Not long ago, my students led me to an exciting discovery that, I believe, it really helping them to develop their listening skills. Let me give you a run-down of how it works:
- Give students a piece of reading that is slightly more than the +1 (Yikes! Yes, I did really say to do that!)
- Read the selection slowly while students underline or circle the words that they do not know or recognize (there should be a lot!).
- Have the students count the words that they DID NOT underline or circle (this is simply to build back their confidence, because let’s face it, you just crushed it a little bit).
- Talk through the words that the students do not know. I do this in the same way I would do a TPRS read-through translation (I read one line, they call out the meaning in English), but the students snap their fingers when they didn’t know a word. Most of the time at least one student knows the word, but when no one knows it I write it on the board (sorry, I know what you’re thinking…”English has NO place in my classroom!”).
- Read through the story again, but at a normal-to-slightly quicker pace. Ask students to try to stay focused on their comprehension of the story as you read.
- Reflect: “From 1-10, how well did you understand?”
- Tell the students to turn their papers over. Again, read through the story, but at a normal pace. Ask the students to listen, mentally tracking their comprehension, and listening for words that “smack them in the face” (or however you want to word it).
- Reflect again.
- Repeat step 7 throughout your unit with the exact same reading. At the end of the unit, give your students a set of comprehension questions over the reading-turned-listening piece that they have never seen.
Theoretically, one should use an authentic reading that has an accompanying authentic listening source. News sites would be great resources for this. At this point, I am building up to that with my students by reading it to them myself. Yes, I know the company line, and I do buy into it to a certain extent (because, c’mon, it IS based on research). Needless to say, YOU know your students better than any other teacher, so do what YOUR students need from YOU.
I should add that the point of this exercise is to build a skill, and it isn’t necessarily the content with which we are concerned. I do, however, advocate for choosing a source that fits with your current theme or topic.
Let me know if you have ever tried anything like this before! I would love to know what you do to build listening comprehension skills!