Wednesday, 16 September 2009

What does a real-life listening activity look like?

Here I'm sharing with you a very interesting report in which I carefully analysed a listening activity that was carried out in one of the lessons I observed at a secondary school in Buenos Aires city. It was a really interesting experience which helped me to analyse and look critically at my own listening activities. What do we do a listening activity in the English lesson for?
Maybe trying to make a true-to-life listening activity is one of the most evident challenges when it comes to preparing and designing activities. In this report, I tried to go over the minumun requirements for a listening activity to be valid in a communicative classroom while reflecting upon the one I have observed.

REPORT 4-alejandradeantoni-classroom observation-methods2-2009


  1. Hi once again Alez!
    As usual, always a pleasure to share your reflections... I feel as if I'd been able to sit in on the lesson myself!

    About the non-inclusion of a pre-listening task: I understand this class is training to sit for FCE - any reasons why we might discourage the use of pre-listening tasks with such a course? More important, was there any evidence students needed support (T intervention) to activate their schemata in this case?

    About the while-listening stage: I'm afraid I don't quite agree with the idea that "answering a multiple choice is not actually an activity we do in real life when we listen to something". Quite the contrary, I believe we do set "options" all the time, though we do this by ourselves and in our minds, anticipating what we expect to hear!

    A question I'd like to explore, if I was to look deeper into this reflection, would be how this listening task related to other activities in the book lesson itself. Perhaps a reading passage worked on before this, or a speaking or writing task coming after this might be considered as pre or post-listening tasks? Just wondering...
    Keep it up!
    PS:If the aim of a "listening activity" was not to develop comprehension (but, for instance, to teach pronunciation", I wouldn't call it a "listening task". Have you seen any authors who do?

  2. Hi Gladys!
    A lot of questions, let's start then...
    First, I think that, while preparing students to sit for the FCE examination, it might even be useful not to include a pre-listening activity because when they sit the exam they are not given such a step and, therefore, they need to be trained to succeed in doing a listening activity without it. However, I do not think that these students were being trained to sit for the exam (not this year, at least). They didn't actually seem to have the appropiate level for such an exam. However, if that were the case, not including a pre-listening step would be advisable.
    As regards the students' activation of schemata, I think it would have been useful but not necessarily essential. They were correcting homework right before setting into the listening activity but, since it was connected to holidays and it was from the very same unit as the listening activity, their minds were already into the holidays schemata. However, I would have definitely done something to restrict it a little bit more to help them cope with such a long text.
    About the white-listening stage, I must admit that you are right :P I haven't thought of that in that way. But it's true, we always create a limited set of possibilities to choose from when we are listening. When we listen to something our mind restricts our thoughts to connect them to what we are listening and that can be certainly said to be an unconscious multiple choice (:
    As regards the surrounding activities I cannot say a lot more. Before doing this listening activity they had been correcting homework connected to holidays as well which, as I said before, can be taken as a kind of pre-listening activity because they were dealing with the very same topic (holidays). Now that I think about it, after correcting the exercises, they started a speaking activity (it was, however, a teacher-student one because the teacher would ask the questions and choose the students that would answer them). The topic was still holidays, which can help us claim that it was a post-listening activity, but the topic was not exactly the same. In the listening, a woman was talking about the problems she had had when she went on holiday and in this activity students were asked to say "what makes a good holiday." I would take it as a kind of post-listening activity if the students considered the woman's experiences examples of things that do not make a good holiday and, therefore, compared what had happened to her to what they think should have happened for her to have had a good holiday.
    Still, I wouldn't call it a psot-listening activity because it was separated from the listening activity (the listening activity was done in the first period while the speaking one in the second one. The transition from one period to the other was delayed by two students' asking for permission to leave the classroom to go to another lesson). Furthermore, the listening activity was not even mentioned and no connection was made between what they had listened to and what talked about in the speaking activity.
    Finally, I wouldn't call a listening activity a task if it weren't meant to develop comprehension. If I did write listening task in such a context was merely accedental. I know that a task must aim at comprehension. Where is it that I wrote it wrongly?

    Hope I answered your questions! Or at least I hope I am on the right track :P
    Thanks a lot for your enriching comments! (:
    See you Friday,

  3. Wow! That IS answering comments carefully indeed! Thanks a lot by your thoughtful reflections, Alez, you've helped me feel this is really a DIALOGUE.


    PS: you noticed you still tend to get trapped by the "impossibility" of the 3rd conditional? ;-P!