Listening Activities

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GCSE Languages places a heavier emphasis on writing and speaking, which can lead to listening being neglected.  Listening activities can be time consuming but they are vital in being able to understand a language.  They allow students to experience a range of accents, ages and speeds of talking without leaving the classroom.  Some are contrived and others are effective but how can you exploit a listening text for all it is worth?  There seems to be a school of thought emerging that if teachers teach using maximum TL then that counts as listening.  I think there is still a place for the recorded material.

Listening can be differentiated for pupils of various abilities.  Below are some of the ways I have used in a classroom that work.  I wish I did them all more often.  The majority will work at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.

This takes some planning but consider how you could stretch your more able and support your less able.

More able

  • Ask them to look for particular things.
  • Have a column of extra details if completing a table and get them to fill it in as they go.
  • Could they do a dictée on a particular line?  You could suggest to a class that all those with a target grade of … could do this?
  • Can you do a higher level listening with your more able while the foundation students do a reading activity and then swap.  This works for mixed ability groups.
  • Could they write their own extract afterwards based on the recordings they have heard?

Less able

  • Multiple choice – you can give them this on a handout or on a slide.
  • Write down the words that they hear that they definitely know.  Essentially give them a chance to understand bits before asking them to find answers.
  • Give them the script for the first recording so they can read along
  • Give their TA the script – TAs appreciate this as the teacher’s guides generally have the answers afterwards.
  • Give them the answers and have them highlight the ones they can hear this should help you see how much they comprehend,
  • Teach them skills to help them – key words, cognates, sound patterns, discerning plurals etc
  • VLC is an excellent media programme and has a facility to slow down recordings, I would not go much below 0.90 but it can help.

Conducting a listening effectively

  1. Try not to talk too much
  2. Consider the following order
    1. Play recording all the way through without stopping, students do nothing.
    2. Play through and students try to get answers.
    3. Play through and have breaks in between for students to either write answers or check their answers.
  3. Make sure students are clear on what they are listening for.
  4. Don’t tolerate chat in between.  It needs to be their own work
  5. Try to do them regularly.

Make it lead to something.

Could your students do a similar thing later in the lesson?  Perhaps they could record it and you could use that instead (providing you have permission).   Could they do a speeddating style activity and use some of the phrases from the listening recording, or any other activity for that matter?

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Stretching your best students

Whatever your view of G+T, it is clear that the brightest students in your class need pushing to achieve.  In a climate where languages takeup at GCSE is rising as a result of performance 8 or EBACC measures, A-level and university courses are experiencing decline.  A simple google search shows that in 2012,2013 and 2014 a major newspaper reported on the decline in A-level languages. Our best students should be the ones going on to study it yet most are not. There are blogs which explore and consider why.  Rather than do that, I thought I would share some of the things that I have tried, with varying successes.

Before looking at some ideas there are three questions you need to consider with extension work:

  1. Is the work I am giving them going to deepen their understanding?
  2. Is the work I am giving them going to consolidate their understanding?
  3. Is the work I am giving them suitably challenging and is there a suitable time frame in which to complete it?

Ideas for the classroom or outside of the classroom

Reading

  • Encourage regular independent reading in TL – encourage use of sites such as http://www.cuentosinfantiles.net
  • Authentic materials – what is there that they can go and get and work on if they finish early?  Can they spot the grammar point in a real-life context?
  • For boys encourage them to read www.juanmata8.com , the lethal mediocampista (midfielder) has a bilingual blog.

Writing

  • Picture response activities really allow for creativity. Show students a picture, they could then…
    • write the conversation that is taking place
    • write the events that are taking place  (present tense)
    • write what they think will happen next (future tense)
    • write what would happen if … (conditionals and hypothetical statements)
    • write what happened before (past tense)
    • do a mixture of the above (combining tenses)
    • write what the people should do (modal verbs)
  • Never settle for anything less than their best.  Insist on expanded answers in any plenaries/activities involving mini-whiteboards
  • Dictionary usage – encourage use of dictionary to improve and develop all written work.  Do you have a TL thesaurus?
  • French/Spanish penfriend scheme – get them involved if you can.

Listening

  • What else can they listen for?  Could they do a dictee from the listening recording if they get the answers first time around?
  • www.rtve.es/noticias/directo/canal-24h/    – Spanish news
  • www.france24.com/fr/  – French news     (opportunity to watch live on right hand side of page – pop up window opens
  • www.ard.de – same as the two above  Tagesschau is good short snappy news burst
  • Encourage listening to musicians: Manu Chao (FR/SP), Juanes (SP), Amaral (SP), El Tri (SP), MC SOLAR (FR), WISE GUYS (GER).
  • Encourage them to try a foreign film with subtitles in the TL and the audio in the TL.

Speaking

  • Interviews with TL speaking person are always good.
  • Insist on TL in the corridor, in class and if they have to use it then they will.  It will also develop habits and confidence.
  • Run a twilight session with a focus on improvisation and spontaneity.  They really do benefit from this.
  • Insist on elongated answers comparisons, contrasts, subordinate clauses, do not accept them lowering their standards to fit in.  If you have to then do the speaking test with them in the class but have everyone else working.
  • If playing the trampa game mentioned on this blog,  quietly challenge one to cheat on every go, or alternatively stack the deck.  I tried the former with one student and the intellectual challenge was something that they thrived on.  The morals are debateable but then the game is called cheat.

2 final salient points

1)  Encourage use of previously learnt language in all written and spoken assessments.  G&T students always want to do something new but the challenge should also be to include EVERYTHING they already know as a means of consolidation and a showcase of their abilities.

2) Check they are not sprinting before they can walk.  It goes against everything I have said above but they if they are playing around with subjunctives and still struggling with present tense forms, then you might want to sort the foundations out before building any more of the house.