Dear Everybody, spring-like sunshine here in Kent, South East England, with the birds singing....am I in the right hemisphere?

Dear Everybody,

Spring-like sunshine here in Kent, South East England, with the birds singing....am I in the right hemisphere? (This opening may feel meaningless if you live in the Tropics)

I would answer the question in the title with a definitive YES and here is an exercise that focuses the students' minds on speaker intention.

In PREPARATION bring to mind two houses that you know well, one of which you really like and one of which you dislike. Maybe houses are the wrong category for you.......you could equally well choose two husbands, two children, two pets, two books, two films, two meals, two cousins etc......The essential thing is that you like one and dislike the other.   Prepare to describe each of the "items" chosen in words appropriate to the group's language level. Each of your descriptions must be as neutral as possible,  masking your preferences.

In class explain to your students that they will be listening to two short , neutrally couched descriptions and that their task is to suss out which you like and which you dislike. Tell them to observe voice quality, gesture, body posture, text quality etc.....

Give your two neutral descriptions.

Put the students in threes or fours to discuss their views. Explain that they need to present their evidence and that to say "She likes the second one best"  is simply not enough.

Bring the class back together and ask people who thought one way to speak first, giving their reasons. Do ditto with the people who thought the opposite. Get the whole class to vote. Then tell them, truthfully, which you like and which you don't.

This is one off the fullest listening exercises that I know and focuses the students' minds sharply on speaker intention. It invites them to listen to the full text, to see it and to empathetically feel it. The full message includes at least these features: voice tempo, pausing, volume, pitch and sonority, breathing, body posture, hand movement, subtle face movements, text construction, use of particular words etc....... Some students discover that they  "project" their own feelings and world view onto the speaker ...... as indead you, gentle reader, may be doing as you read this posting! Some students discover that they are "mind-reading" on partial and flimsy evidence. In listening catching the whole message is a very energy-consuming and intensive task.

May I suggest that this listening activity is three million light years from the flatness of listening to some coursebook DVD texts.

If you are working at intermediate level upwards this is a generic exercise that students can protagonise in.

Warmly yours , Mario

Ps:I am told that our dialogue is about to be re-fueled by an article on the ancient art of story telling, shortly to be posted under the THINK button.

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