Challenging Learners to listen with both ears!

I was visiting The Secret Dos blog yesterday and read another of her great posts. I totally agree that entertainment has been over emphasized, and practices that would be more effective in the short and long run gave place to games that not always benefit the learners. The idea that something is fun and engaging, and thus it must be good for learning is common sense. I disagree with this proposition entirely. It can be good for many reasons, but we ought to be more critical and enlist what it is good for.

Games can be fun, but don’t assume that all games are fun especially in the language classroom where competition might be needed to win the game and lack of knowledge and skills necessary might be highlighted in a way that can result in embarrassement for the student. Sometimes the challenge can help, but not in all cases. Especially with those students who don’t deal well with failure when they lose the game. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use games. What I am saying is paying more attention on how games like any other activity might affect leaners. If you believe in learning style, you might want to take into account the introvert X extrovert principle for example.

Anyway, I am mentioning games in my post first to give you a background of why this post came up, and secondly because it is necessary to remind ouselves that games is not the only way out there to engage our learners in learning.

How about supporting them in the activities they like outside the classroom? Russell Mayne makes a relevant point in this post. And I would like to extend his idea by reminding myself that exposing learners to authentic language they naturally encounter outside the classroom in order to develop strategies and skills so they can enjoy it more is an excellent way to also tap to students interests, goals and learning needs.

Last year in April when I took John F Fanselow course over iTDi, I told him that I didn’t think that my teens would be keen to listen and transcribe stuff. He challenged me to use something they liked the most like songs or tv series and they ask them what they thought of it. Students feedback blew my mind.

I can’t embed the video here or publish on youtube, but here is the video extract I used to reflect with them.

1) I selected a short scene. The focus wasn’t learning new vocabulary or grammar, but to give them a chance to make sense of what they were hearing in English by listening more attentively and transcribing, and also to use the visual clues to support comprehension. Almost all my teens really enjoy watching tv series but most do not do it in English (not even higher levels) because they think it is too hard. John Fanselow in his course also pointed out that we can’t teach everything there is to teach, but we can develop with learners strategies that they can take to outside the classroom. It will not only make them more independent, they will also learn more. Carol Goodey makes the same point in her post “Listening for Learning“,

In a recent post, the Secret DOS asks, along with many other questions, if there is any more to language learning than memorisation, regurgitation and evaluation. I’d say there is. What that more is, though, may depend on who’s doing the learning and on what and why they want to learn. An essential element, however, must be that learners develop an understanding of how the language is used in different contexts and for different purposes by reading and listening to what and how things are written or said in that language. (Goodey, Aug 2013)

2) Before watching I did a quick lead in activity to link to the title of the episode “Blinded”. I jumbled the letters and wrote them on the board. I gave them 2 minutes to come up with words using any of the letters on the board.

3) In all groups, the words blind and blinded came up. And they were able to say what had happened to the woman afterwards. Few students didn’t know the meaning so I asked the students that knew to try to explain using their own words first in L2, then in L1 (not the translation). Then, showed them the clip without the subtitles on. It wasn’t hard for them, even the lower level learners to match the word blind to image of the woman. Someone naturally shouted the word in Portuguese and linked to the the end of the scene. The aha! moment.

4) Taking away the visual from them, they were left only with the sound. I played the dialogue back and forth until they were able to write it down, sentence by sentence. No correction or spelling at this point. They were to write it down as they heard it or was able to make sense of it. I payed attention also if any of them were trying to copy from their neighbor. I did. And I took note in order to find ways to prevent this with the students who were not confident enough. I also addressed this issue and we talked about strategies to listen and other related suggestions made by them.

5) I told them not to use an eraser, but a pen to edit the dialogue. On the board, we reconstruct the text. Everyone would read their sentence aloud, and every contribution was added to the board. It is also important to check if they listened and tried to write everything they hear (concentrating on the sounds) or if they interpreted the sounds and maybe used different words, but kept the meaning.

Needless to say that it was a rich experience for them, and their feedback was almost unanimous:

– we should do more of this in class;

They didn’t find it boring at all. In fact, they thought it was the kind of thing they needed to do more. After this, never again those groups asked me to just watch a whole movie in a class. I also started working with the TV series The middle 1st season in the class. You can read how it worked out in the posts below:

This year I decided to start with listening and transcribing from the beginning of the year with my 9th graders. In the first quarter of the term we used scripted dialogues from Teaching English to Teens BC website. This quarter the focus will be on tv series.

Another post we can learn from. Mura shared with me couple of blogs ago. I highly recommend it.


12 thoughts on “Challenging Learners to listen with both ears!

  1. Respect!
    I think you’re really brave to try something like this in class when you’re not convinced it will work. And you implemented it in a way that did work, taking ideas from your PLN and applying them uniquely to your learners. And it worked. What a great feeling. It’s inspiring for me to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • After the second BR course I totally lost the fear of experimenting Anne. So glad that John nudged me to do so and the support you guys have given since DEC 2012 has been amazing. #PLN rocks! Thank YOU.


  2. Dear Rose,
    Although I’ve never actually tried tanscribing in class, I believe it’s got a huge potential in ELT. As I’ve done some transcribing myself ( I used the website), I know it’s got a lot of benefits for EFL learner. One practises several skills at the same time: listening, spelling and grammar. Plus it’s fun and I always had a sense of achievement when I completed the level successfully. When I failed, on the other hand, I wanted to try again until I got it right. So there was this ‘game’ element in the activity, which made it much more interesting.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Rose,
    Interesting that you mentioned the Secret DOS to be a “her” – so I’m guessing that the identity isn’t so much of secret then! 😉
    On a serious note, there is so much thought that goes into your lessons and planning, amazing how you refer to different blogs and explore new ideas in your classroom (as Anne puts it as well). I think taking risks in the classroom really is a way find new things out about our learners – it takes quite a bit of guts to do it, though. Well done, Rose! Always an inspiration to me.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Ratna thanks for stopping by dear. You’re the second person to noticed it and commented. To tell you the truth I have no idea if it is she or he. I’ve given up trying to guess it. lol Like I said on twitter, I decided it is she. Alas! lolol
      The last few years have been really intense for me Ratna. I wish I had more time to read and reread the books I have. There are things I want to give a try, reflect with learners, put at test… but so little time to do it all. I have John Fanselow’s books for almost a year and haven’t been able to read not even one apart from reading sections of them.

      Well, I’m managing to concentrate on vocabulary since last December. Reading and putting into practice is going slow, but at least I’m hanging in there.

      Thanks for all the support and words of encouragement. I wouldn’t have been so brave if it weren’t for all of you. Thanks for hanging in there with me. ♥


    • Wow! you and Hana shared couple of great tools and I’m so grateful. I played with videonot. It’s is pretty good. Still learning how to insert the snap of a shoot. I’ll find out this weekend. The seems to be a good option. I tested it myself few times and works nicely. The students I introduced the dictation tool got really excited about it. I hope to get them doing it on a daily basis. The tool you shared you’ll be useful too for the same purpose.

      Thanks a lot!


    • Geoff, thanks for your visit.

      What I like the most about John FF as a teacher trainer is that he is far from prescriptive. 🙂 It’s kind of hard not to mention John FF from time to time.


      • I think John is the best teacher I’ve ever met. He makes you think about what you’re doing and question all the assumption your teaching is based on. He’s funny, charming, endlessly inventive and always encouraging. I find it somehow telling that he’s not a mainstream figure, not rich, not as sort-after or recognised as he should be.

        Liked by 1 person

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