“How much of homework that you give your students is listening?” This is a permanent sticky note addressed to myself that will never be removed from my “Organisation and Methodology” virtual board in MIRO, formerly known as Realtimeboard, which I use not only for my online lessons, but also for keeping myself focused on certain job-related issues.
Yes, some time ago I used to notice that most of the tasks assigned to the students as homework were all sorts of exercises, reading and writing, and that most listening actually happened only in the lesson. I was horrified at the discovery because communication in real life very often (not always though, I must admit) occurs when people can hear each other and can respond to what they hear, so the regularity of listening practice must not be underrated. This is how I decided to fix the problem:
- Encouraging the learners to listen to podcasts for fun choosing the ones that suit their interests or meet their needs. I always have something to suggest from the sea of podcasts available now. For example:
They can listen on their way to/from school or work, whenever they have some free time.
- “Chanting” technique for songs; I also call this “rhythmic reading”. A student chooses a song to his/her taste, then gets the lyrics and listens to the song reading the lyrics. After that they read the lyrics out loud as close as possible to the rhythm of the song also paying attention to the pronunciation and intonation. That is quite a challenge and a great fun!
- How often do we just listen, without seeing people and interacting with them? Well, from my observations, that happens quite seldom, even classical phone calls tend to be replaced by video calls in messengers. Why practice just listening so much then? In my opinion, the video is to be used more often than listening now! That said, I am never tired to mention Netflix, HBO and similar platforms where students can choose shows they like and make use of the translation and subtitles provided by these services. And don’t forget about YouTube! For example, as a non-native speaker, I learn a lot from these two channels in terms of language, but I also watch them because I love dogs: Reuben the Bulldog (American English), That Pug Pablo & Co (British English, Cumbrian dialect). When I need to create context for certain vocabulary, I even make my own videos for the students, for example: Is Global Warming Real, The Best Medicine
So, to recap it all:
- Students often do not listen enough outside the classroom, and that is a problem!
- Nowadays the video plays even a more important role for learning than classical audio tracks.
- It is important to make listening practice fun, natural and well-adjusted to the tastes and interests of the students.