Here is a listening lesson from the BBC’s classic learning English website on the use of jargon in the news. Both the listening text and the worksheets are downloadable.
This is a great idea from Nik Peachey for exploiting The Speech Accent Archive.
Day five of the Five days five posts series, and unfortunately this is just post four. I’m writing this on the train bound for Córdoba, where I am giving a workshop on speaking activities for teenagers at the XIV Jornadas CETA (Córdoba English Teachers Association).
For this post I’m moving away from working with video, and focusing on one of the activities I’m going to use in my workshop this afternoon. In the PET speaking exam, students are given a photograph and asked to describe it. Many candidates simply give a list of things that come in the photograph, but stronger candidates distinguish themselves by organizing their descriptions in a more orderly way. This activity is a simple way of helping them to achieve a more organized way of describing a scene.
I begin this activity by revising prepositions of place and ways of describing position in a picture – at the top, at the bottom, in the top right corner, etc. then we describe a photograph together as a class, to make sure they are using the vocabulary correctly.
Then the students are seated in pairs, back to back. One of them is given a photograph and is asked to describe it to their partner. The partner has to draw the picture as it is being described. The student describing the picture has their back to the other student so that s/he cannot make adjustment to the picture which is being drawn. The other student only has their partner’s words to guide them as they draw. If they are unclear about a detail, they can ask for clarification, and in that way they help their partner to structure a description in a more logical way. Once the description is finished, they compare their pictures with the original photograph. Then they change places and the exercise is repeated.
The pictures can be of anything, so it is a good idea to tie them in with the topic which you are covering in class at the time (a good source of free pictures is www.eltpics.com). If possible, I like to project the photograph on the IWB, which means that everyone is describing the same picture at the same time, as this allows them to compare their drawings not only with the original but also with those of their classmates, and this can be quite motivating. If this is not possible, photographs cut from colour magazines work just as well, and the students can be asked to bring the photos in themselves, which saves on preparation time. A good tip is to keep any photos they bring in in an envelope in class, so that fast finishers can repeat the exercise in future classes.
Having taken up the 5 posts in 5 days blogathon challenge laid down by Tyson Seburn on 4C ELT, I must now try to get back on track, since I failed to send a post yesterday. As a result, I hope to post three posts between today and tomorrow.
For this post, the third in the five post challenge series, I thought I would share something I did in class the other day. Following on from Wednesday’s post, about dubbing video, this simple activity is another way of exploiting video in class. However, this activity is designed for a lower level class. Choose a film which is familiar to the students, so that they can follow the action without too much difficulty, or with plenty of visual humour. I chose ‘The Curse of the Were-rabbit’, from Aardman productions, with the younger classes, and with the older students I used ‘Love Actually’.
Before you show the film, give different groups of students a vocabulary topic – for the Wallace and Gromit film I chose ‘vegetables’ and ‘rabbits’, while in ‘Love Actually’ the words were ‘Christmas ‘ and ‘Love’ – and brainstorm possible words that might form part of that topic. Ask the students if they know what film they are going to watch based on the vocabulary topics they have been given. Then tell the students that when they hear something from their vocabulary topic they are to stand up. Alternatively, have the students make large signs with their vocabulary topics written on them, so that they can hold them up when they hear their words.
It’s important that this activity doesn’t go on for too long without a break, as the students may find it difficult to concentrate for more than about ten or fifteen minutes, but they usually find the challenge very stimulating and participate well. The main point here is that the students are exposed to authentic language, while at the same time not having to worry about understanding everything, which they cannot do and so may become easily frustrated.
One of the things which many exam candidates find difficult to do is to acknowledge their partner’s contributions in the collaborative task before launching into their own idea. Here is a resource to help them to improve this area.
A useful listening lesson from Dominic Cole, especially for those of you out and about over the Easter holidays.
It should be a motivating experience, indeed you may even have conceived the activity as a prize, or an end of term treat, but too often the use of video in the classroom has the opposite effect. In this post we will look at some different ways to incorporate video in the classroom, in a fun and, hopefully, motivating way.
The first consideration when using video in class is what you want to achieve with the video. It can be very easy simply to put on a film for your students to watch and expect them to be motivated by it, but unless the students have a very high level of English, they will have difficulty following the dialogue, and so will become easily lost and unable to enjoy the film as entertainment. For this reason, always have a concrete activity to do while watching, which will give your students something to focus on during the film, and allow you to measure their success at the end of the session.
