Exploiting online materials in teaching listening skills

Abstract. Listening has been paid much attention to by language researchers and teachers. Many researchers have been conducted on how to teach and learn listening skills effectively. However, as far as the writers have investigated, most of the researches focus largely on methods of teaching and learning rather than on exploiting new sources of authentic materials for teachers to make use of. Thus, the purpose of this article is to give formal guidelines in using online materials as supplementary materials to teach listening skills.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 37-43 EXPLOITING ONLINE MATERIALS IN TEACHING LISTENING SKILLS Nguyen Thi Huong Lan Hanoi Nationnal University of Education E-mail: chilanb2@yahoo.com Abstract. Listening has been paid much attention to by language re- searchers and teachers. Many researchers have been conducted on how to teach and learn listening skills effectively. However, as far as the writers have investigated, most of the researches focus largely on methods of teach- ing and learning rather than on exploiting new sources of authentic materials for teachers to make use of. Thus, the purpose of this article is to give for- mal guidelines in using online materials as supplementary materials to teach listening skills. Keyworld: listening skills, teach listening skills, online materials. 1. Introduction Authentic materials enable learners to interact with the real language rather than the form. The aim of the current article is to present the reasons for using online materials in teaching listening skills and more importantly to suggest how to design listening tasks using online materials. 2. Content 2.1. Reasons for using online materials in teaching listening skills The need for and the usefulness of authentic materials on webs have been increasingly acknowledged. Martinez (2002) suggests a list of advantages of authentic materials used in language teaching in general and listening skills in particular. - Students are exposed to real discourse, as in videos of interview with famous people where intermediate students listen for the general idea. - Authentic materials keep students informed about what is happening in the world, so they have an intrinsic educational value. 37 Nguyen Thi Huong Lan - As language change is reflected in the materials so that students and teachers can keep abreast of such changes. - Teachers can have students practice some of the micro-skills of listening, e.g. basically, students listen to news reports and they are asked to identify the names of countries, famous people, etc. 2.2. Possible shortcoming of online materials and solutions a. They may be too culturally biased and required good knowledge of cultural background. Solution: Choose suitable topics which are not very demanding. Also, provide learners with more background knowledge. b. Too many structures are mixed so lower level learners have a hard time to decode the texts. Solution: Pre-teach the structures or choose less challenging texts. c. Aural texts may have too many accents. Solution: Select suitable aural texts from easy level to difficult level. d. The materials can become outdated easily, e.g. news. The vocabulary might be irrelevant to learners’ immediate needs. Solution: Pay attention to some burning issues as well as learners’ current needs and likes. 2.3. Stages of a listening lesson * Pre-listening stage Students become familiar with the topic, the language, and essential vocabu- lary they will use during the lesson. - Activates schema through use of visual, topic-related discussion/ prediction. - Provides background and situation related to the text. - Pre-teaches or introduces key vocabulary and language structures related to the text. * While listening stage Students interact directly with the text/listening a number of times, each time gaining a more detailed understanding. - Provides multiple opportunities for students to hear. - Each listening has an interactive task requiring some kind of response from the students. - Tasks move from general to specific understanding, from getting the main idea to looking for specific information. - Allows time for students to ask questions, clarify vocabulary, and move to- ward a deeper understanding of the listening. 38 Exploiting online materials in teaching listening skills * Post-listening stage Students’ understanding of the text is reinforced through expanding on the text or personalizing the topic using other language skill areas (speaking or writing). - Requires students to be creative and to expand on the text or personalize the topic using other skills. - Allows students to reinforce the new vocabulary words/ language structures using other skills. 2.4. Design listening tasks using online materials * Text selection Buck (2001) suggests some features affecting the difficulty level of the task: a. Linguistic characteristics - Texts with slower speech rates tend to be easier than texts with faster speech rates. - Texts with longer pauses between idea units tend to be easier than texts with shorter pauses between idea units, or no pauses at all. - Texts with more familiar pronunciation tend to be easier than texts with less familiar pronunciation. - Texts with natural intonation patterns tend to be easier than texts with unnatural or unusual intonation patterns. - Texts with more high-frequency vocabulary (i.e. common words) tend to be easier than texts with more low-frequency vocabulary. - Texts with less complex grammar tend to be easier than texts with more complex grammar - Texts with ideas units or clauses strung together tend to be easier than texts with ideas units or clauses embedded within other clause. - Texts with simple pronouns referring tend to be easier than texts with more complex pronouns. b. Explicitness - Texts in which the ideas are explicitly started tend to be easier than texts with less explicit ideas. - Texts with more redundancy tend to be easier than texts with less redun- dancy (but not if the listeners fail to realize that the information is redundant). c. Organization - Texts which have events described in a linear or temporal order tend to be easier than texts which have non-linear structures. 