Despite the fact that most communication is face-to-face, most listening material does not train students to cope with this.

Below you will find ideas that you can use with lower-level and higher-level students to develop their interactive listening skills and as a result their ability to interact.

Lower levels

1. Choose any dialogue, for example a dialogue involving someone checking into a hotel. You can use your course book for this or any other listening skills book.
2. Tell students that they are going to hear part of a conversation in a hotel or whatever other situation you have chosen.
3. Ask them to predict what they think they will hear.
4. Tell students that they will only hear one side of the conversation. Tell them that you are the receptionist etc. and that you will be speaking to them. They have to write down what you say.
5. Dictate each line of the receptionist's side of the conversation. More than once if necessary.
6. After dictating all of the receptionist's part, then elicit it from the students or alternatively ask them to write it on the board. Check the language.
7. Students then formulate their responses to the receptionist's side of the dialogue. Check these with the whole class and write them on the board.
8. Act out the conversation with the whole class. Leave the dialogue on the board. You are one side of the dialogue, the students the other side.
9. Repeat 8, having wiped the dialogue off the board. Students then act out the dialogue in pairs.
10. At a later date, for example at the beginning or end of a subsequent lesson, re-enact the conversation to see how well students are able to respond.

Higher levels

At higher levels you can do the same as outlined above but using a variety of text types. Alternatively you can do the following:

1. Tell students you are going to dictate utterances from a variety of situations. For example, 'I was wondering if I could change my holiday dates'. (Employee to boss).
2. Give them the different situations in a random order. Then dictate each utterance. Students have to match the utterance with the situation.
3. Check with the whole class. Then dictate the utterances again. This time students have to write down the whole utterance. Check the utterances with the class.
4. Students then formulate possible responses to the utterances.
5. Check these with the class.
6. Students then take it in turns, in pairs / groups, to say and respond to the different utterances.
7. You then address different utterances to different students and they have to respond as quickly as they can.
8. A further stage is to ask students to build up a 30-second interaction using one or more of the different utterances.

As students realise that they are getting more proficient at responding appropriately in a variety of situations, then their self-confidence will increase also.

Rolf Donald

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