Listening: A Skill or a Useful Technique?

A thorough selection of the most efficient techniques and methods when teaching enhances the activation of superior mental, emotional and physical processes involved in learning new material. Therefore, an experienced teacher always chooses the most appropriate teaching strategies to suit both his students needs and his own style after a close analysis.

From all the techniques available, one can make use of the ones that correspond to their age group, language focus, main objective and other aspects considered during a lesson. Here are a few techniques based on listening, which enhances the completion of more complex tasks.

1. Listening and responding

It is suited to both presentation and focused practice of grammar structures with a semantic challenge: the technique of listening and responding. The children pass through a ‘silent period’ when they learn a new language. Listening comprehension is necessary for second-language acquisition because learners are encouraged to make a match between structure and meaning-it is more suited for beginning students. More experienced students can also benefit from this approach because it will help them to comprehend a structure before they are asked to produce it.
The resources needed for this technique are objects and people, mainly the students themselves.

2. Listen and physically respond

As a presentation technique, it is recommended to be used for students at all levels.
It can also provide structured and communicative practice for beginning students who do not have enough language to handle a communicative task. Basically, it consists of the teacher’s instructions and the learner’s physical response. The students actually moving according to the teacher’s instructions or imitating him.

3. Listen and draw

This activity is appropriate to students beyond the very beginning level. Students are asked to listen and draw objects and persons. The directions can be simple or complex depending on the aim or skills involved. Listening and motor skills are actually associated to boost motivation and emotional background.

4. Listen and colour

It is intended for children, but adults enjoy it or adaptations of it as well. The actual colours used are not important as the main objective is to give students a chance to follow directions while listening. Moreover, it can be an activity which reviews the names of the colours and children are given the feeling of solving a puzzle. The real aim is to activate vocabulary or it can be used even as a form of assessment.

5. Listen and manipulate

This is an effective technique for presenting prepositions and phrasal verbs. The resources needed are objects and students. The students manipulate the objects according to the aim of the lesson. Learning by doing has always demonstrated its efficiency.

6. Look, listen and verbally respond

A very effective technique taken from the Natural Approach. It involves the teacher speaking to the students who can only give one – word responses (yes/no, a name, a noun, an adjective).
By using this technique, comprehension of alternative questions is introduced, while comprehension of yes/no question and wh-questions is reviewed. This would take place during the presentation phase of a lesson.

7. Listen and speak

The students work in pairs when doing this activity. They can speak and ask their partners questions about a topic they want. The main point is to communicate. Although difficult, the exercise demands communication, encourages use of new vocabulary, practices structures already learned, and is exceedingly challenging.

8. Listen and write

It is a text-based exercise and can take the form of a dictation and dicto-composition. For more advanced students, there are exercises that require them to listen and write. It is highly demanding and requires a certain degree of mastering the language and involves more mental processes. Only experienced listeners can reach the accuracy needed when making associations between audio chunks of language and their written form.

Listening skills can easily be combined with other simple tasks and transformed in useful techniques which develop a wider range of subskills. Although they may seem to develop basic skills, the complexity beyond remains to be discovered if they are tactfully used.

1. Marianne Celce -Murcia, Sharon Hilles-Techniques and resources in teaching grammar, OUP 1988
2.  Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers- Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, CUP 1986
3. Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik- A Communicative Grammar of English, Longman 1994


prof. Elena-Irina Teodorescu

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