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University of Belgrade Faculty of Philology English Department

Teaching Listening and Speaking

Seminar Paper in English language IV

Date: May 8, 2003 Mentor: Grade:

Branka Dekovi 4th year


First of all, I would like to point out that what I am going to write about is teaching listening and speaking in an artificial environment, that is, in a classroom. One of the greatest differences between learning the mother tongue and a foreign language is exactly these natural and artificial surroundings. Thus, in order to make our teaching productive, we have to make everything seem as natural as possible. Therefore, I would like to start with the classroom itself. This might seem as not very important, but in combination with all other factors that I am going to write about, it contributes to productive language learning. I would try to make my classroom look as much English as possible. The seat arrangement that I prefer is a horseshoe or a circle, but of course, that can be changed if necessary. Then, the children would have a kind of cupboard where they could keep their portfolios. What would also be necessary for teaching listening and speaking is a tape recorder and a video player. Before I start talking about teaching these two skills, I have to say that there is a great difference between teaching children, adolescents and adults, as well as between teaching beginners, false beginners, elementary, intermediate and advanced levels. Therefore, in further writing, I will make a clear distinction between those age groups and levels.


What we have to keep in mind is that children have a very short concentration span. So, every activity has to be rather short. Children are usually very willing to talk, to share their feelings and thoughts, and one of the most important things is to make everything personalized for them. Children are usually capable of producing language and not actually being aware of it. When teaching very young children, who do not know how to write there is a long oral period. During that time we teach them nursery rhymes, songs, words and some short sentences. What is important to know is when they memorize language; they do it through all their senses. Thus, we may bring into class some pictures, toys, some realia, so that they can see them, touch them and smell. Their understanding comes not from the explanations, but from what they see, hear and touch. The physical world is dominant all the time. Children are willing to work in groups and in pairs. Seating arrangement is very

3 important; they need to be in contact with each other and with the teacher. They need individual attention, and constant teacher approval.

A teacher should speak audibly, clearly, at normal speed, with lot of repetition. If she/he decides to use the tape she/he needs to set a task before playing the actual type. Children need to know why they are listening to it, and what will come after it. Here are some examples of how to teach listening to children: Listen and do-you can tell them that they are free to move aroundthe younger they are- the more physical activities they need. You can play a tape or read to them and they are supposed to do what they hear. (example touch anything that is red hop on your left foot five times stand on the chair touch your nose ) Listen and draw- Teacher reads some items, and they are supposed to draw them. She/he should point out that they draw simple pictures (stick-man, not complicated ones. Putting things in order- Teacher gives children (divided in groups or pairs some mixed up pictures, or items, and, while listening to a tape, they have to arrange them in order as they are instructed on the tape. Listen and colour- They have a picture that they have to colour. Teacher tells them, e.g. the girl hair is brown, her dress is red and the socks are blue) Listen and repeat- Rhymes, songs- they can repeat them after the tape is played, or sing along with it. Listening to stories- Teacher can read stories, or she can tell them (the last seem more effective). She can also mime during it, or the children can do that.

Children, as I have already said, are willing to talk. They sometimes even talk to themselves, they think aloud. I think that children are the most responsive of all age groups, as far as speaking is concerned. At this stage, fluency is more important than accuracy. But, before they can produce language, they need to be given one. For presenting language to them, I like the idea of using a class mascot. Examples: o Teddy Bear- Teacher holds a Teddy Bear and speaks as if it is she/he who speaks (they can change the voice to make it more interesting) o Dialogues and role-plays- First, a teacher reads a dialogue- a couple of times- and then the children repeat after her. Then the whole class can be divided into two groups, and do the dialogue again. (The dialogues should be short. The sentences short and simple.) o Pair work- One child gets a map with some items drawn in it. The other child has another map, but some of the items are missing. Pupils have to ask questions, and give answers, so that the one that has the missing objects draws them on his map. o Nursery rhymes, songs- They learn them by heart easily, even if they do not know the meaning. Problems that may occur: What if they mostly use their mother tongue? First, I think that with children, this is the least likely to happen. They are excited that they can speak a different language, and they will try and use it as much as possible. But, their problem is that they do not have sufficient vocabulary, so we should allow them to use their mother tongue, when they lack the word in English, but we should also encourage them to ask for the words they do not know.


