Category Archives: Listening

Don’t Just Ask them to Listen. Strategies for Better Understanding

Let’s talk about listening!

Do you or your students struggle with listening? If we are going to come clean here, I have to confess that I do not like listening comprehension tests. I think that most of the times, they are so tricky that even though the student understands pretty well what is being said, very often they cannot guess the right answer, and this happens especially in Multiple Choice listening tests.  So, dear students, listening comprehension questions can be hard to answer but know that you are not the only ones suffering. I have heard native speakers teaching their own native language confess to being unable to guess the right answer.

 

On the bright side, there are some things that we, as teachers, can do to help students understand better, but one that is essential is to encourage the correct pronunciation of words in every lesson and to do exercises on connected speech often. Isn’t it true that you cannot expect a student to understand a word if they are mispronouncing it?

On the other hand, I  firmly believe that in order to get better at listening you need to become an active listener and there are a number of things that we can do to encourage this active listening.

These last weeks, I have been teaching about Education and obviously the listening comprehension exercises are all about education. The listening I am going to give them today is in their course books and the instructions read like this

You are going to hear five people talking about how they study for exams.

Nice topic, isn’t it?

Well, the idea is to not just play the listening and ask them to do the task but to introduce the topic and do some short activities that will prepare them for what they are going to hear.

IDEA 1. Focusing on the title

Ask a student to read aloud the introduction to the listening task in their course books and on the board write

 Studying  for an exam

Ask students to brainstorm in pairs vocabulary that might be said by the speakers in the listening activity. Write the words they come up with on the board. Don’t clean the board yet.

Tip: Before the class, read the transcript for the audio and select a few words you want your students to focus on. In case these words you have chosen are not offered by the students in the brainstorming activity, subtly write them on the board.

IDEA 2. Speaking

Using visuals is always a great idea and it never fails to spark a discussion. Ask the question: How do you revise for exams? and show them the two gifs below. Hopefully, you will, at least, get a smile from them.  Ask them to identify themselves with a gif and in pairs talk about the question. Get feedback.

IDEA  3. Play the listening the first time.

Remember the words on the board? Play the listening once and ask students to stand up every time they hear one of the words on the board. I guarantee they will be completely focused.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy! 🙂

A Wonderful Website to Practise Natural Spoken English: 1-2 minutes Audios

First of all, let me tell you that this is not a sponsored post. In fact, I have never been paid to feature a website or an app. I just write about what I find interesting to me or my students.

I bumped into High Level Listening quite by chance. Feeling a bit lazy myself but still wanting to offer my students the best, I did a web search hoping Google would do the work for me and find me vocabulary related to the media. Disappointingly, I couldn’t find anything I really, really liked (I apologize if you are reading this and you have published something wonderful. I am sorry,  I have probably missed it).

Fortunately, the search was not in vain and in fact, ended up being quite fruitful as I found this wonderful website owned by two teachers, Pat from America and Mark from the Uk, who record natural conversations (1-2 minutes long) on common topics introducing relevant vocabulary in a natural way.

The audios are perfect for note-taking listening activities activating the vocabulary featured in the conversations. In most cases, there is no transcript for the audio but there is a glossary of terms students can benefit from. Also, in some cases,  you can also request the transcript for free.

In my case, I am going to be focusing on Social Media vocabulary and to my delight, there are 5 posts dedicated to this topic. Check them out here

High Level Listening is perfect for B1 and B2 students who want to learn natural spoken English. I just hope they keep adding new topics.

Food for Thought Issues. A lesson about Food for B2/C1 students

February is a short month. First round of exams is over and I need to concentrate on preparing my students to take standardized exams. I am beginning to feel the pressure. OMG! It’s only February and I  am already a bit stressed out. Will I make it to the end of the course with all my wits about me? Highly unlikely!

So, next topic on my list is Food and Nutrition and all the subtopics around it, which are …like a lot.

What you will see in this post is an example of how I prepare my students to take oral exams.

  • Revision and introduction of vocabulary-related terms
  • Listening Comprehension Activity: Food waste
  • Pronunciation Activity: Organic Food No More Nutritious
  • Speaking Activity through Reading passages with Follow-up Questions
  • Mediation Activities

Continue reading Food for Thought Issues. A lesson about Food for B2/C1 students

Top 3 Amazing Video Lesson Websites with Downloadable Worksheets

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel up to creating material from scratch for my classes. The reasons vary from feeling too tired to even open my laptop to an absolute lack of inspiration.
Thank goodness, there are always people out there making our lives as teachers so much easier and generously giving away their work for free. Just for the taking.
In this post, I want to share with you three of my favourite sites for working with video clips and I also want, and need, to thank the people behind these three awesome sites that not only handpick the best video clips and sort them out according to level and topic, but also offer free worksheets that make my life as a teacher so much simpler.

These three are keepers. Don’t forget to bookmark them.

 

ESL Brains

Owned by a couple of teachers from Poland, this amazing website offers video-based lessons for level B1, B2 and C1 for free. Right now, they are looking for financial help and offer extra material if you support them by becoming a “patron”.
For my next lesson on Housing with B2 students, I am going to use this video lesson, which comes complete with the downloadable student’s version, teacher’s version and even an extra warm-up exercise.

