Unit 9 Teaching Listening

Unit 9
Teaching Listening
Aims of the unit
1. Why is listening so difficult for students?
2. What do we listen to in everyday life?
3. What are the characteristics of the listening
4. What are the principles of teaching listening?
5. What are the common activities in teaching
9.1 Why does listening seem
so difficult?
 It is becoming more and more necessary
to understand spoken English in many
situations, e.g. face-to-face conversations,
lectures, speeches, television, etc.
 Among the four skills, foreign language
learners often complain that listening is
the most difficult to acquire.
Reasons why listening is often
neglected in language teaching
Lack of teaching materials;
Lack of equipment;
Lack of training in how to use the equipment;
Listening is not included on many important
 Lack of real-life situations where language
learners need to understand spoken English;
 Lessons tend to test rather than to train
student’ listening skills.
Both listening and reading are receptive skills,
but listening can be more difficult than reading
 Different speakers produce the same sounds
in different ways, e.g. dialects and accents,
mispronunciations, etc.;
 The listener has little/no control over the
speed of the input of the spoken material;
 The spoken material is often heard only once
(unlike the reading material);
 The listener cannot pause to work
out the meaning;
 Speech is more likely to be distorted
by background noise (e.g. round the
classroom) or the media that
transmit sounds;
 The listener sometimes has to deal
simultaneously with another task
while listening, e.g. note-taking, etc.
9.2 What do we listen to in
everyday life?
 Since we are teaching our students
English not only to help them pass
exams, but also to prepare them to
use English in real life, it is important
to think about the situations they
will listen to English in real life and
then think about the listening
exercises we do in class.
 Even at the beginning stage, we
need to give our students a
variety of listening exercises to
prepare them for real life use of
 In most cases, the listening
materials in the classroom are daily
conversations or stories, but in
reality we listen to far more things.
 e.g.
 Telephone conversations about business;
Lessons or lectures given in English;
Instructions in English;
Watching movies in English;
Dealing with tourists;
Interviews with foreign-enterprises;
Socializing with foreigners;
Listening to English songs;
 Radio news in English;
 Conversations with foreigners;
 Watching television programmes in
 Shop assistants who sell goods to
 International trade fairs;
 Negotiations with foreign businessmen;
 Hotel and restaurant services.
9.3 Characteristics of the
listening process
It is important to understand the
characteristics or process behind
these listening situations so that we
as teachers can design appropriate
activities to help our students to
develop effective listening habits and
1. Formal or informal?
2. Rehearsed or non-rehearsed?
3. Can the listener interact with the
speaker nor not?
Listening to English songs
Socializing with foreigners
Radio news in English
Watching television programmes in English
Negotiations with foreign businessmen
Hotel and restaurant services
Characteristics of the listening:
(Ur 1996:106-7)
 Spontaneity. We listen to people speaking
spontaneously and informally without
rehearsing what whey are going to say
ahead of time.
 Context. While listening, we know the
relationship between the listener and the
speaker. The situation helps to predict what
we are going to hear.
 Visual clues. Facial expression, gestures,
and other body language, and the
surrounding environment, these visual clues
help us predict and understand what we hear.
 Listener’s
conversation, we can interrupt the
speaker and ask for repetition or
 Speaker’s adjustment. The
speaker can adjust the way of
speaking according to the listener’s
reaction, e.g. he/she may rephrase
or elaborate (to put it in more
9.4 Principles of teaching
Focus on process.
Combine listening and speaking.
Focus on comprehending meaning.
Grade difficulty level
Focus on process
Listening is not a passive activity. We
must do many things to process
information that we are receiving.
Paying attention.
Constructing meaningful messages in the
mind by relating what we hear to what we
already know (previous knowledge).
So it is very important to design tasks the
performance of which show how well the students
have comprehended the listening material.
Combine listening and speaking
Two problems with the traditional
listening classroom:
 No opportunities to practise listening
and speaking skills together;
 The questions only test the students,
rather than train the students how to
listen or how to develop listening
Focus on comprehending
 In the traditional textbooks, the listening
exercises are to test the students’ memory,
not their listening comprehension.
 Psycholinguistic studies have shown that
people do not remember the exact form
of the message they hear, i.e., they don’t
remember what they hear word for word,
rather, they remember the meaning.
Grade difficulty level
Three factors that may affect the
difficulty level of listening tasks:
 Type of language used;
 Task or purpose in listening;
 Context in which the listening
Which of the following would you use for
intermediate middle school students?
In what order? (PP.140-141)
 A videotape of a talk by a native speaker
about the school life of middle school students
in the United States;
 A live talk by a competent English-speaking
Chinese psychologist about effective study
 An audiotape of an interview with a native
English speaker talking about her experiences
living in China;
 An audiotape of the news from CRI (China
Radio International)
 The teacher need to evaluate the tasks
provided in textbooks, adapt and
design tasks to provide more variety.
