Listening Comprehension

Get it?!

Think about how you learned your native tongue: you listened intently to every sound around you: people spoke to you in a special voice. They also talked at you, about you and around you. There was always a context in which the words were spoken and the tone of voice, gestures and body language helped you interpret that context. You heard the same words over and over again in a variety of places and situations. After a couple of years of total immersion listening, you began imitating those sounds. Those that were reinforced with jumping up and down, smiles and kisses were repeated and stored away for future reference; those that went ignored got forgotten. 

Exposing students to as much authentic oral language in context as possible is crucial to building vocabulary and confidence in speaking. 

How does the teacher whose class meets only 4 hours a week, give students enough opportunity to hone their listening skills? Through interesting, carefully chosen homework assignments that become the building blocks of the next day's lesson. Post a recording of an aural exercise, a dialog, a song, choose an on-line grammar exercise that has an audio component, send them to a YouTube video of an interview, select a movie trailer, give them a film clip, have them watch the headlines of the evening news... Whatever it is, require only the shortest written proof that they listened mulitple times: 

  • a parent's signature attesting to the fact
  • a fill-in with missing words
  • a checklist of words to listen for
  • a list of points to discuss
  • three questions they have about what they heard
  • inventive spelling of word(s) they couldn't decode
  • a transcription of one or two minutes of the piece.

Or have them make an AudioBoo in reaction to something they heard. Or give each student a specific thing to listen for, such as numbers, names, a specific word or phrase...

The key is to give them more listening and less written homework, and then to follow up in class the next day by making that homework the starting point for the day's learning. By increasing listening comprehension, your students will speak more. If you don't believe me, try it.

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