TESOL 2015: Focus on Teaching Listening, Part 2


TESOL 2015 Convention Blog Post

This is a continuation of my previous post on ideas I garnered about teaching listening from the TESOL International Convention that took place in Toronto, Canada last week. I have two more sessions to share with you. Again, I hope you can use the tips, strategies, and activities I learned in your teaching.

3. Too Much, Too Soon? Using Authentic Materials Before Advanced Levels
presented by Rubens Heredia

Authentic language is unpredictable and spontaneous, and so it can be intimidating for a lot of learners. This session presented a few key concepts that can be used to help students feel more comfortable with authentic material, even at low levels.

Authentic Materials by Nonnative Speakers

The first concept that the presenter, Rubens Heredia, mentioned was that authentic materials are not limited to texts created by native speakers of English. Authentic content can also refer to English texts that are created by nonnative speakers. These listening texts can build student motivation and interest as well as lower their affective filter. Students won’t be as intimidated by a nonnative created text. The example used in the session was the vlog (video blog) Curious Sergey from YouTube. We watched an episode about making friends, and it was such a great video! I am looking forward to using it with my beginning level students.

Using Inaccurate Authentic Materials

Building off the idea above, the presenter also mentioned that bringing in inaccurate authentic material can be helpful and a great learning opportunity for the students. It proves to the students that authentic speech is not always accurate. This can take some of the pressure off of the students while they are listening and/or speaking.

Authentic Video as Support Material

Secondly, consider using authentic video as a support material and not the main focus to help ease your students into using authentic listening texts. A wonderful example of this was presented in the session using the movie Shaun of the Dead. This movie has two opening scenes that are almost identical—the main difference is that one happens before the zombie apocalypse and the other one happens after. So, while watching the openings, the students can find similarities and differences between the two scenes. In partners, one student can watch and describe while the other student takes notes without looking at the screen. Then the students can switch roles for the second scene and try to notice the differences. It is a video-based information-gap activity.  The two scenes have minimal dialog, so it is fine for the students to speak and describe the action while the scene is happening. This activity is fun, inspires a lot of speaking, and gets the students interested in watching the rest of the movie!

Rich Visual Supports

The last idea is an oldie, but a goodie—use authentic material that is full of visual support, so that students can figure out things that they can’t catch by listening alone.  The example video the presenter showed was an ad for Mexican avocados.

Metacognition in the ESL Classroom
presented by Anna Uhl Chamot

You can’t really choose to focus on listening without attending a session or two on developing metacognition. I think the presenter said it best when she explained metacognition as follows: “Metacognition is what you think about and what you do with what you think about.”

The basic steps of metacognition are:

  • Planning/organization (How do you plan in everyday life? Apply this to the classroom.)
  • Monitoring and identifying problems (being aware of how your task is progressing while you are doing it)
  • Solving problems
  • Evaluating the learning process

Metacognition can:

  • Deepen self-understanding
  • Promote autonomy
  • Provide motivation
  • Increase self-efficacy
  • Lead to more successful learning
  • Give teachers new insights into students’ learning (It’s a diagnostic tool.)

The presenter described the elements of metacognition in even more detail, but I think the key takeaway lies in what the teacher can do.

  • Model metacognition, as the teacher, by thinking aloud and showing the students how you plan and monitor during a listening task.
  • Constantly ask the students:
    • What are you thinking?
    • How are you going to solve that problem? (with listening)
    • How are you doing that? (listening for the correct answer)
  • Make sure your students have short- and long-term goals. Most students have long-term ones (speak English), but making short-term ones (related to listening or to any specific English skill) provides students with the opportunity for  multiple small successes that will motivate them to the next step.
  • Provide checklists/learning logs to help students evaluate how well they have completed the task.

There was so much more that I learned during the 3 days at the conference, but there just isn’t enough space in a post for everything! I hope some of the ideas for teaching listening will inspire you to make effective changes in how you structure your listening classes!

If you have any ideas to share, or comments on the ideas I’ve shared here, please leave a comment below.


About Autumn Westphal

Autumn Westphal
Autumn Westphal has been working in the field of English language teaching since 2007. She has taught English to speakers of other languages in the US and in South Korea. She became a teacher trainer with the WL-SIT Graduate Institute in 2010. She currently works as the deputy head of teacher training at Rennert New York, where she is responsible for training teachers, developing teacher training curricula, and delivering professional development workshops to Rennert teachers.
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One Response to TESOL 2015: Focus on Teaching Listening, Part 2

  1. Karen G says:

    Thanks for these posts on listening. I wasn’t able to attend TESOL, but am looking forward to the MATSOL conference. I particularly am interested in the top of authentic listening and have recently been observing some sheltered classrooms where teachers use NPR stories as a great source of authentic listening for intermediate and advanced ELLs. I wonder about the “too soon” comments in the session as the issue of complexity affects this, not just authenticity. Great collection of classroom-ready public radio stories available at http://listencurrent.com/current_events

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