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Use Extensive Listening To Improve Students’ Listening Ability

作者/来源:位育中学 马婕    发布时间:2007-04-08

Use Extensive Listening To Improve Students’ Listening Ability

Wei Yu Middle School    Ma Jie

One of the greatest and most common failures of language teaching is that what the students is taught is totally inadequate for dealing with the situations when he first sets his feet on the land of English-speaking countries.

Then what cause the problem? Maybe listening ability is a core competency skill which they lack. There is no communication that goes only one way. In a foreign country, if the students want to be heard, they will have to practice hearing. Listening is the basis of our human being’s mutual communication.

For the none-native speaker, it seems that listening is not an easy job, because it involves a number of basic processes. Some depend upon linguistic competence, some depend upon the background knowledge, and some depend upon psychological elements. Besides, his linguistic competence enables him to recognize the expressions of the heard utterance. The successful listening skills are acquired over time and with lots of practice. It's frustrating for students because there are no rules as in grammar teaching. Speaking and writing also have very specific exercises that can lead to improved skills. This is not to say that there are not ways of improving listening skills, however they are difficult to achieve. Unfortunately, sometimes students even create the problems for themselves. The largest inhibitor for students is often mental block. While listening, a student suddenly decides that he or she doesn't understand what is being said. At this point, some students often convince themselves that they are not able to understand spoken English well and therefore give up the whole task. What a pity! So teaching listening is really a touch job. On the one hand, teachers should help the students to overcome their psychological problems. On the other hand, they have to give the students some information about the skills and the ways to cope with their listening task. It is really the most demanding task for any ESL teacher.

The key to helping students improve their listening skills is to convince them that they can finish the job. This is more of an attitude adjustment than anything else, and it is easier for some students to accept than others. Another important point is that teachers should convince their students to listen to English as often as possible. As to the listening material, the more material they get touch with, the more progress they will make.

As we all know, for the students who are not native speakers, there are usually intervals between the perceptions of sounds by their ears and understanding the words, phrases and sentences. This kind of intervals often makes students have more troubles in listening comprehension. So it is essential for them to have more chances to contact with different kinds of listening materials and let their ears be familiar with different sounds of English words so as to shorten the intervals. In school life, our teachers can also give them some advice about improving listening competency. Here just one of the useful suggestion, that is, extensive listening.

Generally, the best resource for extensive listening passages is going to record what the teacher says in the classes. But it may be too boring. Here are many other ways. Perhaps they will help the students to improve themselves a lot.

  a) Encourage the students to listen to English Pop Songs

  Find cassettes/CDs which have the lyrics enclosed.

  Write a summary -Test the students’ listening by comparing the original lyrics with their summary. Try to listen to songs in English again and again without referring to the words until the students can understand as much as possible. The primary aim of this activity is to listen for main ideas. Tell them don’t be bothered by the details. After this, write a summary of the main ideas. Compare the original lyrics with what they have written down.

  Sing along with the melody - Read the words and sing along with the cassette. This can be done alone or with a karaoke.

  Do a cloze exercise – This can be done in the classroom. The teacher removes some words from a song. Listen to the song and let the students try to fill in the words that have been left out.

 When I gave students the first period about unit one (New Century English, Book One), I chose the song “What will I be?”. I choose this song because a) the song is really beautiful. b) It is related to the topic of the unit. c) Since it was the first time for the students to contact the English lesson in the senior high school, the song is easy to understand. I hoped that my choice would help them improve their listening ability, and at the same time aroused their interests in English. The procedure is as follows. I played the song three times. First, let them do nothing but listen to the music and get a main idea of the song. Second, show them the lyrics with some blanks on the screen. And this time they were required to take out a piece of paper and write down the missing words. Last time, the whole class sang along with the song. Meanwhile, check the answers together. If you are interested, here I attach the lyrics of the song.  

When I was just a little girl,

I asked my mother, 'What will I be?‘

Will I be pretty? 'Will I be rich?

'Here's what she said to me:

'Que sera, sera,‘

whatever will be, will be;‘

The future's not ours to see.