Variety does not only help students
remain interested and motivated to
learn, but also provide practise in the
many types of listening situations
which learners will encounter in real
Principles for selecting & using
listening activities
 For principles, please refer to pp.141142
Bottom-up model
(Hedge, 2000:230)
1) 语音层次:如语音的同化、省音和溶合规则,以及重音
2) 词汇层次:如词汇和构词法规则;
3) 句法层次:如句子结构、时态、语态和格等语法规则;
4) 篇章—语用层次:如篇章的类型和人际间交流的规则等。
Top-down model
Three teaching stages
Pre-listening activities
Pre-listening activities
Setting the scene
Listening for the gist
Listening for specific
 Good listeners are good predictors.
 There are many different activities that can
be used to encourage students to predict
the content of what they are about to hear.
 Visual aids are immensely helpful in aiding
students’ comprehension. “They attract
students’ attention and help and encourage
them to focus on the subject in hand” (Ur,
Using pictures for prediction
 In the beginning the students may
have difficulty in predicting. In this
case the teacher can help them by
asking leading questions.
 e.g.
e.g. 1
T: Where are they? What are they doing? What is
the relationship between them?
e.g. 2
 T: What do you see in the picture?
What is behind the trees? What is in
the tree? What is in the river?
 Another type of predicting task is to
let students read the listening
comprehension questions before they
Setting the scene
 The teacher can help provide the
background information to activate
learners’ schema, so they will be
better prepared to understand what
they hear.
 e.g. A passage about Michael Jackson
Listening for the gist
 Listening for the gist is similar to
skimming a passage in reading. The key is
to ask students one or two questions that
focus on the main idea or the tone or mood
of the whole passage.
 Notice that students can answer the gist
questions even though they do not
understand every word or phrase in the
Listening for specific
 There are situations in real life where we
listen only for some specific details and
ignore the rest of the entire message. e.g.
weather forecast, announcements in train
 It is important to expose our students to a
variety of types of listening texts for a
variety of purposes so that they will
develop a variety of listening strategies to
use for different situations.
Summary on pre-listening
 We may use more than one kind of
pre-listening activity;
 Pre-listening tasks should not take
much time;
 The purpose of pre-listening activities
is to activate the students’ schema,
i.e. to provide context.
9.6 While-listening activities
 The while-listening stage is the most
difficult for the teacher to control,
because this is where the students
need to pay attention and process the
information actively.
 Some tasks for while-listening
No specific responses
 For stories, or anything that is
interesting, humourous, or
dramatic, we just have the
students listen and enjoy it.
Listen and tick
Listen and sequence
Listen and act
 Total Physical Response:
 for beginners
“Stand up”, “Point to the …”;
 for intermediate learners
“Pretend you’re …(doing
Listen and draw (pp. 149-150)
Listen and fill
 It is important NOT to overdo this
type of tasks, since it gives
students the impression that they
need to understand every word.
 We may ask the students to fill in
the blanks with function words,
say, prepositions.
Listen and guess
 For height, appearance, and
 Four clues about an animal
Advantages of the above
listening activities
 They personalize the lesson and
make the listening interesting.
 They integrate listening with the
other skills, especially speaking.
Summary on while-listening
 Most of the time, it is helpful to
provide a task for the students to do
something while they are listening.
 By providing a variety of types of
tasks, students learn to listen for a
variety of purposes, which better
prepares them for listening in the real
world outside the classroom.
9.7 Post-listening activities
 The post-listening stage is where the
teacher can determine how well the
students have understood what they
listened to.
 One important point to keep in mind is
whether we are testing the students’
listening comprehension or their memory.
 It is more common for people to
understand more than they can remember.
Some types of post-listening
Multiple choice questions
Answering questions
Note-taking and gap-filling
Multiple choice questions
e.g. Compare Exercise A and Exercise B:
Answering questions
 Open-ended questions and
inference questions can be asked.
Note-taking and gap-filling
for a summary of the text
 Preparation: briefly talking about the topic
and key words
 Dictation: for two times, first time focusing
on the meaning, and second time taking
extensive notes
 Reconstruction: working in pairs/groups,
reconstructing the text
 Analysing and correction: comparing their
own version with the original
Summary on post-listening
 Don’t demand students to remember
more details than a native-speaker
would in a real-life situation;
 Don’t spend too much time giving
students practise with traditional testtaking questions;
 Integrate listening tasks with
speaking and writing.
9.8 Conclusion
 We must know the nature of
listening, both in real language
use and in language classrooms
 Focus on the process of listening
rather than on the result of
 Don’t merely test the memory.
 What are the characteristics of the
listening process?
 What are the models of teaching
 What are the common activities in
teaching listening?

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