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Listening Using Authentic Video for Overseas
Learners of English
By James Frith
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Activating Schemata

‘Understanding is partial, and inferencing is crucial.’ (Field 1998:110)

Once we have our interesting, challenging excerpt, we can start looking at some top-down strategy training while exploiting the visuals. As we mentioned earlier, we need to make sure that context is provided and/or elicited by showing a very short clip from the first section of the excerpt. For example, we can learn a lot about a character from a simple picture. This will also act to arouse interest. At this stage, the students should also be told, the type of text being used.

We can then show the first section without sound and encourage the students to infer the speech event, recall scripts (i.e. what type of interchange usually takes place in this situation), infer goals and discuss the attitudes of the speakers and the setting. The students could then role-play the dialogue, predicting what they are going to hear before actually listening to the text with an authentic task.

An authentic task should involve the skills which would be used in the real world, thereby taking meaning from the text. For example, while watching television we are continuously thinking about what will come next. Ask the students to do this after the first section. Alternatively, pause the tape repeatedly to elicit a response, or even allow the students control of the tape. There seems little point in asking detailed comprehension questions which may prove difficult for even a native listener, possibly due to the fact that according to Richards (1985), we delete from our memories the message originally received once we have extracted the meaning and acted on it.

It is important that the teacher’s methodology is transparent all the while. The students should know what type of listening task is required and should know that they will have an opportunity to compare their findings afterwards. Strategies could also be discussed.

Post- Listening Phonological Work

Before listening to check predictions in the second section of the chosen excerpt, Field (1998) proposes that we do some bottom-up, post-listening work with the first section. This provides our cautious listener with the comfort s/he desires, it can present the students with reusable tools and, most importantly, it focuses on the parts of the text where communication broke down.

Cauldwell (2000) recommends doing perception work on the more impenetrable features of rapid speech. He says that students should learn to feel comfortable in handling the features of fast speech by being given the opportunity to rehear crucial, challenging moments of a recording, see a written transcript of them and produce them themselves.

Perhaps the troublesome ‘moments’ (or ‘chunks’) could be re-recorded onto an audio cassette, before giving out highlighted tapescripts to compare them with, or they could be reproduced in phonetic script to be matched with the corresponding transcriptions in Roman script. The ‘chunks’ could also be listened for in the text or even dictated by the teacher, before drilling takes place and finally a short clip from the first section could be used for a shadow reading activity.

Items selected for study could include those lexical features mentioned above as particularly typical of natural spoken English.

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