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Teaching Listening at Upper
Intermediate Level
by Sam Smith
- Lesson plan 2

Main Aims:
To provide practice in listening to identify topic areas and also phrases key to meaning in fast connected speech at different rates, containing pauses, errors and corrections.
To raise awareness of listening strategies and students' own strengths and weaknesses in listening.
To raise awareness of speech features; fillers, repetition, correction, clarifyers and phrases for agreeing.
To practice integrating real world knowledge into the listening process to aid comprehension.

Subsidiary Aims:
To practice imitating fast speech.
To raise awareness of paralinguistic features of speech.
To practise speaking in the form of discussion, paying attention to agreeing, interrupting and paralinguistic features.

We have looked at some features of fast connected speech in past lessons and students are familiar with features such as weak forms, elision and assimilation.
We have also looked at the idea of chunks or tone units and students are aware of them when listening and speaking.
Students will find the video very challenging but will be aware of this before hand and will not expect good understanding the 1st time they watch.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
The biggest problem will be understanding the video. I expect the students to have great difficulty the 1st time they listen and only slightly less difficulty in successive viewings. This could lead to demotivation and frustration for the students. I aim to deal with this in several ways:
Firstly the students will be aware that what they are listening to is authentic and very difficult, and they are not expected to understand anything like every word.
Secondly the tasks and order of tasks will begin relatively easy: 1st using mainly paralinguistic clues; 2nd identifying topic areas from a concrete list; 3rd answering true / false questions.
Thirdly after listening a lot of times the students will be given the tape-script to find the areas that were difficult, and hopefully understand why.
Fourthly they will hopefully find that some of their difficulties came from native speaker error and correction and realise that they themselves do not have to be perfect.
Lastly they will be given a chance to try and speak as quickly as the native speakers on the video, and this should be motivating.

Another connected problem is that of background noise on the video itself which again could and probably will demotivate the students and cause them to complain. In this case I will explain that background noise is nearly always present and must be dealt with. I hope they will get used to it with successive listenings.

Specific problems might arise from:
Students might not be able to identify the topic areas. If this is so I will repeat as necessary.
Students might not be able to answer the true / false meaning questions in the time given. If so we will move on to looking at the tape-script to analyse the problem areas.
Students might not be able to do the gap fill exercises on particular speech features. If so I will give the answers and students will listen again to see now if they can catch the words.
Drilling and imitating the speakers on the video might prove difficult. We will do the best we can and repeat as necessary.

Problems with timing could occur if the students have much more difficulty with the video than I expect, but if things are proving too difficult we can move to the stage where we look at the tape-script and listen at the same time and continue from there.

The last area of possible problems is that of technical problems. I hope the video will work and I shall set up everything in advance and have a trial run before the students come in. But in the event of any technical problems occurring I will have to be ready to read from the tape-script and do the best I can.

Aids and Materials:
Two and half minutes of video footage of two colleagues discussing the lesson topic, using natural and very fast speech.
A short text from the course-book about experiments on mice to increase their brain power.
Discussion questions on the topic of the lesson.
A list of possible topics discussed by the two speakers.
Some true / false comprehension questions.
The video-script.
Two short extracts from the video-script for gap fill purposes.
A television and video recorder and remote control.
The white board.

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