Teaching Listening at Upper Intermediate Level by Sam Smith

At the beginning of an extensive (3 hrs. A week) course with my upper intermediate group I conducted a needs analysis, I was pleasantly surprised by their very modern attitude to listening and how important it is. This ties in with my own beliefs and my observations of this class and of the problems of my students in general in this area.
Before going on to describe the argument for listening and how to carry out the listening lesson, I would like to spend a few words on my students' goals and needs.
· 25% of the group use English with Americans and British people on a regular basis at work.
· 50% of the group are learning English so as to use it in an English speaking country and 25% to live and work there.
· 87.5% put as a specific goal 'to understand native speakers and speak fluently'. (The other 12.5% put 'speak like a native speaker'.)
This shows a great need and desire to practice and be taught listening, particularly with authentic materials featuring native speaker speech and a need to be presented with and become aware of the features of this: stress, intonation, weak forms, elision, assimilation, catonation, using fillers, pauses, repetition, self correction, interruptions and all the discourse features used to signal a speakers' intention.
Some of these features are of particular importance to my students, being Spanish, as there is a noticeable difference between Spanish and English in terms of word and sentence stress, intonation and weak forms.

The Importance of Listening

Historically played down until the event of the popularity of the tape player, the importance of 2nd language listening has been growing recently and we are finally beginning to see how important it is.
It was something that I had just accepted as another part of ELT until at a teaching workshop in Kharkov, Ukraine, I was asked to compare my feelings about being deaf, dumb or illiterate. I chose being deaf as the worst. I have lived in 3 foreign countries while learning the language and have noticed what is important. Listening (and speaking) are the mediums through which I conduct at least 90% of my interaction (my guess) and I don't think I am unique in this.
My own observations are backed up by Michael Lewis.

Almost all the world's natural language output is spoken rather than written.
(Lewis 1993, 32)

As well as listening being a vital skill for almost all interaction, it follows from this that it is therefore the most important medium for input in learning a foreign language (Lewis 1993) and by increasing our students' ability to perceive speech, we are increasing the amount of input they will receive and therefore aiding language acquisition.

Having established the importance of listening, I would like to answer a few questions about the nature of listening before going on to look at how we teach it and how we should teach it.

What is listening?

Michael Rost breaks down listening into 2 things: The component skills and what a listener does.
What a listener does, is take some conscious action, involving cognitive processes to understand a message. The listener must take decisions such as:
· What kind of situation is this?
· What is my plan for listening?
· What are the important words and units of meaning?
· Does the message make sense?
(Rost 1991, 4)

Making these kinds of decisions involves thinking about meaning at the same time as listening, another way to say this is listening strategies.

Rost give the skills (in terms of perception skills, analysis skills and synthesis skills) necessary for understanding as:
· Discriminating between sounds. (perception)
· Recognising words. (perception)
· Identifying grammatical groupings of words. (analysis)
· Identifying 'pragmatic units' - expressions and sets of utterances which function as whole units to create meaning. (analysis)
· Connecting linguistic cues to paralinguistic cues (intonation and stress) and to non-linguistic cues (gestures and relevant objects in the situation) in order to construct meaning. (synthesis)
· Using background knowledge (what we already know about the content and the form) and context (what has already been said) to predict and then to confirm meaning. (synthesis)
· Recalling important words and ideas.
(Rost 1991, 3-4)

These skills make up a person's listening ability.

By helping learners improve their skills (listening ability) and encouraging them to successfully use strategies we should be making them better listeners. (Rost 1991)

What characterises heard language?

We listen in many situations, to the TV, radio, formally in lectures or speeches, to recordings like songs or messages on the telephone but the majority of spoken language is person to person and we can generalise about its nature.
There are some important factors to take into account when considering listening, some things that characterise it in most situations according to Penny Ur are:
1. We listen for a purpose and with certain expectations.
2. We make an immediate response to what we hear.
3. We see the person we are listening to.
4. There are some visual or environmental clues as to the meaning of what is heard.
5. Stretches of heard discourse come in short chunks.
6. Most heard discourse is spontaneous and therefore differs from formal spoken prose in the amount of redundancy (repetition, false starts, re-phrasing etc.), 'noise' (lack of understanding due to background noise or lack of vocabulary) and colloquialisms (in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation), and in its auditory character (pauses, variations in pitch, volume and tone)
(Ur 1984)


What do we listen to and how does this affect difficulty?