39 Nguyen Thi Huong Lan - Texts which have main points stated clearly before examples tend to be easier than texts with illustrative examples coming before the point being made. d. Content - Texts with topics more familiar to the listeners tend to be easier than texts with less familiar topics. - Texts with fewer things or people to be distinguished tend to be easier than texts with more things to be distinguished. - Texts in which the important protagonists or objects are more easily distin- guished tend to be easier than texts where they are harder to distinguish - Texts where relationships between the elements are fixed tend to be easier than texts where relationships are changed. e. Context Texts with visual or other support which supplements the content tend to be easier than texts with visual or other information that conflicts with the content. 2.5. Types of listening tasks As held by Penny Ur, the kinds of the listening tasks are classified by the natures of students’ response. * No over response - Following a written text : students listen to and read it at the same time - Listening to a familiar text : this kind of task requires not much listening comprehension skills but simply gives pleasant experience in listening to meaningful English sounds. - Listening to something entertaining : such kind of activities provides useful interludes to put in before or after more demanding exercises, or when students’ concentration is at low ebb. * Short response - Following instructions : students listen to commands, they will show their comprehension by complying with the commands. - Ticking off items : learners tick beside the items that they hear in the listen- ing. - True / False: students identify whether the statement is true or false based on the listening. - Detecting mistakes : some fact is mentioned with intentional mistakes for students to point out. - Cloze: students make a guess of what can be fill in the blanks in the listening 40 Exploiting online materials in teaching listening skills text. - Guessing definitions : students listen to a definition or description of some- thing and guess what it is. - Skimming and scanning : students have to make out some general ideas (skim- ming) and details (scanning) of the listening. - Pictures : students are asked to identify pictures or components as they are referred to, either naming or ordering them in the order in which they are mentioned - Maps : students are asked to name a specific place as they listen. - Ground-plans : ground-plans are a kind of maps but single sketch can be interpreted in many different ways relating to various listening tasks. Its advantages lies in its simplicity: it can be very easy to trace. - Grids : a grid is simply a rectangle marked off into squares and used to display data. Students may be presented with an inadequately or inaccurately filled-in grid, fill in or correct the information on the grid as they listen. - Family trees : students listen to stories or descriptions of families, then identify family member relationship. - Graphs : students are given a graph with some missing details. While listening to the information, they fill in the missing details. - Multiple choice items : students listen and choose the suitable option from the list of alternatives given in advance. * Longer response - Answering questions : based on the content of the listening, students are required to give longer and full answer to the questions. - Note-taking : students take notes of the talk. - Paraphrasing and translating : students use their own words to rewrite or retell the listening texts either in the same language or in their mother tongue. - Summarizing : students write a summary of the content of what they have just listened. - Long gap-filling : similar to a cloze exercise, the only difference is that the information to be filled in the gap is longer. - Predictions : after hearing the first part of an utterance or passage, students make a guess at the possible continuation. * Extended response - Problem solving : students listen to all the information relevant to a particular problem and then set themselves to solve it, either individually or through group discussion. 41 Nguyen Thi Huong Lan - Jigsaw listening : different groups of students listen to a different but con- nected passage, each of which supplies some parts of what they need to know. They, then, come together to exchange information and possibly to discuss or evaluate that information. - Interpretative listening : students listen to somebody’s speech. The meaning of what he says is not the only thing students absorb. Students may also take into account many other things, such as what kind of person the speaker is, the way he speaks, his mood, his attitude, etc. - Evaluative and stylistic analysis : recordings used for this type of tasks can be interviews, comedies, dramas, advertising, rhetoric and poetry. When students are able to understand the information explicitly conveyed in the listening text as well as appreciate some of the implicit “message”, they may try to analyze its style and assess its impact. 2.6. Some recommendatory websites The Internet offers language educators many online listening-based learning environments designed to meet the study needs of ESL learners. Here the writer would like to provide some of many listening websites available in the World Wide Web. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 3. Conclution In addition to the factors mentioned above, English Language Teachers should consider the following factors when exploiting online materials in teaching listening skills: - Learners - Curriculum and the context - Facilities - Personal confidence and competence 42 Exploiting online materials in teaching listening skills - Time. REFERENCES [1] Buck, G., 2001. Assessing Listening. Cambridge University Press. [2] Canh, Le Van, 2004. Understanding Foreign Language Teaching Methodology. Vietnam National University Press. [3] Harmer, J., 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Longman. [4] Larsen, D.,1986. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford Uni- versity Press. [5] Martinez, Alejandro G, 2002. Authentic materials: An overview. Document avail- able at http//www.telus.net/linguisticissues/authenticmaterials.html [6] Nguyen, Bang and Nguyen, Ngoc, 2002. A Course in TEFL Theory and Practice. Hanoi. [7] Richards, J.C and Rodgers, T.S, 1995. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press. [8] Richards, J.C, 1990. The Language Teaching Matrix. Cambridge University Press. [9] Rost, M., 1994. Introducing Listening. Penguin. [10] Ur, P.,1991. A Course in Language Teaching: Practice and Theory. Cambridge University Press. 43
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