Know How to Listen
Kathryn Glennie, Italy
‘Know how to listen and you will profit even from those who speak badly’
Once the bane of the classroom, we are all beginning to reconsider our position on mobiles. Mobile phones have so many useful applications for the language classroom; dictionaries, calculators, video, camera, just to mention a few. I’d like to focus here on two: the voice recorder and blue tooth.
The voice recorder enables us to put some of Curran’s valuable ideas about counseling learning into practice with a twist, and blue tooth can facilitate delivery.
Charles Curran observed that language learners knew what they wanted to say, but didn’t always have the tools to express it, so a teacher should be rather like a helpful friend who aids the learner to speak correctly. Curran likened the process to that of a swimmer coming up for air between strokes where the counselor provides the ‘air’. Curran sat students in a circle until one of them decided to speak into a tape recorder. This was reformulated with the help of the counselor. A conversation ensued where the students’ language was reformulated and rerecorded. Great idea. Let’s get the students to take on the role of the counselor.
A relevant topic is chosen and the students, in pairs, are given a few moments to think about what they might like to say. The student pair then records their ideas. Having done this they exchange telephones with another pair. They listen to each other’s recordings and make notes on anything they consider incorrect or they do not understand.
As a teacher you have two options here, either give your students specific criterion on what to listen for or allow students a free rein. (Once they have done this more than once, they will become very discerning.) The students then pass back the recordings and the notes. The students have to respond to the notes and rerecord their piece. The students can then swap again to hear the improved version. Depending on the class, this could happen more than once.
This is something which can be done inside and outside the classroom. It is advisable to do it for the first time in class, so there is guidance from the teacher, but afterwards it can be done largely outside the classroom. It is the best speaking homework available to most students. Students can swap their recordings and do the listening at home for the next lesson. Another alternative is for the teacher to listen, however we are often very pressed for time, so make sure you set a recording limit for your students.
This activity has many advantages. It develops active listening, peer correction, student autonomy and group spirit. Students have to listen carefully not only for overall meaning, but for precise correctness- thus top down and bottom up processing are involved. Students are engaged in helping their peers improve and grow more confident in being able to correct each other at any time. The students help each other to create a recording that is personal, correct and mobile-they take it away in their pockets.
In order to do this successfully as homework, you need to take advantage of Blue tooth. Blue tooth enables you to send files from device to device quickly and easily if you are nearby (about a 100m2 radius) and most importantly, it is free. The students can Blue tooth their recordings back and forth with ease. Some telephones are not blue tooth compatible, such as the i-phone, but students should be able to find someone with whom they are compatible. I-phones can now bump each other. If all else fails, they can e-mail each other the recordings.
Remember, as all students have their mobiles in their pocket, they have 24-7 access to their English course. They have a chunk of personal, relevant, perfect language in their pocket.
Student feedback has been very positive, especially the idea of speaking homework. So get those mobile phones on the table.
If you would like to know more about CLL (Community language learning) try these links:
Please check the ICT - Using Technology in the Classroom – Level 1 course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the ICT - Using Technology in the Classroom – Level 2 course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Using Mobile Technology course at Pilgrims website.