Course 1 Description

ESL listening course
Some ideas about teaching listening.

ESL Listening Course Background

The theoretical foundation of Core Listening Skills 1 is built upon ideas by John Field in his book, Listening in the Language Classroom.

He argues the traditional way of teaching listening might not be the best method. The traditional method usually means playing a short passage and asking students to answer comprehension questions. If students progressively answer more questions correctly, we assume the student’s listening ability is getting better.

The old method has three flaws.

First, a student might see higher scores on listening tests, but the teacher won’t really know why. So, the old method doesn’t help teachers explain what’s working well or understand what aspects of listening need improvement.

Second, the old method assumes regular exposure to listening content itself increases comprehension and by extension listening skills.  This might be true if the student is exposed to meaningful input (i.e. the student understands most of the listening content). If a student can’t understand the sounds coming into his or her ears, there is no learning or listening improvement. Playing the tape again won’t help the student get better.

Third, asking students to answer comprehension questions seems to miss the bigger aim: increase student listening fluency (i.e. the progression towards automaticity), not better test scores. A listening exercise with comprehension questions might be a good tool to assess listening fluency, but that does not mean it is the right tool to teach, practice, or improve listening fluency.

A New Listening Approach

The solution, in part, is to view the act of listening as a series of parallel processes or sub-skills. When language learners listen, they hear many things at one time. The aim then is to help students become aware of the smaller segments in a given speech act. By aware, I mean the student understands a word sound plus its meaning. Over time and with practice, the student is able to process multiple processes at the same time.

That’s called listening fluency.

Listening objectives

The listening exercises in this course are designed to isolate some of the processes outlined in John Field’s book.

Here are the listening process objectives for each listening activity in Core Listening Skills 1 .

  1. Ability to recognise a grammatical word class: nouns.
  2. Ability to recognise a grammatical word class: verb tense.
  3. Ability to infer links or connections: identify pronoun antecedents.
  4. Ability to recognise word patterns: odd one out.
  5. Ability to recognise keywords in context: easily confused homophones.
  6. Ability to recognise a grammatical word class: adjectives.
  7. Ability to recognise reduced forms of words: blended sounds.
  8. Ability to remember passages for a short period: dictation.
  9. Ability to recognise and remember lexical chunks: 3-word gap fill with a bell
  10. Ability to detect meaning: paraphrase a passage.

Copyright Notices

The text, sound recordings, and questions in Core Listening Skills 1 are copyrighted. No portion of this content may not be reproduced, saved digitally on any hard drive, or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the content owner.

Use of the images presented in this course comply with the photo owners’ Creative Commons licences.

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