Teaching listening activities according to CELTA

As you might know CELTA is among the most popular courses in the professional development plan of a teacher. From experience, it’s a great course giving you a nice insight into teaching English as a foreign language, equipping you with the necessary tools and knowledge to take your first steps into the teaching community. 

Some teachers do it at a later stage in their career, which, if you ask me, is probably a better choice as you already have some experience in teaching, know the challenges you face in the classroom, have some knowledge of lesson planning and material development. In this case CELTA greatly helps to polish those skills and gives you closure of why we do what we do in the classroom.

Among practical teaching sessions, theoretical input and more, CELTA teaches you to work structurally and meet the needs of your students as best as possible. Here we will be talking about one of the language skills covered by the CELTA course — teaching listening skills.

As one of the receptive skills, listening can sometimes be “ignored” in the ESL/EFL classroom, as the ultimate goal of the students is to improve their production skills and this can affect the flow of the lesson, the accent that should be put on that, etc. However, CELTA (and all the other PDP courses) stresses the importance of paying due attention to all the language skills as they form the language on the whole. Here is a lesson structure/procedure that was mostly practiced in my CELTA course.

PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production)

Stage 1 — Presentation

Step 1

To begin with, you should set the context of the lesson. In other words it’s known as the “Lead-in” where we introduce the students to the context of the lesson and prepare them to dive in. It can be done in many different ways. My personal favourites are the ones below:

  • Use pictures to introduce the people and the conversation in the listening track. Let’s say there are 2 people talking, the situation is happening in a cafe and they are arguing about something. Here are some sample pictures that you can use to elicit what the listening is going to be about.
    Teaching listening activities according to CELTA

Teaching listening activities according to CELTA
You can use any of the pictures and ask the following questions for the students to brainstorm:

  • Where are the people in the photo?
  • What are they doing?
  • What do you think are their names?
  • How do you think they are feeling?
  • Why do you think they are angry/sad?
  • What is the reason?
  • How do you think their conversation will end?

This will allow your students to get into the topic of the lesson, generate a lot of language on the situation (you can even provide some sample language from the dialogue at this point to make the students’ job easier) and feel more involved while already listening to the track. 

  • Another interesting way to set the context up is to print the script of the conversation, remove some parts of it and give it to the students to read, act it out and fill in the missing information as best as they can. This normally ends up in some interesting dialogues, sometimes even better that the original one.

Step 2

Once the students are done brainstorming (in both cases), elicit their stories and encourage them to listen and check whose story was closer to the original one. This is the second stage, the so-called “Listening for gist”, where students need to listen for general information without focusing on the details. At this point it is generally not necessary to present some language unless it will distort understanding.

Step 3

Next step is the presentation of the language. Here, you will need to identify the language that can be new to your students and elicit the meaning, form and the pronunciation. You can read about vocabulary presentation more here

It should be highlighted that teaching pronunciation, sentence stress and legation is of utmost importance when teaching listening skills, as students can have a lot of trouble understanding the speech if they are unaware of how the words are connected to each other in speech, the silent letters, the stress patterns, etc. One of the the best example here is the difference between:

“Would you like some coffee?” this is what you see.

Wʊdjə laɪk səm ˈkɔːfi/ ↗ — this is what you hear.

A lot more similar examples can be found which, if not trained to listen to, can be missed by the students and result in complete misunderstanding.

Stage 2 — Practice

Step 1

At this point, where the students have covered the target language and are more or less aware of the context of the listening, you will need to proceed with the “Listening for details”. This stage is also known as “Controlled practice.”  Here, you can ask the students to:

  • Listen again and decide whether the sentences are T or F.
  • Listen again and comment on open ended questions.
  • Listen  again and fill in the gaps.
  • Listen again and order the dialogue, etc.

Almost all the textbooks offer a variety of these types of exercises. This step helps the students understand the listening in more detail and be ready to speculate on it. In cases when the students are still having some doubts, it’s a good idea to listen to it one more time.

Step 2

This brings us to the next step, where the students will need to practice the language and the situational context they were working with before. There are several activities that you can try here:

  • Ask the students to act the dialogue out from the script first, by using a proper intonation and pronunciation (this should be monitored) and then from memory, trying to keep it as close to the original as possible.
  • Ask the students to act out the dialogue from script or memory (depending how strong/weak the students are) but change the ending.
  • Ask the students to add some information when acting out the dialogue. These can be for instance exclamations, fillers (Oh /I see, etc.), one word comments and more. 

This step prepares the students for the next stage.

Stage 3 — Production

This stage shows the end result of your work. If students are able to produce the language they have covered during the previous stages to create a situation of their own and manipulate with the language then, you have been successful. 

I personally ask my students to create a situation of their own, using the target language. They are free to write it down, act it out in pairs and then present to the whole class. 

To keep the rest of the class busy, when one of the pairs is presenting, is to ask the rest of the students to write down the new words/phrases once they hear them. In the end, the lists can be compared and the pair with most of the words wins. It is important to pay attention to the intonation patterns as well while assessing the production.

This would successfully conclude the stages of teaching listening according to the CELTA course I did in 2015. 

Try this and let us know what you think.

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