between the teacher as teacher and the teacher as authentic listener in the dialogues in the popup screens.