Enabling your adult students to start hearing English
How to listen better? How to help your adult students hear English when they can’t comprehend a word?
Your adult students can be of different levels (from false beginners to advanced) but they can be grouped according to one simple problem -> they suffer from bad hearing and listening to the language or not. There are some students who can’t even recognize the words in listening which they already know.
Teach pronunciation and the aspects of the connected speech
Teach your students the features of connected speech (assimilation, catenation, elision, intrusion etc.). Teach target language in chunks, so your students see how the words are connected. If students struggle with longer phrases, try the technique of back-chaining, starting from the last sound and working up to the whole sound bit by bit. For example with ‘Where do you come from?’ you drill /‘frum’ ‘kumfrum’ ‘dz-kumfrum’ ‘where-dz-kumfrum’/.
When students are aware of the difficulties connected speech may cause with listening, they will understand the stream of speech better.
During the lesson
In lessons, you should show your students the ways how to listen better. Work out the STEPS for listening. All my students know that we pass the 3-STEP listening strategy:
STEP 1. Listen for the gist (for general idea, I tell students to relax, to be all ears to catch the idea only).
TIP: don’t show the transcript at once, let your students’ ears get accustomed to the track they’re listening to (provide them with the explanation and clear instructions).
STEP 2. Listen for details (here I split the task 1) we try to hear keywords only 2) plunge into listening again to get the details we need)
STEP 3. Listen for more details to have a follow-up discussion.
Or you can follow the bottom-up approach and have some decoding work:
STEP 1. Diagnostic listening. Play the recording and ask students to evaluate how much they have understood (give a percentage).
STEP 2. Ask students to listen again and write down keywords.
STEP 3. Play the recording again and add more keywords.
STEP 4. Play the recording again and ask to write down unknown words. Everything that sounds like a word.
STEP 5. Ask to reconstruct the text. Then give out a transcript to check.
Each student has different difficulties, one doesn’t understand the British accent, another can’t understand women talking fast, therefore you should personalize your work with TubeQuizzard and insert videoes with English subtitles (not auto-generated ones) to create your gapped task in a couple of clicks:
TIP. Do you know how to search for youtube videos with English subtitles (not auto-generated ones)? For that, just type the topic this way (with comma cc in the end) and you’ll get all the videos with only English subtitles:
Then insert the link on Tubequizard and you’ll get many gapped listening tasks for your students categorized according to the grammar/vocab topics based on just one video:
Such an approach will personalize a listening task and tailor the listening journal for your students.
Encourage autonomous listening
Earlier, I’ve described how to enable autonomous learning where I described an interesting tool that can speed up your students’ listening skills development. Here is one more idea to encourage students to listen more out of class.
1. Music: create the list of favourite songs together with your student
My students and I do this:
- 1) listen to the song
- 2) listen again and write down the lyrics pausing the song
- 3) find the lyrics and check it out
- 4) listen with subtitles or lyrics and try to sing
2. Dictations: for those who can’t hear a word, dictation should be a great start. In January, we had Listening & Writing better Challenge with students. Students were to do self-dictations autonomously and report in their logs. I used the following resources to make it happen:
See the example of my student’s Reading Log below:
As a result, students not only start paying attention to authentic texts they hear but improve their writing skills.
3. Listening logs: After a February CLIL webinar devoted to Reading and CLIL (EVO sessions 2019), I am overwhelmed with various ideas on how to make my students be engaged in reading and listening. I’ve created a Reading Log that I am launching this February with my students — it will inspire my learners to read more out of class and discuss it during our lessons. If you’re working in big classes, you can offer students to create paper or digital logs à-la Reading diaries that we used to have at our literature classes when I was a child.
Anyway, this technique is also effective for listening. Choose recordings for the listening and ask students to do a listening log. I find this way useful as for adults who suffer and can’t hear a word, it can become the only way to start improving their listening path.
All in all, your students’ listening will improve in no time if
— you facilitate and assist them psychologically lesson by lesson
— you explain that it’s okay not to hear even in their own language as it depends not only on us but the nature of the speaker, attention, etc.
— you inspire them to do it out of class
Please share how you encourage your adult students to hear better.