Teaching Listening

listen1.jpgTeaching listening can be hard for teachers and students both. Students who are fine with speaking at their own pace and reading may have trouble listening to a recording that is a regular-speed conversation. And although native speaker teachers are often hired in part because of their unadulterated accents, one of the first things we learn is how to grade our language….so students are not necessarily getting up-to-speed practice listening to teachers.

Some tips to make listening a little less painless:

  • By all means, cue the tape (if you’ve got a CD that’s half the battle) and try the cassette player before class. Make sure you know which side on the cassette should face out and what happens if you press two buttons at once and it reverses or something. Finding your place on a cassette while the class looks on expectantly is no fun. And listen to the recording yourself to prevent any surprises…don’t just read the tapescript.
  • Make sure your students know what questions they should be answering before you start listening. This doesn’t happen on some standardized tests like the TOEFL, which seems a bit unfair, but in a class this helps students not only to get the right answers but to gain confidence that they can do it because they know what to listen for.
  • Let them listen more than once. Or if the first listening was hard, stop the tape after the answer comes and rewind and play it again during the second listening.
  • If the listening is difficult, have students listen, try to answer the questions, and then read the tapescript to check their answers before checking as a class. If they are right they’ll have a chance to confirm that and feel good about it, if they are wrong or don’t know they’ll have a chance to find out on their own before someone else tells them.
  • For an especially difficult listening, try this: photocopy the tapescript and black out 10-12 content words. Type up the missing words, print them, and cut the paper so there’s one word per slip. Elicit or preteach those words, then give students the tapescript and words and have them read and fit in the words. They then listen to check if they placed the words correctly, and can answer any questions from the tapescript if necessary. Reading along may sound boring…but people tend to be quite motivated to see if they are correct with word placement.
  • Do something fun with listening, like using songs, so it doesn’t become routinely boring or difficult.
  • For more ideas, try: