Section 1. Attentive listening
Listening is an active process requiring participation on the part of the listener. Poor understanding results when listeners do not pay attention. Listeners may experience a lapse of attention for a variety of reasons: they may lose interest in the topic or the activity, they cannot keep up with what is going on, they have lost track of their goals for listening, or they are thinking too much about their own own response instead of concentrating on what is being said.
Attentiveness is a necessary condition for understanding. Therefore, you, as the teacher, must find listening activities that keep the students interested and attentive and that provide appropriate challenge. The activities in this section aim to help you develop your students’ attentiveness in three ways:
1. by personalizing the content of the listening activities– activities which are directed at the learners as persons and as active participants have a greater likelihood of maintaining the students’ interest and motivation;
2. by keeping up a flow of the target language; by having the teacher use English (the target language) during activities, exclusively if possible; and
3. by lessening the stress many students may experience in listening activities if they feel they will be called upon to repeat or give detailed oral or written responses.
In this light, the key features of the activities in this section are:
• teacher and students have face-to-face interaction
• the teacher uses immediate, visual, tangible topics
• the teacher provides clear procedures for the learners
• the teacher requires minimal use of written language during the activity
• the learners listen in “short chunks”
• the learners give immediate and ongoing responses
• the learners control the pace of the activity through their responses
There are eight basic activity outlines in this section. Most of the activities have variations which are alternative activities with similar instructional goals.
1. Classroom language
VARIATION 1.1: CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT
VARIATION 2.1: LEADER SAYS
3. Music Images
VARIATION 3.1: SIMILAR TUNES
4. Personal stories
VARIATION 4.1: JUST NARRATION
VARIATION 4.2: VIDEO DOCUMENTARY
5. Questions, please!
VARIATION 5.1: QUESTION PAUSES
VARIATION 5.2: INTERRUPTIONS
VARIATION 5.3: STORY BOARDS
6. Who’s who?
VARIATION 6:1: BLIP!
VARIATION 6.2: EVENT SQUARES
7. Listening skits
VARIATION 7.1: SCENES
VARIATION 8.1: FAMOUS PERSON
While all of the activities are designed for classroom use, they all have direct links to activities outside of the classroom as well. Learners will recognize the links between these activities and “real world” activities such as:
• giving and receiving instructions
• watching documentary programs
• interviewing and being interviewed
• participating in social activities
By coming to participate successfully in the attentive listening exercises in this section, learners will be preparing for participation in these real-world activities as well.
All of the activities in this section are designed for use with students of all levels, from beginning level up to advanced. Activities such as Demonstrations, Who’s who? and Interview will be particularly useful for beginning students. However, students at intermediate and advanced levels will benefit more from these same listening activities provided that they are appropriately graded. In general, all of the attentive listening activities can be graded for more advanced students by:
• increasing the pace of the activity
• increasing the amount and complexity of the language “input”
• following up the activities with opportunities for student production
For example, attentive listening activities such as Questions, please and Listening Skits, both based on stories, are readily adaptable to intermediate and advanced levels by (1) providing a time limit for the activity, (2) making the “input stories” more complex, and (3) using follow-up activities in which the students compose their own stories and skits.
Your students should find that the activities in this section “easy” in that they make few demands on language production (speaking and writing). Especially for learners who have had little exposure to spoken English for communicative purposes, these attentive listening activities may provide learners with the necessary first step for communicative language development.