David Nunan categorises listening texts by looking at their nature: i.e. is it planned or unplanned; is it transactional or interpersonal and what is the level of familiarity between the speakers; and by the number of speakers: e.g. a monologue or a dialogue.
(Nunan 1995)
An informative planned dialogue would vary greatly from an unplanned, interpersonal, familiar dialogue, where in the second there would be much more redundancy, colloquialism, shared knowledge, interruption and quite importantly less social distance, allowing the speakers to rely on their relationship and joint understanding to mean more by saying less.
The above factors will affect the difficulty of listening. Nunan continues to point out (from Brown and Yule 1983b) that the difficulty in listening will be affected by the speakers (number, accent and speed), the listener (participant or eavesdropper, level of response required and level of interest in the subject), the content (grammar, vocabulary, structure of what is said and familiarity with the subject) and support (visual and environmental clues). (Nunan 1995)

What problems do learners have?

Having looked at some characteristics of listening and its difficulties, we must consider the learner and what problems someone listening to a foreign language can face. Penny Ur provides a good number of factors.
1. Learners can have problems actually hearing the sounds, i.e. problems hearing the phonemes of English, and this can be affected by the learners L1, sometimes the sounds of English won't even exist (th in Russian), or a difference in minimal pairs in English won't exist in the L1 (ship and sheep in Spanish).
2. The same kinds of problems can occur with stress and intonation, students in the same way, due to differences between L1 and English, may not be sensitised to the differences in sound that can occur due to these factors.
3. Coping with redundancy and noise. Native speakers don't think about understanding everything, but this doesn't necessarily carry over to an L2. Students may want to understand everything and this is unnatural and can be unhelpful, causing frustration and sapping energy.
4. Students lack of familiarity with stress, intonation, collocation and discourse features can cause them problems when predicting what will be said. Predicting and checking predictions is easier than listening intensively for every word.
5. Colloquial language and speech are very different from written language. Knowing a word in written form doesn't mean that it will be understood in speech, due to the sound - spelling relationship in English and more importantly the changes a word undergoes in fast speech, due to weak forms, assimilation, elision and catonation. This, by the way, is something that students often complain to me about and I think it essential to teach the spoken form of a word, in fast speech before or at the same time as the written form.
6. As the pace of listening is set by the speaker, fatigue can cause students problems as they can't take a break.
7. On top of all this, accents in English vary widely and students need practice with as wide a range as possible.
8. Due to the fact that listening in a foreign language is so difficult, the students' receptive systems can be overloaded causing problems that would not occur in L1 such as not being able to pay attention to contextual and environmental clues as they would in L1.

(Ur 1984)

How do we teach listening?

A typical listening lesson nowadays will probably consist of:
1. A pre-listening task or warm-up to set the context.
2. Extensive listening for gist.
3. A second listening to answer more detailed questions or a more detailed task.
4. Review of task or questions.
5. Either inferring vocabulary or examining functional language. (Field)
6. Or using the tape as a springboard to another skills task. (White)

(Field 1998) (White 1998)

John Field points out that while this reflects a noticeable positive change in ELT methodology, i.e.
· seeing listening as a skill as opposed to for new language
· it is relevant to real life through activating a context, the trend to use more authentic material, highlighting conversational features and employs a task rather than questions
· it provides motivation by focusing on expectations that can be checked as opposed to relying on memory
it does not go far enough (Field 1998), a point also maintained by Goodith White (1998) and Richard Cauldwell (2000).

What is wrong with the way we teach listening?

