“Progress in reading requires learners to use their ears, as well as their eyes…”Williams (1985)
In this post, I have tried to compile a possible list of ideas on developing top-down and bottom-up listening skills in adult ESL Literacy learners. Some of the techniques I have been using in class, others I have thought of while researching this topic for an MA assignment. Please feel free to add, comment and share what you do in the classroom!
- Students are listening to a naturally uttered sentence (must be meaningful for their reality) and fold fingers or draw sticks ( | | | | | ) to indicate the number of words in the sentence. The sentence can be repeated as many times as needed.
- A more advanced stage of the same activity is to ask students to draw the sticks on the first listening and then circle the sticks that match with the most prominent (stressed) words in the sentence.
- This exercise can be done as a separate activity for sounds or an integrated activity for vocabulary building. Students are taught explicitly a particular sound or some vocabulary, then they listen to a short text including the target vocabulary or the words that exemplify the target sounds, and they have to shout out 'STOP' every time they hear the target words or sounds.
- A more advanced version of the same activity is to ask students to raise their hand whenever they hear the target words or sounds.
- This is the activity that my students particularly enjoy. Listening BINGO: students learn a number of words. Then they were offered to choose X words that they like on flashcards and arrange these words in front of them on the table. When they hear the word, they flip the flashcard upside down. The student with all the cards upside down, wins the competition by shouting “BINGO”. It is a lot of fun if the students are listening to words in a song. For example, an introductory activity can be based on the song “Rock-a-bye Baby” and the possible vocabulary would include words such as baby, tree, crib, chair, mother.
- Students listen to a word or a sentence and then clap to reproduce the rhythm.
- Students are given a picture which depicts a situation or a set of events that are in the story they are going to listen. They look at the picture individually, in pairs, small groups or with the teacher and try to guess or describe what is happening. This is done to set a particular context and activate students' schemata. Context and schemata are powerful tools in enhancing learners' listening comprehension. There is a distinction made today between teaching listening and testing it. Therefore, if the goal is to develop listening skills teachers have to create the conditions for students to succeed and reduce the possibility of failure. One of the possible challenges experienced by the LIFE group is the inability to form mental representations from words heard do to the lack of language knowledge or some learning needs. Therefore, they usually process the information at a very slow pace and need more time to make sense of what they hear. In this regards, the picture in front of them is very helpful for students with language and learning needs.
- The teacher then starts telling the story while some students are looking at the picture and others possibly looking at the teacher for non linguistic cues. Interactive aspect of this activity is that the teacher stops at certain points to ask a question in order to assess listeners' comprehension. In the introductory stage of the activity, Yes/No questions are asked and later on with some practice factual questions are used to encourage selective listening. Some difficulties such as inability to concentrate, lack of attention, quickly forgetting what is heard are very common among my learners. Therefore, knowing that at any moment the teacher can pause and ask a question the learners are prone to listening more actively. Ideally, the teacher stops after each sentence, as many students (especially LIFE) have difficulties in remembering larger chunks of information, to give them just enough input to answer the question. The second step can be repeated as many times as possible. A more advanced version would be telling the story with the picture upside down.
- A follow up is the story reconstruction by the students with or without pictures.