Greenhouse, Garden, Jungle. It doesn’t matter what version of the listening task you’re using, students still might have difficulties with it. In this article, we will present some practical ideas on how you ease listening practice if it is too difficult for students.
Listening is one of the basic skills that language learners need to be good at in order to communicate in a foreign language. However, in many cases, we witness how difficult it is for the learners to perform the listening tasks. What can teachers do except pre-teaching keywords, giving out transcripts or playing the recording multiple times?
Use videos and other visual aids
If we want our students to be able to listen, understand and respond, a large part of that listening involves reading a speaker’s facial expressions and body language. So, most of the time, your students need to practice their listening skills by watching videos. These videos can be TED talks, extracts from movies, etc. Setting the scene with some photos of the people speaking can help in tasks where they put the sentences in order. This makes a nice change and is a good way of making skills such as guessing vocab from context easier and more natural.
Help students recognize the words that they know
Students might not distinguish between different sounds in English (e.g. /l/ and /r/ in «led» and «red» ), or not know that words like «there», «their» and «they’re» are homophones. Other reasons are problems with word stress, sentence stress, and sound changes when words are spoken together in natural speech such as weak forms. So taking into account all these factors, we come to the idea that sometimes pronunciation work is the most important part of listening comprehension skills building.
Help them distinguish the main words and expressions
While having a conversation on a noisy street in our mother tongue, we may miss whole chunks of speech but understand the overall conversation. However, learners seem not to be able to transfer this skill to a foreign language setting. Show them how to identify the important words that they need to listen out for. In English, this can be done in an easy-to-spot way by which words in the sentence are stressed (spoken louder and longer).
Have a wide range of listening tasks
Students need exposure to a wide variety of listening tasks: textbook listening tracks, podcasts, videos, short extracts from movies, etc. They need to listen not only to well-designed listening tracks but also extracts from everyday speech so that they have a chance to listen to different accents, speakers (native, non-native). They can be assigned to watch movies as homework or listen to various songs and try to write down the transcript/lyrics.
All these techniques will greatly improve students’ listening skills and add up their confidence as ESL learners.