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Teaching Listening and Speaking: From Theory to Practice

By Jack C. Richards Presented by Alyssa Savitski ESL 501

Introduction
Teaching listening and speaking skills has become vital to learning a second language. Listening was thought of as a mastery of skills, such as identifying key words and recognizing reduced words. It then became bottom-up and top-down, followed by prior knowledge and schema. The current view is that a listener is an active participant that uses facilitation, monitoring, and evaluating strategies.

Speaking was
Memorizing, repeating, and drill-based Communicative language changed grammarbased syllabi to communication syllabi. Fluency became popular.

The Teaching of Listening


2 views: listening as comprehension and listening as acquisition. Listening as comprehension is based on the main function of listening in second language learning is to facilitate understanding of spoken discourse. Spoken discourse is instantaneous, unplanned, uses hesitations, reduced forms, fillers and repeats, and a linear structure (p. 3).

Bottom-Up Processing
Using the incoming input as the basis for understanding the message. Comprehension is the process of decoding. Teaching Bottom-Up:
Retain input while it is being processed Recognizing word and clause divisions Recognize key words Recognize key transitions in a discourse Recognize grammatical relations between key elements in sentences Use stress and intonation to identify word and sentence function (Richards, 5).

Task Examples of Bottom-Up Processing


Identify sequence markers Identify key words Distinguish between positive and negative statements.

Top-down Processing
Use of background knowledge in understanding the meaning of a message. It could be previous knowledge of a topic, situational/contextual, or schema. Teaching Top-down:
Use key words to construct schema Infer the setting of the text Infer the role of the participants and their goals Infer cause and effect Infer unstated details of a situation Anticipate questions related to the topic or situation (Richards, 9).

Task Examples of Top-Down Processing


KWL charts Predict another speakers part of the conversation Read news headlines, guess what happened, then listen to the news and compare

Strategies for Listening


Cognitive: comprehension, storing/memory process, retrieval Metacognitive: assessing, monitoring, selfevaluating and self-testing

Listening as Acquisition
Listeners extract meaning from the message. Use both bottom-up and top-down processing. Language of utterances is temporary. Teaching listening strategies can make more effective listeners. Some tasks to improve acquisition are truefalse, picture identification, and sequencing tasks.

Input vs. Intake


Schmidt (1990) argued that we wont learn anything from input we hear and understand unless we notice something about the input (Richards, 13). Input- what a learner hears Intake- the part that the learner notices Only intake can serve as the basis for language development (Richards, 14).

Noticing and Restructuring


Noticing Activities: using the listening texts for comprehension activities and use them for language awareness. Restructuring Activities: oral or written tasks that involve productive use of selected items from the listening text.

The Teaching of Speaking


Employs more vague or generic words than written language. Show variation between formal and informal speech. May be planned or unplanned.

Conversational Routines
Use of fixed expressions
It doesnt matter. I see what you mean. Just looking, thanks.

Styles of Speaking
What is appropriate for the context? Whacha up to?/What are you up to? Differences between formal and informal speech.

Functions of Speaking
3 functions of speaking
Talk as Interaction: primarily a social function. Focus is on the speaker, not the message. Talk as Transaction: focus on what is said or done. The message is #1! (Problem-solving activities, asking for directions). Talk as Performance: public speaking, form of monolog, mimics written language.

Implications for Teaching


What kinds of speaking skills does the course focus on? Identifying teaching strategies for each kind of talk
Talk as Interaction: small talk, personal experiences Talk as Transaction: role play, small group activities Talk as Performance: examples of speeches

Challenges for Teachers


Help develop fluency, accuracy, and appropriateness of language use. Move from linguistic competence (mastery of linguistic system) to communicative competence (know how to use English appropriately for a range of different purposes).

Resources
Richards, Jack C. Teaching Listening and Speaking: From Theory to Practice.