A second thing to bear in mind is the level of concentration necessary to do the activity on the part of your students, which is far more than a native speaker would need to watch the same clip. Because of this, I would suggest keeping the video itself short. If you want to watch a longer video, break it down into more manageable chunks, with a different activity for each part, checking comprehension before moving on to the next part. It can also be useful to watch the same part more than once, just as we would with a listening comprehension exercise, with a listening / watching for gist exercise the first time to lead the students into the scene, then a more detailed exercise the second time round.
Any video activity needs a lead-in before you put on the video itself. This can be an exercise to pre-teach new vocabulary, or an introduction to the topic. One possible lead-in is a technique known as ‘vision off’, where the students attempt to predict things about what they are going to see by listening to the sound of the beginning of the video without the pictures. They can be asked to predict where the action is taking place, how many people are in the scene, or for higher level groups, the relationship between the characters or their attitudes. Play the video twice, then allow the students to compare their answers in pairs before sharing with the class. Then play the video with the pictures to allow the students to ‘check’ their own ideas.
Another possible lead-in is the pre-teaching of key vocabulary, as in the activity ‘Pigeon Impossible’, which you can read about here. In this case, key vocabulary is taken from the film and presented to the class. The students are asked to write a story in pairs which contains all of the vocabulary given. Higher level groups could be asked to present their story orally. The video is then played and the students compare their stories to the story in the film.
For many types of activities, including the ‘Pigeon Impossible’ activity mentioned above, it is not necessary for the video to have intelligible dialogue. Indeed, there are activities which require a video without words. A useful speaking activity, which I learnt from Tom Spain, is to seat the students face-to-face, one half looking at the screen, the others with their backs to it. When you play the video, those watching describe the action to their partners. After about a minute, pause the video and ask the students who were listening to the description to describe what happened. Then change over, and play another minute or so of video. This activity can be followed by a prediction exercise, where the students work in groups to decide what happens next and report to the class before watching the rest of the film.
Another way to exploit film without sound is to get the students to dub the video, preparing the dialogues themselves and trying to sync their words as much as possible to the faces on screen. This can be done using a film which does have dialogue but with the sound turned down. This way, once the students have performed their versions, the real dialogue can be played. I have done this exercise using Armstrong and Miller’s RAF pilot sketches, where wartime fighter pilots speak like modern teenagers. In this way, I guarantee a surprise for the students when they listen to the authentic version, although it is only for higher level groups.
Obviously a video activity lends itself particularly well to listening comprehension exercises. However, as I pointed out above, it is important to bear in mind the difficulty of listening to authentic language, even with visual support. One way of getting round this is to get students to listen for specific things in the video. Choose a film which has plenty of visual humour, such as one of the Wallace and Gromit films, and pre-teach items of vocabulary or set expressions which appear frequently in the dialogue.
As the students watch the film, they are instructed to stand when they hear the pre-taught words and expressions. Different students can be responsible for different items of vocabulary, which allows them to focus on fewer words and phrases. If the students are reluctant to stand up, have them hold up cards with the correct item of vocabulary on it when they hear the word. It is useful to repeat this exercise after a few days to revise the vocabulary. Once again, the period of concentration required from the students should not be too long. If the film lasts more or less the whole class, take two or three breaks at least to discuss what is happening and possibly to find out if the students can remember any words which were said with the items of vocabulary they were listening for – in this way they start to build an idea of how the words collocate in natural language.
A video can be a useful way of introducing a topic for a class discussion or for presenting a point of view. The BBC news website is a great source for short video news reports which present topics for debate. Ideally, the class would begin with one or more of the activities described above, moving on to a class discussion on the topic presented. I had a very interesting discussion in class based on a news report about a woman who had asked to have her disabled arm amputated and replaced by a ‘bionic’ one. This video was followed by another showing a person using one of the new generation of bionic arms to do things like tie his shoe laces, or open a bottle and pour a drink. I’m afraid I couldn’t resist starting the class with the intro to ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, before showing the video news report itself – this led to a useful initial discussion about how science fiction has become fact in some cases. A good example of a lesson plan for this type of activity can be found here, on Jamie Keddie’s website.
Just in time for the school holidays…
One of the important skills our exam students need to develop is the ability to identify and avoid the distractors which are included in listening tests. In this post, Dominic Cole explains how to develop this skill: