Why is listening important
Listening is an important skill to master, as in our everyday lives we need to obtain and respond to information which is communicated to us through this medium. It is essential for teachers to develop their student’s ability to listen well, allowing them to become self-reliant learners, by integrating the grammar, set expressions and vocabulary that is heard.
It is common for students to find listening one of the most difficult skills to conquer. There are numerous reasons for this. One of the main difficulties is students feel nervous, so the teacher should try to create a relaxed, comfortable environment. This can be achieved by making the classroom a learner friendly zone, try putting English language posters on the wall, arranging desks in a semi-circle rather than in rows and encourage the use of English as much as possible. Another problem which your students need to overcome is the speakers’ accents and the speed at which they converse. Translating is a common way for students to approach listening tasks, this should be discouraged as it distracts their attention away from the activity at hand.
Contextualization is vital, students need to know some details of what they are about to hear and why they are listening. Unfamiliar vocabulary should be elicited/pre-taught. Tell students how many times they will hear the speech and what they should be listening for on each play. Usually a listening activity is task based, guiding the students with a set of simple questions and a gap fill exercise.
With more intensive listening tasks it is fine to listen three or four times, because it is a good opportunity to focus on spoken structures in great depth. The first time the listening is played set students a few gist questions. On the second play the task needs to be more involved, such as completing gaps in a dialogue or filling in a table. At this stage it is useful to get students to compare their answers with a partner. The third time can be to check their answers. If there are still discrepancies at this stage help by playing specific parts again.
Post-listening activities are as important as all the other stages. During feedback, encourage students to give their opinions, or reactions to the listening. Analysis of grammar structures and phrases can be done after, in preparation for a speaking activity. Vocabulary and collocation work can also extend the listening task.
Listening outside the classroom
As listening is an extremely difficult skill to master, it is a good idea if students listen to as much English as possible. Here are a few ways in which they can listen independently: watching films in English; listening to English radio - The BBC World Service, English songs, news on the internet - “All Things Considered” news stories on NPR; and the student’s cassette which comes with most course books.