This group of students tends to be the most sensitive to work with. Adolescents are very vulnerable, they hate to be embarrassed in front of their peers and they are not willing to talk. The teacher should be very careful when choosing activities and topics for conversation- they need to be appropriate for them, and above all, interesting. Here, I might mention the qualities of a teacher that are the most important: respect- she/he really needs to show respect towards her students, empathy- she/he has to understand their needs, and to be able to put herself in their shoes, so that she could deal with problems appropriately, authenticityshe/he has to have a personality of her/his own, not to hide themselves behind titles, and pretend to be an omniscient teacher.

When teaching listening to adolescents, I think that tape-recorders and video-players can be very helpful for teachers. Good teachers exploit listening texts to the fullest. What is also important here is to set a task before playing the tape. There are two types of listening, intensive, or listening for detail, and extensive, or listening for gist. Some examples of listening tasks: o Give students a text of a song you are going to play, but with gaps, so while listening to it, they have to write the missing words, or o You ask them to listen to the tape, and try to get an overall picture of what is going on in the dialogue or story, or o You play just a part of a dialogue and ask them to try to imagine what is going to happen( this is in combination with a speaking task), then, you can play the tape to the tape to the end, and they can see how much they guessed, or o Play a movie on a video-recorder, but cover the picture (they can only hear the dialogue) - they have to guess who is speaking, how the characters look, what the scenery is like (also a combination with a speaking task).

Adolescents are not much willing to speak, but we need to encourage them. A teacher has to choose a topic that will interest them. A speaking exercise can be done in groups or in pairs, or the whole class can participate. Here goes the same rule for seating arrangement- it can be changed, so that students can have eye-contact with each other, and with the teacher. They have to be motivated to speak. Here are some examples: o Discussions- Fluency is more important than accuracy. Teacher should let them speak, and take notes of their mistakes, and then correct them when the discussion is over (phase that is called clarification) - not pointing to a specific student that made them, but correct mistakes generally. Of course, before the discussion begins, we can give them a few minutes to write down some of their thoughts. o Role play- A teacher can divide students into pairs- give them situations and let them make up dialogues (at the sane time it is a writing exercise). Then, they can perform dialogues in front of the class, or from their seats. o Finding differences - In pairs. Each student has similar pictures, with a few differences. By talking to each other they have to find the differences without looking at each others picture. o Play a video-tape, but only a picture no sound. Make them guess the dialogue between characters.


The main difference between adults and younger learners is that a former come to lessons with a long history of learning experience. Adults are frequently more nervous about learning than younger learners are. On the other hand, they are usually more motivated (they have clear goals), and their concentration span is longer. They are usually willing to cooperate. At this point I would like to present a few facts about learners. Learners are individuals with different potentials. They perceive the world in different ways; they react differently to the same stimuli. There are people who like to study alone, others like to socialize; there are introvert and extravert people; there are people who do not like to work in groups or in pairs. It thus seems that one of the roles of the teacher is to be a good

7 character analyst, so that she/he can approach her/his students appropriately. But, not to complicate things further, the best possible advice might be the one I got from my professor Listen to the rhythm of the class.


To make a long story short most of the activities for listening and speaking practice that are effective for adolescents, are effective for adults as well But, let me try to answer the question, what if? What if students overuse their mother tongue in speaking activities? In such a situation the teacher could: o Explain to them how important it is to use English o Encourage them to use English, and stress that they should not laugh at each others mistakes under any circumstances. o Hear only English. Use English yourself. o Let them make mistakes. Explain that making mistakes is not always bad- it can mean that learning is actually taking place.

While writing this seminary, I tried to put myself in a position of a teacher, since I am going to be one, and, on the other hand, I brought back to my memory the period when I first started learning foreign language. I know that I liked it very much, I enjoyed the classes and the teacher was also great. For listening tasks, we had tape-recorders, and we used to listen to them often. Then we would repeat, teacher would ask questions, we would read dialogues, try to act them out. Speaking activities I also liked very much, but I never liked to speak in front of the class. We also played games, and our teacher used to bring pictures and slides from her visit to England, so that besides learning the English language, we learned also about England, the English people, their customs, habits and way of life. I do not work as a teacher yet, so I cannot draw conclusions from my experience. But, having given it a thought and relying on other teachers experiences, I can say this,- while teaching others, we also learn from them. The teacher has an important role, but the students are those who actually do the greatest deal of work themselves. If you are nice to

8 people, they will be nice to you, if you respect them, they will respect you. Be open-minded, be inventive, be creative, be in good mood, work hard and love what you do- success is inevitable.


1. Harmer, Jeremy, Teach English, Longman, Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, Essex,l998 2. Scrivener, Jim, Learning Teaching, Heinemann, Oxford, l994 3. Scott, A., Wendy and Ytreberg, H., Lisbeth, Teaching English to Children, Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, Essex, 1990