One of the 1st things to notice about this model is the small amount of emphasis placed on post-listening. (Field 1998) (White 1998) (Cauldwell 2000) We spend so much time preparing learners for listening, which in itself is not a bad thing as it activates back-ground knowledge, expectations and predictions, that we don't have time to do much more than see if the students got the answers right or wrong and no time is spent on finding out why and where they went wrong. We are essentially at best practising and at worst testing listening and not doing any teaching.
We should actively teach micro-skills or sub-skills and strategies.
Richard Cauldwell compares listening to reading, i.e. in reading, the words are available for inspection for much longer, whereas in listening, the skill of perceiving sounds and holding them long enough to take in their meaning is essential to understanding. He suggests that learners must re-hear and spend time on the crucial answer bearing parts that should be chosen for meaning and be perceptionally challenging. (Cauldwell 2000)
John Field suggests dictation of sentences containing features of connected speech such as weak forms, contractions, elision, assimilation and catonation to practice identifying words in continuous speech or words in stressed or unstressed positions. (Field 1998)
See appendix 1 for Jack Richards' list of micro-skills.
See appendix 2 for some other ways of practising them suggested by John Field.
Similarly we should actively encourage learners to employ successful strategies, ways of coping when they don't understand everything.
John field proposes getting students to just write down as many words as possible from a short listening passage and decide how certain they are about each one, then form guesses about links between the words based on the speaker, situation and topic and share these ideas with a partner. These guesses should then be checked by listening again and listening to the next part of the passage. (Field 1998) Learners are therefore becoming more aware of how much they do understand and also inferring more from other clues.
A similar idea is dictogloss, where again students write down as many words as they can (after first processing the text for meaning) before using grammar, vocabulary, context and real world knowledge to recreate the text before comparing the original with their own version.
Some further good ideas for raising learners' awareness of strategies are proposed by Gail Ellis and Barbara Sinclair in their excellent book 'Learning to Learn' such as ways of inferring what you don't hear from words you do and from visual clues, making sure you are aware of your reasons for listening, predicting what you'll hear by for example, reading the news headlines before watching the news, being aware of discourse signals such as ' I just wanted to say...' and generally being aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a listener and what to do about it. (Ellis and Sinclair 1989)
Another idea, and a very important one in the case of my students, is that we should not be afraid of using authentic materials containing features of real, fast, connected speech. By relying on course-book materials, we are not helping students who will eventually be faced with the real thing, we are just lulling them into a false sense of security. We should be prepared for frustration from learners when they don't understand and be ready to help them understand through using techniques like the ones above. (Cauldwell 2000) Teachers should also be aware themselves of the features of natural speech such as weak forms and assimilation, elision, catonation and redundancy and noise and colloquial language and be ready to help learners with it. (Cauldwell 2000)
We should also be aware of learners' difficulties as opposed to native speakers' ways of listening. As Richard Cauldwell points out, there is a falsity to the idea that, as native speakers don't have to understand every word, learners should be encouraged not to try, we are confusing the goals with the methodology. He suggests letting learners take control of the tape recorder. They can thus focus on what they need to as opposed to what we think they need to and the teacher will be surprised by what they observe. (Cauldwell 2000) I have since done this myself and can definitely go along 100% with what he says.

A Conclusion

What I will try to do with my students as much as possible is:
· Use authentic materials that exhibit features of natural, fast, connected speech.
· Try to teach speech features and know enough about them myself to be able to do so.
· Actively teach micro-skills and strategies.
· Let my students have more control over how they listen.
· Not be afraid of learners' frustration and try to help them with their problems and not hide from them.

Bibliography

Michael Lewis : The Lexical Approach, Language Teaching Publications, 1993
Michael Rost : Listening in Action, Prentice Hall, 1991
Penny Ur : Teaching Listening Comprehension, Cambridge University Press, 1984
David Nunan : Language Teaching Methodology, Prentice Hall, 1995
John Field : Skills and Strategies : Towards a New Methodology for Listening, ELT Journal Volume 52 / 2 April 1998, Oxford University Press
Goodith White : Listening, Oxford University Press, 1998
Richard T. Cauldwell : University of Birmingham, 5th November 2000
Gail Ellis and Barbara Sinclair : Learning to Learn English, Cambridge University Press, 1989
Michael Rost : Listening in Language Learning, Longman, 1990
Anne Anderson & Tony Lynch : Listening, Oxford University Press, 1988

Biodata

Sam Smith, 31, originally from Bradford in the UK, has been teaching for 5 years, in Ukraine (2 years), Poland (1 year) and Spain (2 years) and also at summer schools in Folkestone and London. He currently lives lives & teaches in Madrid.