'Que sera, sera,

'What will be, will be.‘

When I grew up and fell in love,

I asked my sweetheart,

'What lies ahead?‘

Will we have rainbows day after day?

'Here's what my sweetheart said:‘

Que sera, sera,

'Whatever will be, will be;

‘The future's not ours to see.‘

Que sera, sera,

'What will be, will be.‘

Now I have children of my own.

They ask their mother, 'What will I be?

Will I be handsome? 'Will I be rich?‘

I tell them tendly

'Que sera, sera,‘

Whatever will be, will be;‘

The future's not ours to see.

'Que sera, sera,‘

What will be, will be.'

  Dictate lyrics -Don’t look at the lyrics before play a song. Encourage the students try to dictate the lyrics while they are listening to the song. Play back as many times as it is necessary until they can catch the words. This will help them to listen intensively for details. In my opinion, this method is so demanding that it is only suitable for some high level students.

b) Encourage the students to listening to the English news

  Videotape some English TV news reports. I think the following activities will help the students to prepare themselves for listening:

  Watch the Chinese news television reports before you listen to the English ones.

  Read a newspaper in Chinese. 

Read a newspaper in English and discuss the latest news with friends.

  Since they have read, heard or talked about the news before watching, you may find it easier to understand the English news reports.

  Predicting before listening, choose one or two topics (e.g. sports, fashion, education, politics, pop stars, social problems) that interest the students. Predict what they are going to hear. Then listen to the selected items and check their prediction.

Record the news. It must be hard for the students to follow the fast speech in news report especially. If this is the case, teachers can record the special English from the radio or the net record so that you have chances to hear the news clearly. Here I recommend a web site to you.( It is an official web site from VOA. The teacher can use the key word to search some related articles and listening material in the site. It provides teachers with both the pdf document (tape script) and the listening material. About unit four (New Century English Book One), Holidays and Festivals, as a kind of practice, I found a piece of material whose name is Christmas Holiday Plants from the website. It is a kind of introduction to Christmas. As is known to all, Christmas is a very significant festival in the western countries, just like the Spring Festival in China. Students listen to the material can help them get a rough idea of the holiday and gain a chance to be exposed to the native speaker’s English. Before I really began my class, I let the students have a brain storm “If I mention Christmas, what will you think of?” Students’ answers are imaginative. As was expected, they mentioned the Christmas tree. This helped me to introduce the material into the class. Then I let them listen to the material and answer several questions.

 c) Encourage the students to see the original editions of the western films.

  The final purpose for English teaching is communication. So it is important for the students to understand the words given by the people in the western countries when they are in their lives and work. At this point, the original editions of the western films will help them.

See the film with the help of the film script. For the middle school students, I think they can choose some films which are orientated towards the teenagers in the west. To help them practice their listening ability more efficiently. I suggest that they could download the script of the film from the internet.

Encourage the students use the film material in the classroom. For the middle school teachers, we can use our own ways to cheer on them. For example, sometimes I will let the students dub the film in the classroom. And the most important thing is that they love it. This teaching method is especially usefully in unit six (New Century English Book One) “Cartoons and Comic Strips”. As the last step of the lesson, I let the students dub a period of cartoon. For the average students, the teacher can give them the script in advance and let them prepare for it before class. For some high level students, the teacher can give them the script in the classroom and have them prepare it within several minutes. It all depends on how difficult the material is and your students’ level. Another example in my teaching practice is that I use the way, dubbing film, as a kind of oral test. I’m very honored to have the chance to teach in the experimental class in my school. As a kind of special test required for the students in this class, every semester they are supposed to take part in the oral test. Last year, I chose dubbing films as the oral test. The whole class was divided into several groups which were composed of four to five students. They could find any film they like and did many rehearsals before class until they thought they were ready. Then every week I chose a lesson and let them do the performance in front of the whole class. Both the students on the stage and the students on the seats enjoyed the way to have the test.

 Of course, these three ways are only my suggestion. You can do extensive listening in many other ways. Just do it as you like.




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