TedEd

It’s not the first time I have written about TedEd, owned by the popular platform TED.

TedEd is a collection of original animated videos lessons. You can choose by subject and view the video in class or assign it as homework. Every video is accompanied by a lesson with multiple choice questions that check your general comprehension. If your answers are wrong, you can always check with the video hint. There is also a Think section with questions that further explore the topic.

For teachers, one of the most powerful features is the Customize your Lesson area, where you can customize the lesson by editing the title, giving your own instructions, selecting or deselecting multiple choice questions…etc.

This is a lesson I have customized for my students. I have used the video clip Questions No One Knows the Answer To to give my students some practice using Reported Speech Questions. You can see my lesson here

Lessonstream

Last, but not least, is the fabulous site Jamie Keddie owns and runs with an amazing collection of video activities. On this website, you can choose by level, topic, time and many other options which help the teacher or the student find the perfect lesson in two shakes.

A downloadable worksheet is offered with every lesson. Again, for free.

 

Lesson Plan: Good Manners, Customs and Strange Traditions

I know, I know, there is more than one blog post about unusual traditions here, but there are so many of them and they are so much fun to listen to.  Who doesn’t like being told about a totally surprising or creepy custom? It’s like when you were a little child and liked being told stories about far-away places filled with strange characters doing the most extraordinary things.

Well, this is how I feel when people tell me about unusual customs around the world.

So, whenever in the textbook I am following there is a slight reference to unusual traditions, I jump at the opportunity to do something with it.

 

In this lesson aimed at B2 students, you’ll find:

  •  Two texts about unusual customs
  •  A video about unusual customs with Ellen Degeneres telling the story. By the way, one of them a surprising Spanish custom I didn’t know about.
  •  The quiz : What nationality are your manners?
  •  How I use Google slides for collaborative projects

In this lesson, students will have to:

  • Read a text about an unusual custom and retell their partner – (aimed at improving reading and speaking abilities)
  • Answer a few questions or summarize the traditions heard in the video (aimed at improving listening abilities)
  •  Learn vocabulary and comment on different manners around the world by doing the personality quiz “What nationality are your manners?”
  • Use technology in a collaborative project (aimed at improving students’ digital competency)
  • Give a speech of about 3 minutes about an unusual custom around the world (aimed at improving students’ speaking skills)

Lead-In : Speaking

Display the picture below and ask students in pairs to comment on it. After a couple of minutes, get feedback.

There is always someone who has read or knows a bit about this custom, mainly because every single time a member of the British Royal family goes to New Zealand this is the most popular picture to take. In case they know nothing about it, you can tell them this is the Maori way of greeting people, called Hongi. It is used at important ceremonies. Through the exchange of this greeting, one is no longer considered a visitor.

Have a brief conversation about the etiquette of kissing in your country

Listening: Odd Traditions Around the World (0:00-2:06)

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of Ellen Degeneres. Write her name on the board and ask students if they know who she is. Tell students they are going to listen to a short extract from Ellen Degeneres show about Odd Traditions around the world.

Note: I have only used the first two traditions (0:00- 2:06 ), the third one is way too weird for my taste.

  1. Write Groundhog Day on the board. Tell students this tradition will be mentioned in the video, but they will learn more about it in the next activity.
  2. There are no questions here. The first time you play the video, students will be required to write down the names of the two festivals. The second time, they will have to explain everything they have learned about the two festivals.

Reading about Two Unusual Traditions. Retelling.
  • Ask students “Have you heard about any unusual traditions in your country or around the world? Ask students to talk in pairs and get feedback
  • Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will get a copy of Groundhog Day (American tradition) and Student B, a copy of Guy Fawkes Day (British tradition).
  • Give them some minutes to read it a couple of times and then,  in pairs, ask them to tell their partner about their tradition in as much detail as possible.

Guy Fawkes PDF, Groundhog Day PDF

Speaking: Giving a short speech about an unusual celebration.

The only thing probably worth mentioning here is the fact that we have used Google Slides to work collaboratively.

I am a very visual person. I do not want to imply that listening to my students’ speeches is boring, but I cannot deny that it is much more pleasant to look at some pictures of the tradition being described while listening to the students’ performances.

Problem? Every student will bring their own flash drive, we will need to Insert the flash drive into the USB port on the computer, run a virus scan …. etc and this takes time. A lot of time.

Solution? I created a Google Slides Presentation, used the first two slides to give instructions and then wrote the names of my students on the slides. One slide per student. I shared the URL with Edit permissions and asked them to, instead of their name, write the name of their festival and then insert a picture below it.  Problem solved.

 

A speaking Activity Using the Quiz: What nationality are your manners?

This fun quiz contains some very interesting questions which can spark a lot of discussion in the class.

Do the quiz with the whole class.  Display question number 1 and ask a student at random to choose the answer that is true for him.  Ask the whole class to discuss some of the other options.

Find the quiz here

I hope you have enjoyed the lesson!