Lesson plan

Preliminary Information

Level: Upper Intermediate

Time: 1 hr

Timetable fit:
This lesson comes just over 2 months into a general English extensive course. The group meets twice a week for one and a half hours, so we have been together for about 30 hours. The course book we are using is Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate and we have completed the first 3 units. The fourth unit focuses on 'Developing the Mind'. The content that inspired the videoed discussion comes from the course book and the students will be asked to do the same thing as the 2 teachers on the video.
Listening and particularly listening to native speakers using natural fast speech is something that the students have expressed an interest in and over the previous 2 months we have done this as often as sensibly possible. However, before it has usually been me speaking, so this is the 1st time students will here some different and unfamiliar accents.

Rationale:
This lesson will be the 1st in which students are presented with a really difficult piece of 'authentic' listening and will be in the form of watching a video.
In class before we have done quite a lot of work with natural fast speech, unfortunately however the provider has previously been me in the form of anecdotes, stories, dictations, dictogloss and general discussion. While trying to be as natural as possible, the students have had the chance to ask for clarification, making things easier on one hand and more in accordance with natural communication on the other.
We have also looked at features of speech such as weak forms, assimilation and elision and at tone units and pausing when speaking.
We are now going to look at a video recording for a number of reasons:
The fact that there are 2 native speakers interacting will provide features of conversation not previously available; interruptions, clarification, repetition, agreeing and disagreeing and 2 people speaking at the same time.
This should make the extract more challenging and more real but also will sadly relegate the listeners to the role of 'only observers', something unnatural though I believe it will help them to improve their perception skills, listening strategies and provide focus on conversational features.
The fact that it is video not audio will help the learners through paralinguistic features.
The 2 speakers (one American and one from Yarmouth) have very different accents and styles of speaking from me and my northern English accent.
Lastly one thing that most learners put on their needs analysis was 'to understand native speakers' and over half stated their reasons for learning English were for use in English speaking countries, so I believe it is vital to give them as much practice as possible with 'real' not 'course-book' English and especially with a variety of accents and ideolects.
The first 2 stages of the lesson, as well as providing speaking practice, are aimed at introducing the topic, activating the learners' schemata in preparation for the difficult listening to come and getting the learners to think about ways of agreeing, interrupting and paralinguistic features.
The 1st listening stage is designed to focus the learners on the paralinguistic clues in the video, the relationship of the speakers and the context i.e. That they are 2 friends discussing it for fun and will therefore be comfortable with interruption and a casual style of discussion.
The 2nd listening stage should give the students practice in the micro-skill, identifying topic areas in conversation and give the students a better feel for the content of the discussion.
The 3rd listening is aimed at focusing students' perception skills on points important to meaning in the stream of fast speech. I have decided to give the students 2 chances to do the task, with a chance to compare answers in between as I feel this will be incredibly difficult for them.
By following this by giving the students the tape-script to check answers and also to listen and read at the same time it will allow learners to focus specifically on the areas that caused them difficulty and why this was so, hopefully improving their strategies in future listening activities and also comparing ideas and helping each other by sharing strategies.
The next activity is aimed at increasing students' awareness of speech features such as fillers, correction, error and clarifyers. By highlighting these 'faults' in native speaker speech, I hope to help learners feel better about their own speech and the fact that they may not have understand this 'purposeless' part of speech and also simply raise awareness of it and that you don't have to understand it to understand the message.
Next we focus on some simple ways of agreeing, to simply raise awareness of these native utterances before going on to practice a small part of the dialogue at native-like speed. This is aimed at helping students produce natural fast speech and also to help raise motivation. i.e. that after listening to such a difficult two and a half minutes of speech, students will hopefully feel better when they themselves spend a few minutes trying and I hope succeeding in producing a small part of the speech at the same time as they watch and listen.
The last activity is again a discussion of questions related to this topic and is designed to provide students with freer speaking practice while still having the speech features of agreeing, interrupting and paralinguistic features in mind.

