How to best leverage textbook listening activities?


Immersed in a middle school environment, I have gained a greater appreciation of the middle school textbooks, especially the first and second grade books.  I’ve been exploring a few methods of using the listening activities, within the constraints of the Korean middle school classroom (i.e. I see students once a week—textbook activities are often finished after a single class). 

Here are a few techniques I have been exploring over the semester.  I must confess I love the structure of a textbook.  The set format makes it easier to habituate students into expectations.  Additionally, I feel I work best with a secure base.  Textbooks often warrant supplementation, but a decent foundation allows for genuine innovation…anyways:

a)      For the “tune-in” activities, I often follow this format:

  1. Lead-in which personalizes the activity, during the grade 2 lesson 12 unit on exercise I would ask students to list their favorite exercises and how often they do it, for higher level students I would attempt to have a small “authentic exchange,” i.e. a short conversation.
  2. Play the audio, complete the comprehension activities.
  3. Ask students another question that is both personalized and related to the content in the text.  For example, this particular listening exercise talked about the length of the exercise activity.  Thus, I asked students how long they do a particular sports activity, et al.
  4. Play the audio with the script.
  5. Replay the audio with the video.

“Theoretically” this is based on advice I received at the most recent KOTESOL International Conference, namely that a lead-in should be personalized.  

b)      For the shorter “Listen and Speak” activities, I have begun to experiment with this format:

  1. Introduce the topic (though without personalization), check that students comprehend the theme, and textbook instructions.
  2. Play the audio a total of five times, in the following sequence:
    1. Students only listen (depending on level either at a slower or normal speed)
    2. Students read and listen to the script (I often allow students to simultaneously view the Korean translation)
    3. Students listen and repeat the audio while reading the transcript.
    4. Students listen and repeat, though this time at an accelerated rate (the 1.5 feature on the audio samples in the textbook makes this possible) while viewing the transcript.
    5. Students listen and repeat at the faster rate, but without seeing the words.

“Theoretically” this is inspired from Neil Anderson’s idea of shadow reading, where students mimic the teacher’s oral reading speed with the goal of getting students to read at an ever faster rate. 

c)       I’ve experimented with a few other techniques, such as those once suggested in a blog from Michael Griffin including having students practice dialogues with different characters, or in different moods.  I may consider adding that to my above techniques.

There is some room for criticism.  The approaches do not allow for much student creativity, they are very straight forward, and somewhat mechanical.  However, I have found, especially for the shadow-reading inspired approach more students participate.  It is a very close-ended technique, but it fits where I am working currently.

Thus, what are some of the methods you have used for textbook listening in your classroom?  How has your approach evolved?  Do you have any novel ways to personalize the content, or to increase student processing rates?



About cmiller112

Teacher, Father, Jogger, Sleeper, Husband, (add extra label here)
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2 Responses to How to best leverage textbook listening activities?

  1. Very interesting post, Chris. I agree that sometimes the textbook best suits students’ expectations of how a class should go and that’s what you have to do if you want them to participate at all. It is quite difficult to encourage (or inspire) tired middle school students to be creative within the limitations of the mixed-level classroom and it can be discouraging to put more effort into planning creative lessons than your students are willing to put into learning them. On the other hand, it might be an interesting experiment to try and see if you can increase motivation by adding a few more real-world listening activities to replace textbook ones. I’m no longer required to teach out of text books in my job, but back in the day – after I realized that textbooks were written in a specific order with specific activities for a reason – I added an activity using the listening as a dictation exercise. I did this in groups so they could help each other. For personalizing the content, I asked the students to recreate the dialogue with their own information. As with all things, it takes time.
    Thank you for the post and good luck with the class!

  2. Pingback: Blogs I am looking forward to in 2013 « ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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