Class Profile:
The group is an open group in the general English school. Their level is upper-intermediate, however as always there is a significant difference in levels within the group, different students being better and worse in the various skills and in language and learning ability.
Their reasons for, goals in and experience in learning are also diverse, the group comprising of school and university students and working people, either paying for themselves or their company paying.
Their reasons for learning range from work / self to living in an English speaking country.
Their goals range from 'maintain my level' to 'speak like a native speaker' however in a needs analysis, half the group stated that they want to 'speak fluently and understand native speakers'.
Their learning history is, of course, significantly diverse, however after being together now for 30 hours we have a good, supportive environment and students do want to learn.
I was surprised and pleased by the results of their needs analysis. The thing they saw as most important was speaking, however it was very closely followed by listening, vocabulary and then pronunciation. They have a good attitude to trying to understand from context and trying to pick out words when listening.
One worrying point though is their tendency to miss classes and turn up late. Usually about 8 turn up and they can be up to 20 - 30 minutes late. I understand that they are working and have other commitments and they do generally tell me if they will be missing for a few lessons due to a business trip or something predictable.

Blanca is generally good all round, her spoken English is quite slow and deliberate, however she has a good attitude to learning, and picks things up well. Listening is one of her weakest points but she is making progress.
Anna (1) is one of the weakest in the group in terms of her overall level and again for her listening is a problem, but she methodically applies herself and is improving, particularly her grammatical knowledge.
Anna(2) has little problem in any skills work, her grammar and vocabulary are weaker though. Unfortunately, due to work, she attends poorly and is not progressing very quickly.
Valle struggles a little bit with grammar and her listening and speaking skills are quite poor, however she copes well, making use of what she knows.
Isabel is a very strong student in all areas and picks things up very quickly. She has recently been away on business though and has missed the last few lessons.
Patricia again is very strong and outspoken. She participates fully in all activities and is happy to help other students in the class.
Maria has recently done 2 intensive courses and has increased her level very noticeably. She attends well and works well in class and at home and has a very sound grounding in English on which to build.
Carmen is the youngest in the group, still at school, but is very mature and makes the classes more lively. Her English is good in all areas but particularly in speaking and listening.
Manuel has a good level for the group but attends infrequently due to work. When he is in class he works well and is one of the strongest in the group.
Joaquin is probably the best student all round, speaking quite fluently and understanding very well.
Carlos is Maria's brother and has followed the same route as her, however while his sister has attended well, he has not and relies on his existing knowledge to progress. His vocabulary is now slightly lacking but he employs coping strategies well.
Elena is a mystery to me, she attended at the beginning of the course, but now has not been to class for over a month. She works for a translation company based in America and told me she would have to travel, though if this is her reason for not attending, she did not inform me. She is generally quite weak, particularly in listening.

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.

Assumptions:
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.

Stages of the Lesson

1. Warmer - To introduce the topic and begin the lesson.

Small groups - 2 mins

T writes 'mice', 'popcorn', 'children', 'your brain' and 'luxury' on the board. Sts predict the topic of the lesson.


2. Reading and discussion Q's - To set the context and activate schemata.

Groups of 3 - 12 mins

Sts read a very short text about research on mice and discuss its content based
on questions. 2 sts discuss while a 3rd person observes for analysis of
interruptions, (dis)agreeing and 'who is the better speaker' and then feeds back.

3. 1st listening - To listen for gist and to get students used to the video and consider paralinguistic and facial clues as well as spoken ones.

Whole class + pairs - 7 mins

Sts watch and listen and answer the following questions: What's the relationship between the 2 speakers?
Are they discussing it for fun or seriously?
Do they interrupt?
Do they speak at the same time? - Is this natural?
Who is the better speaker? Why? - Think of how they speak and also how they move and sit
Who did you understand better? Why?

4. 2nd Listening - To Listen to identify topic areas.

Whole class + pairs - 6 mins

Sts listen and tick the topics they hear from a selection.

+ Question - Why is recognising topic areas important?

5. 3rd listening - To listen for more specific answers, practising perception on key areas, essential to meaning

Whole class - 9 mins

Sts answer true / false questions about the opinions of the speakers whilst listening twice.

6. Listening and reading tape-script - To allow students to see the areas they have most problems with.

Whole class + pairs - 7 mins

Sts 1st read the tape-script to find the answers to the true / false questions then listen and read at the same time to identify problem areas, before comparing with a partner and discuss why these areas were problematic and what can be done to help.

7. 1st Prediction and gap fill of small parts of the tape-script - To focus on speech features: repetition, fillers, correction and clarifyers.

Pairs + whole class - 5 mins

Sts fill, without listening a small section of the tape-script then listen to compare their predictions and see if they can hear what was said, followed by brief discussion of these speech features.

8. 2nd prediction and gap fill - To focus on ways of agreeing.

Pairs + whole class - 3 mins

Sts repeat the last stage with a small part where one speaker agrees with the other.

9. Drilling with the tape-script - To give students a chance to handle fast speech orally.

Pairs + whole class - 4 mins

Sts first practice in pairs a small part of overlapping, fast speech from the tape-script, then repeat with the video several times.

10. 2nd discussion - To put into practice the areas of conversation we have been focusing on.

Pairs - 4 mins

In pairs sts use prompts to have a discussion about other ideas related to the same topic.

Lesson plan materials

Transcript of Videoscript

B = Bill R = Rod

B: So, have you seen this, er this article then? What do you reckon to this?

R: Well, erm, I think it probably has some validity, you know,
B: Yeah
R: I think, erm, I
think, you know, you can stress yourself out more by, you know, denying yourself things. I think it goes, er, along the lines of moderation.

B: Mm Hm, it's curious that it's actually true for mice as well as, I can imagine for people, yeah but, it's kind of curious that it's actually true for mice.

R: Yeah, that's interesting isn't it? But then again, animals, you know, a lot of people, you know, take for granted animals. But I think, you know em, there's a lot more to animals than we, you know, grasp. You know what I mean? So to me, that, that doesn't surprise me that much.

B: Yeah. I don't really agree with the last part where it says, er, that possibly explains why children from poorer homes tend to do less well at school and in
life generally. I'm not sure that's to do with, er, little luxuries in life. I think there's all sorts of things that could...

R: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I, I agree yeah.

B: Diet, er, and environment, and all sorts of different things, so...

R: Exactly, I agree with that.

B: So, it possibly explains, I'd say, well, it's an element possibly.
R: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
B: Amongst other parts.

R: But there'd be a lot of other parts, other things that would influence, er um, you know, people from poorer...

B: It's also curious that, hm, hm, the things that they gave to the mice, I mean there's, er, popcorn and sweets, and brightly coloured toys, so it's almost
they're thinking of children.

R: Well

B: Maybe mice might want something more, you know, mouselike.

LAUGHTER

R: That's true but, you know they, erm uh, I've seen, er, I saw a documentary, er, years back, about erm, when you have a new-born child, you know, it's very
important to have lots of colour and stimulation. So, I mean, you know, erm, decorate child's room, you know, you can see, you know, people who are
wealthy. So you got the child's room with clouds and
B: It's a child
R: and birds painted on the walls

B: It's a child not a mouse, that's the thing I'm saying

R: Well, yeah, that's true but

B: It's relevant for children maybe but, it's strange it should be relevant for mice.

R: Yeah, but then I go back, you know, like er, as I say, you know a lot of what we have this, you know, ego feeling that mankind, that humankind is above animals and you know
B: That's true
R: and I have this feeling that animals have feelings
and thoughts even though we might not know what they are
B: Yeah
R: So that's why I can
see that animals, you know
B: Yeah, yeah
R: could be
B: Well this is
R: working on animals

B: Certainly reading this article has made me feel like going for a few little luxuries now, er
R: Yeah, let's go for a beer.

B: Good idea

LAUGHTER

 

Interesting Things in the Tape-script


Meaning and perception = mm

Speech features = sss

B = Bill R = Rod

B: So, have you seen this, er this article then? What do you reckon to this?

R: Well, erm, I think it probably has some validity, you know,
B: Yeah
R: I think, erm, I think, you know, you can stress yourself out more by, you know, denying yourself things. I think it goes, er, along the lines of moderation.

B: Mm Hm, it's curious that it's actually true for mice as well as, I can imagine for people, yeah but, it's kind of curious that it's actually true for mice.

R: Yeah, that's interesting isn't it? But then again, animals, you know, a lot of people, you know, take for granted animals. But I think, you know em, there's a lot more to animals than we, you know, grasp. You know what I mean? So to me, that, that doesn't surprise me that much.

B: Yeah. I don't really agree with the last part where it says, er, that possibly explains why children from poorer homes tend to do less well at school and in life generally. I'm not sure that's to do with, er, little luxuries in life. I think there's all sorts of things that could...

R: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I, I agree yeah.

B: Diet, er, and environment, and all sorts of different things, so...

R: Exactly, I agree with that.

B: So, it possibly explains, I'd say, well, it's an element possibly.
R: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
B: Amongst other parts.

R: But there'd be a lot of other parts, other things that would influence, er um, you know, people from poorer...

B: It's also curious that, hm, hm, the things that they gave to the mice, I mean there's, er, popcorn and sweets, and brightly coloured toys, so it's almost they're thinking of children.

R: Well

B: Maybe mice might want something more, you know, mouselike.

LAUGHTER

R: That's true but, you know they, erm uh, I've seen, er, I saw a documentary, er, years back, about erm, when you have a new-born child, you know, it's very important to have lots of colour and stimulation. So, I mean, you know, erm, decorate child's room, you know, you can see, you know, people who are wealthy. So you got the child's room with clouds and
B: It's a child
R: and birds painted on the walls

B: It's a child not a mouse, that's the thing I'm saying

R: Well, yeah, that's true but

B: It's relevant for children maybe but, it's strange it should be relevant for mice.

R: Yeah, but then I go back, you know, like er, as I say, you know a lot of what we have this, you know, ego feeling that mankind, that humankind is above animals and you know
B: That's true
R: and I have this feeling that animals have feelings and thoughts even though we might not know what they are
B: Yeah
R: So that's why I can
see that animals, you know
B: Yeah, yeah
R: could be
B: Well this is
R: working on animals

B: Certainly reading this article has made me feel like going for a few little luxuries
now, er
R: Yeah, let's go for a beer.

B: Good idea
LAUGHTER

 

Parts in italics = suggested parts for dictation and noticing of 'speech features' of repetition, false starts, fillers and clarifyers. To be followed by discussion of whether sts need to be aware of them in order to be ready and not pay attention / be distracted.

Parts in bold = parts of language to be inferred from context.
What do these expressions in the conversation mean?
"I think it goes, er, along the lines of moderation"
"a lot of people, you know, take for granted animals"
"there's a lot more to animals than we, you know, grasp"

part to work on for: phrases for agreeing
pauses, errors and corrections

B: Yeah. I don't really agree with the last part where it says, er, that possibly explains why children from poorer homes tend to do less well at school and in
life generally. I'm not sure that's to do with, er, little luxuries in life. I think there's all sorts of things that could...

R: Oh ____, ____, ____, I, _ _____ yeah.

B: Diet, er, and environment, and all sorts of different things, so...

R: _______, I _____ ____ that.

B: So, it possibly explains, I'd say, well, it's an element possibly.
R: ____, ____, _______.
B: Amongst other parts.

R: But there'd be a lot of other parts, other things that would influence, er um, you
know, people from poorer...

B: It's also curious that, hm, hm, the things that they gave to the mice, I mean there's, er, popcorn and sweets, and brightly coloured toys, so it's almost they're thinking of children.

R: ____

B: Maybe mice might want something more, you know, mouselike.

LAUGHTER

R: That's ____ but, ___ ____ they, erm uh, I've seen, er, _ ___ a documentary, er, years back, about erm, when you have a new-born child, ___ ____, it's very important to have lots of colour and stimulation. So, _ ____, ___ ____, erm, decorate child's room, ___ ____, you can see, ___ ____, people who are wealthy. So you got the child's room with clouds and
B: It's a child
R: and birds painted on the walls

B: It's a child not a mouse, that's the thing I'm saying

R: Well, ____, that's ____ ___

 

As you listen tick the topics you hear talked about:

Allowing yourself a few luxuries is a good idea

Popcorn and sweets are bad for you

What's true for people is also true for mice

Little luxuries help children do better

Popcorn makes your brain grow

Mice are like children

Bright colours help stimulate new-born children

Being kept in cages is cruel

Animals have thoughts and feelings that we don't know much about

Going for a drink

 

Are the following true or false?

1. Rod doesn't think it's valid, he thinks we do get stressed out by too much luxury.
2. Rod thinks that most humans don't really understand animals.
3. Bill totally disagrees that not having life's luxuries can cause children to do worse in life.
4. Bill understands why there is a link between mice and children.
5. Rod thinks that decorating a child's room brightly is important.
6. Rod thinks that we know what animals feel.

Listen again

 

What do you think could fill the gaps?
1. Try and predict.
2. Listen and complete.

R: That's ____ but, ___ ____ they, ___ __, I've seen, er, _ ___ a documentary,
er, years back, about ___, when you have a new-born child, ___ ____, it's very
important to have lots of colour and stimulation. So, _ ____, ___ ____, erm,
decorate child's room, ___ ____, you can see, ___ ____, people who are
wealthy. So you got the child's room with clouds and
B: It's a child
R: and birds painted on the walls

 

What do you think could fill the gaps?
1. Try and predict.
2. Listen and complete.
3. Practice the part in bold.

B: Yeah. I don't really agree with the last part where it says, er, that possibly
explains why children from poorer homes tend to do less well at school and in
life generally. I'm not sure that's to do with, er, little luxuries in life. I
think there's all sorts of things that could...

R: Oh ____, ____, ____, I, _ _____ yeah.

B: Diet, er, and environment, and all sorts of different things, so...

R: _______, I _____ ____ that.

B: So, it possibly explains, I'd say, well, it's an element possibly.
R: ____, ____, _______.
B: Amongst
other parts.


What do these expressions in the conversation mean?
"I think it goes, er, along the lines of moderation"
"a lot of people, you know, take for granted animals"
"there's a lot more to animals than we, you know, grasp"

 

Discussion Questions 1.


1. What do you think about mice being fed popcorn and sweets?
Is it surprising that sweet things make them more intelligent?


2. Do you think it's also true that children do better if they have sweet things and bright colours?


3. Did you eat a lot of sweets when you were a child?


4. After reading this, are you going to start eating more sweets?


5. Do the disadvantages of sweets outweigh the 'advantages'?


6. Do you think it's important for children to be given some advantages in life by giving them sweet things and bright colours?


7. Do you think 'brain power' is that important anyway, or are other things more important in life?

 

Discussion Questions 2


1. Do you think it's strange that a mouse's brain power is increased by exposure to human things like sweets and popcorn?


2. Do you think we understand animals' thoughts and feelings?


3. Do you think we understand animals' intelligence?
Are humans really so much more intelligent than animals?


4. What is intelligence anyway? Is it the same as IQ?


5. Which is most important; understanding scientific things or understanding people and their emotions?


6. Which are you best with; science or people?


7. What about learning languages? What kind of 'intelligence' do you need for that?


Make notes about the 2 speakers.

Think about:

1. Interrupting.

2. Agreeing and disagreeing.

3. How good is the speaker? Is (s)he clear? Is her/his body position good, head raised etc? Does (s)he use her/his hands and facial gestures well?

 

1st listening questions


What's the relationship between the 2 speakers?

Are they discussing it for fun or seriously?

Do they interrupt?

Do they speak at the same time? - Is this natural?

Who is the better speaker? Why? - Think of how they speak and also how they move and sit

Who did you understand better? Why?

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